Editor’s Note: This Barbara Bennett Parsons column originally ran last year on Mother’s Day. We reprint it here for your enjoyment.
In the time of my childhood, women seldom wore pants. There were only a few activities that allowed for pants- clam digging, camping, and hiking, things of that sort. Shorts were even more rare. Shorts, in fact, bordered on scandalous. No, dresses were what women of my mothers generation wore. These were not the perfect dresses that June Cleaver wore, and my mother certainly never owned a strand of pearls either. Instead, my mothers dresses were made from cotton and often sewn with her own hands. She wore a dress to hang out the laundry, dig in the garden, clean a fish, can applesauce, or go for her daily walk. Usually she wore an apron over her dress. The apron was a wonderful garment, and mama’s aprons always had many pockets. Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, my mother could reach into her apron pocket and find a crayon, a cookie, a clean hankie, clothes pins, hair pins, a comb- just about anything that a child needed at any given moment.
My mother was what was know at that time as a ‘housewife’. She was a woman with a masters degree who had worked right up until having her first child at age thirty seven. From then on the full weight of her energy and intellect were focused on two priorities; raising her children and providing the intensive support that my father needed in his career as an artist.
Children are terribly judgmental little creatures, and I am sad to admit that I had one area in which it seemed my mother could use a little bit of improvement. Now, I didn’t see anything wrong with the house-dresses, they were as much a part of my mother as her sweet smile. What my eight year old inner fashionista struggled with were the socks. White ankle socks. Socks which had been discarded by my sister and I, but were deemed by mama to still have some wear in them. Why I fixated on those regrettable socks, I can’t tell you, but I did. It took quite a while for me to screw up my courage to broach the subject with mama. I can still see the look of surprise on her face when she realized that this was, for me, a serious subject. She struggled to keep from laughing as she solemnly assured me that the offensive socks would be thrown away.
I can honestly say that the issue of the socks was the one and only time that I ever found fault with my mother. Mama approached life with great gusto, giving her full attention to the project at hand. In the 60’s she traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in massive marches for equal rights for women. Politics were the subject of most dinner table conversations, which made for some mighty heated discussions. My father tended to be more Republican in his leanings than my mother thought healthy.
My parents also had opposite ideas of movie entertainment. My father liked comedies and adventures, but mama wanted her movies to be like homegrown vegetables- they should be good for you. She would surreptitiously read the movie reviews and then conveniently misplace them. This went on until one fateful evening.
My father realized as soon as they arrived at the theater that he’d been had, again. Back then they showed cartoons before the feature film and my father enjoyed them completely. At the end of the cartoon he stood up, said ‘well, that movie wasn’t near as bad as I expected’ and then- he walked out of the theater! Mama must have been in too much shock to move from her seat. Besides that, battle lines had been drawn. She stayed for the movie and dad had a burger and green river float next door. This was another skirmish in the battle, because mama had very strong ideas about what was healthy food and what was not. Burgers and soda pop were on the forbidden list.
Yes, I remember mama. With smiles and tears, I will always remember mama.
Barbara Bennett Parsons is proud to be the daughter of Flora Broadie Bennett.