Today, August 22, 2018, would have been my mother's 108th birthday. Had she not smoked for a few decades, she might still be here, but it would be selfish to wish her here after she has been gone for over fourteen years. She was ready to go when she left. She was content with her life but still loved her family especially her grandchildren. She loved with all her heart even if sometimes her words did not express it as well as she would have liked.
In her nineties, she was not happy that her body could not do the things that she wanted it to do so I am happy that she left when her mind was still sharp but before she became too uncomfortable.
I remember lots of things about my mom including many warm beach evenings with her on the North Carolina coast. If you have followed my posts over the years, you might have read our chicken frying adventure which was inspired by her.
When I wrote most of this post on August 22, 2005, I enjoyed some cold fried chicken which to me is the comfort food from my childhood. Thirteen years later, I ate some fried chicken which of course was nowhere as good as mother's chicken. Still, the chicken brought back some memories. I think year when I was in a special summer school, over half of my lunches contained fried chicken. Mother could fry a chicken blindfolded.
The picture is my mother cooking fried chicken for my birthday in March 2003. She died about a year later. That was the last chicken she fried. She was 92 and six months. She started cooking for her family when she was nine years old. Her mother had died. Mother used to tell us that she was so small and the cast iron frying pans were so large that her older brother had to put the pans on the wood stove.
Mother left home in the twenties when few women strayed far from home. She learned to drive a car while her sisters weren't interested Eventually she started her own beauty shop. For years her shop was on Main Street in Mount Airy, NC. Eventually, she had a very successful one in Lewisville, NC in the fifties until she retired and moved back to Mount Airy in the sixties. She lived there in the family house at 347 Pine Street until July 2000 when she moved to Roanoke. There is more history of mother and our family at this link.
It was a remarkable journey for a country girl who never had the chance to get a lot of formal education. She was a true matriarch who was willing to do anything for her family. I still remember my oldest cousin telling me the story of my mother deciding that he was going to military school. He didn't want to go, but she would not take no for an answer. To this day, he believes that year in military school kept him from heading down a deadly path.
I learned a lot from my mother. She taught me to never be afraid of hard work and to be proud of my roots. Mother's family was the source of her strength. She leaned on them and they leaned on her. One my cousins who grew up in a wonderful large family, tells the story that without my mother, they would have had no Christmas when growing up. Mother would drive home from Mount Airy to Yadkin county often getting stuck along the way. That was no problem for mom, she would just find a farmer to pull her car out. She never forgot to bring a car full of presents or clothing for her family.
The most important thing that I learned from mother was to live in the moment with an eye to the future. Mother never dwelled on the past. Mistakes were learning experiences. Mom also kept score so if you crossed her, she probably wouldn't let you forget it. She also was never afraid of saying whatever crossed her mind which sometimes caused a few hurt feelings.
Mother was also a great gardener, a fantastic cook, and a loyal friend to many. Her one rule was to do whatever you were doing to the best of your ability. At the end that's a pretty good way to live.
The one final thing that I learned from mom, is that material possessions really aren't very important. The more you have, the more worries that you have. We've learned that lesson well, we have spent many years getting rid of things which we have accumulated over the years.
There still aren't many days that something doesn't remind us of my mother who was such an important part of our lives. She was never afraid to gamble on us and was always there for us when we needed her. She learned to navigate to Boston's Logan Airport and fly to Canada at an age when many were afraid to leave home.
There's probably no more relaxing feeling than coming home as a young adult and having your cares disappear into the walls of your family home as your mother's home cooking completely finishes off your worries. Mother was an expert at creating that environment which could make your cares disappear in minutes.
If we can just do the same for our kids, I think my mother will be proud of us even if we are amateurs at frying chicken.