Friday, May 08, 2009

My Mother Is the Most Beautiful Woman In the World

I don't remember when I first read this book, but it was a very long time ago, and it made a lasting impression on me. Anyone else remember it? I looked it up on Amazon just for this post, and there's a "collectible" 1943 edition for sale for $59. I don't go back quite that far.

It's a Russian folk tale, but the version I read as a child was definitely 20th century. A little girl gets separated from her mother, who is working in the field on a collective farm. She asks the foreman (or whatever he was called) to help her find her mother. He asks for a description, and she says, "My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world." So the foreman and his helpers start rounding up beautiful women. The child shakes her head each time a gorgeous young woman is brought before her. "This isn't my mother. My mother is the MOST BEAUTIFUL woman in the world." Of course, we all know where this is going. The child's mother is rather large and quite ordinary looking in the eyes of everyone present except the little girl, who hugs her mother, looks around at the search party and says something like, "See? I told you so."

So here's a picture of Mama and me, and as you can plainly see, she's the most beautiful woman in the world. (I could have done better, but it's late, and this one was handy.)

Oh, found another one. I don't know whether Mama ever claimed that her mama was the most beautiful, or whether Gammar ever said it of her mother, but they weren't. Not as long as Mama was in the world. They wore funny hats. Mama wore gorgeous, colorful broad-brimmed hats. And no glasses. She had lovely hazel eyes and never needed glasses. (When I got glasses--I was about 15--she said it was from reading for hours on end. I'm near-sighted, but still...)

I don't think Mama ever really thought of herself as beautiful. Weight was an issue for her most of her life. I truly never saw it. After three babies she was heavier than she is in these pictures, but she wasn' know...the F word. Like the little girl in the story, I was asked to describe her at various times for various reasons, and I remember looking for the right word to describe her stature. She was tall for her generation. She carried herself like a duchess. Hair color changed at her discretion. Being told I looked like her was a compliment even when I was a teenager, convinced that I was not like her. She was so last decade. (You've been there, haven't you? Or was it just me?)

One of the last gifts she gave me was a cartoon book called "Oh, Lord, I Sound Just Like Mama." Nowadays I look for that sound to come from my daughter and granddaughters. They ask, "Where did you learn that?" and I tell them. Not just "From my mother," but I tell the story that goes with it. And I see her in their faces. My granddaughters love to sing, and I think one in particular might have Mama's beautiful soprano voice. The other one has her sense of style. I remember going shopping with Mama after I had had my three kids, and I pointed out something and said, "How about this?" She laughed. "That's not me anymore." She bought a pair of jeans. I'd never seen her in jeans. We were ranching in ND, and I couldn't believe it when she went horseback riding with us. Mama on a horse! Oh, yes, the girls love that story, too. Almost as much as they love it when I do something outrageous, like the Mashed Potatoes or the Watusi. The Swim! They love that one. And then I try to show them how their great-grandmother could jitterbug. (To my knowledge, their great-great and great-great-great didn't dance. Not in those hats.)

The last time I saw Mama, she looked very much like me. Not the way I look now, but the way I looked in the picture sitting on my great-grandmother's lap. She'd been through chemo, of course. We both knew it was probably the last time, but neither said so. I couldn't say very much, frankly, except this: "Mama, you have always been the most beautiful woman in the world."

py Mother's Day! Here's a fun link to a video by "Moms Rising." Plug in your favorite mom's name and watch her get the kudos she deserves.

se gift us with a Mama story that you're saving for your grandchildren. I'll draw one name for an autographed copy of In Care Of Sam Beaudry--hot off the press--or a book from my backlist if you already have Sam.

P.S. GladysMP, you won Pam Crooks's drawing last week. Please e-mail your mailing info to:


Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Kathy. What a beautiful and moving tribute to your mother and to mothers everywhere. That generational photo of your "grandmeres" reminds me so much of some of my old family pictures. Unfortunately, I'm not fortunate enough to have one of me with the grands and greats.

Here's an idea. Vow this Mother's Day to make a generational photo with your family at the first opportunity. Then git 'er done!

Kathleen said...

That is heart warming and moving story.
My mother never looked more beautiful than the day she became a grandmother for the first time. We had been at the hosptial over 24hrs before my SIL gave birth. I had to go back to work so I missed the big moment, but when my mother called me to tell me about the event, I could feel how beauty right through the phone. When I saw her later that day, my mother was just glowing. She despared of ever have a grandchild. She was the last of her siblings to become one. The others all had their grandkids in their 40's and my mother was already in her late 50's.
I have a wonderful picture of my mother her grandkids and I am going to frame it and give it to her for her birhtday this year. I already bought her loads of books for her Mother's day gift. A Mothers beauty always shines from within to light the way for her children.

