Sunday was Mother’s Day. On my other blog, I wrote about my mother, and you’re going to get some more about her. Beth was a little southern girl, youngest of five children—I think an ‘oops’ largely raised by my auntie, who was fifteen years older. When my father was being sworn in as a naval officer at Fort Schuyler, New York, she, my aunt and I (I’m not about to say how old I was, but I was weensy), sat up for two days on the train from Memphis to Pennsylvania Station, then took the subway at rush hour up to where he was meeting us. We were carrying all (too much) of our luggage, and I was toting the enormous baby doll I still cherish. My mother never turned a hair. I know what they say about New Yorkers, but one smile, and my mother had men falling all over her to lug our bags up the stairs.
When they were sent to Brunswick, Maine, so that my father could teach at Bowdoin, she went with him. At that point she had never in her entire life eaten a broiled steak, nor a clam, nor a lobster. But she did know that you didn’t wear white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, and you folded your towels in thirds.
They had a great marriage. Too great, I guess, because he was killed in a commercial plane crash four days before their twentieth wedding anniversary. At which point my own special steel magnolia had to put her life back together with no college education and precious little money. She ran fashion shows, taught modeling, ran beauty contests, had her own television talk show, did TV commercials, and was a leading lady at several of the community theaters in the area. That’s when she became for everyone, including me and her granddaughter, Beth.
One day when she was in her sixties, she sat me down and said, “Bob has asked me to marry him.” They had known one another literally all their lives. His wife had been dead a respectable time, so he asked. “I suppose I’ll have to marry the darned man. People at church are talking.” They were married in a small church in Tunica, Mississippi, because she said if they were married in Memphis the newspaper would print how old she was. She wasn’t having that. They, too, adored one another, until he died.
The eve of the Fourth of July several years ago, she polished the silver, organized the paperwork, put on a nice robe, sat down in front of the television, and died of heart failure. It was her final gift to me, one I value more and more the older I get. As one of my actor friends said when I called him to tell him, “That Beth. The woman sure did know how to make an exit.”