So for all of you Mothers out there enjoy your day and let your light shine.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Kathleen, I was in the "delivery room" (right there in the regular hospital room these days--imagine!) when my grandson was born. Even though I had natural childbirth all 3 times, see the moment of birth from, well, a better angle and in a pain-free state was amazing. Amazing! My DIL had a difficult time--much as I did the first time--and our grandson was in neo-natal ICU for a few days. That was an experience, too. But, oh, that full view of your own child's child coming into the world is such a moment!

Playground Monitor said...

I was at the hospital when my granddaughter was born (and so was her other grandmother) but the doctor made us leave the room. That could have been a request from my son and DIL; I've never asked. But we stood just outside the door and heard the baby's first cry. We hugged and we cried too as we became grandmothers together. I really want to get a generational photo with my mom, my DIL, me and the grandbaby.

When she's much older, I'll tell my granddaughter about how her Grammy Anne is my hero. She was only 43 when my father died and she kept her chin up and kept things going. She was in the workforce already because eight years earlier my dad had been laid off from work, she found a job first and just kept on working even after he found work again. Eventually she became the first woman to have her name on the newspaper's masthead and when she retired she was the head of the advertising department with numerous awards under her belt. She never gave up, she never gave in, and if I can have half her strengh, I will be able to handle anything life tosses at me. I wish that strength for my grandbaby too.

Terrific post, Kathleen!


lois greiman said...

Kathy, you always move me. Thanks for a beautiful post.

I just visited Mom last week for an early Mother's Day. We were talking about how my daughter wanted us to get chickens so we could have our own organic eggs. A few hours later my sister was at the farm store and called to tell us there were baby chicks there. Long story short, she bought 4 chicks for me and brought them to my mother's farm. But when Mom looked in the box, her face lit up like Christmas. She was giggling like a little girl. It was so adorable. Needless to say, those chicks stayed in my mother's office under a heat lamp. I went to get four more of my own. I'll have to return to ND in a few weeks to build a fence outside for her new babies, but Mom is 90 now and I realize more and more how precious these minutes are.

Happy Mother's Day everyone.

Cindy Gerard said...

I love your post Kathleen. It reminds me of so many stories about my mom and how much I miss her. My mom grew up during very tough times - lost her own mother in childbirth, lost a sister and her father was an alcoholic. Mom had to quit school when she was 15 to work and help support herself and her other sisters. Anyway, years later, I had already graduated from High school, Mom took classes and got her GED. It was one of the proudest moments of her life and ours. She worked as a teacher's aid then and loved the job as much as the kids loved her. She struggled with health issues her entire life but never once did I hear her complain. She ALWAYS saw the world as beautiful. That's why she was so beautiful to me.

Michele Hauf said...

love the post, Kathy.

I was lucky to get a photo with my daughter, me, my grandma, AND, my great grandma. Four generations there. Not sure where my mom was that day, but it could have been a five gen. pic. Very cool.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kathy,

I wish I could find this story too. I had read it when I was in school, it was in one of my textbooks and I remember the pictures too.. yes it had pictures of the MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. This story.. tells what each child thinks for his/er mother. Oh I love this story......

Kathleen Eagle said...

Anon, you can order the book through Amazon--1995 or so edition. I'm surprised they do re-release it every May.

Helen Brenna said...

Kathy, beautiful post. Brought a few tears to my eyes.

I'm the 7th of 8 kids, and my mom and dad happened to come to the hospital just as my daughter was being born. They came to the door, peeked their heads inside. My dad, of course, got all flustered and went back into the hall, but my mom! Oh, she was funny. She came right in and helped my dh cut the umbilical cord. You'd think after 8 kids, she'd have had enough of childbirth, but she was THRILLED. And I was so touched to see her grinning face.

When I ended up with problems a week or so down the road, don't know what we would've done without her!

Happy Mother's day to all!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Lois, I love the chick story. I was persuaded to raise chickens one summer when we were ranching. Maybe I should forewarn the grands right now...don't bring Nana chickens when she's 90. Unless you're putting out a line of Maxine-type greeting cards.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, oh...Lois story reminds me of one of my favorite stories. When Mama was a girl she was given a little turkey to tend when she stayed at Aunt Cootsie's farm one summer. Holiday dinners were long table affairs with at least 3 kinds of meat and 50 side dishes. Uncle Ashby always carved the turkey right there at the head of the table. He thought it was funny to pause for a moment with carving tools in hand and thank Mama for doing such a good job fattening up the turkey. (Uncle Ashby was not a very nice man, so I was always pretty glad he wasn't blood relative.) Well, Mama burst into tears and would not be consoled with food of any kind.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I just got an e-mail with a fun link to

Plug in your mama's name and watch!

MarthaE said...

Kathleen - Wonderful story.... thanks for sharing. I remember thinking my mom was always gracious and I wanted to be like her...She died of cancer at the young age of 48 when I was 20 and in college. It took me until age 27 to accept that I did inherit her pretty looks and gracious manners! We had grown very close the last couple of years of her life. My parents had divorced when I was 15 and I was the youngest child so I was the one still at home. She would paint and I would read her my poetry or some of her favs like Emily Dickenson. She even painted a Monk on a cobblestone road to go with one of my poems!! My sister has 3 daughters (and 3 boys) and I have 1 daughter and 1 son. I think we are doing pretty good instilling in them the need to share and keep pics and records of times together cause you never know what tomorrow brings. My brothers, sister and I still miss her of course. We are glad to still have our Dad who is now 85 and just starting to be a bit frail.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Ah, Martha, my father was 48 when he died, and my younger sister was still at home. Mama was a very young 63. It's hard to imagine them old, but so sweet to imagine them with their grand and great-grandchildren.

Ashley Ladd said...

Happy Mother's Day to you, too.

Your mother is beautiful enough to be a movie star. The way the women dressed in that era makes them look so graceful and elegant. The picture reminds me of my mother.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Ashley, I like the 40's style, too. Elegance says it nicely.

Virginia said...

What a great story! My mother was a smart women but I wouldn't listen to anything she ever said. I thought I was smarter then her. I didn't realize this until she was gone. She past at the age of 58 and my only child was born two weeks after she pasted away. She developed an infection around her brain at the age of 56 which left her paralized from the neck down and unable to speek. So she was in a nursing home her last two years. It was a rough time for all of us. I know most of the things she told me when I was young was all right. I just wish I had her knowledge now!

robynl said...

I have step grandchildren that never knew my Mom but to my siblings I always say 'Mom would have liked that or would have said this'. My neighbour/friend says no one could be as good/nice as I claim my parents were; but to me they were. Both have passed on; Mom at age 73 from cancer; dad at age 80 from many things.
All the stories of Moms'are wonderful.

Caffey said...

Kathy I haven't heard of that book and so hope they re-release it.

One of my favorite stories I have told my kids about my mom is that she had a way to communicate with me because they knew she didn't sign like they did (I'm deaf). My mom and I had made up signs and gestures for us to communicate as well as my fingers on her voice box to feel her words. So I've always told them that my mom said so much to me without words. I loved going to her bedroom each night and I'd bring her a library book I finished and she'd suggest some romance books she read. So it was a evening thing I never liked to miss. They always asked how I could tell her I loved her and I told her we had said it in so many ways, a hug, doing a chore for her, bringing a library book home, etc. I loved to find a way to let her know I loved her. I miss her bunches.

Debra Dixon said...

I'm late to the party today, but the theme hits home.

Mother's hair began falling out from chemo on Wednesday. Thursday I went over to her house to help her shave it and figure out scarf and wig tricks. And we pretty much decided her head wasn't half-bad. She laughed so hard at me trying to figure out how to be a hairdresser that she forgot for a little bit that this is a rough patch.

She's an absolutely fabulous mom. Pretty good looking for a bald woman.

Susan Shay said...

The day my youngest son turned four, we realized that only one of his little friends was going to be able to make it to the party. So, naturally, I called Mama. She lived 1 1/2 hours away, but didn't hesitate. She bought a few gifts, gathered up the other grandkids and made it to our house in plenty of time for the party.
My son never realized his friends weren't there. He had the people he loved most around him.
The last time I was with Mama was Mother's Day eighteen years ago. I took my boys home for the weekend and the whole family went fishing in a family pond. Two of my sisters and their kids were there, too.
Mama was killed by a drunk driver the next day, but we had no regrets. She always saw to that.
Susan Shay

Kathleen Eagle said...

Deb, the hair loss was difficult for Mama, but she said it was one of the things that really helped her sort things out--what's important from what isn't. Hair is such a big deal for us, isn't it?

My love to you and your mother.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Caffey, Susan, wonderful stories. Thank you!

Knitlark said...

Hi-- I love that Russian Folk Tale so much that I did a podcast of it on the Knitlark Lane podcast. You can find it at
You can play it there or from Itunes.
It is all about looking through the eyes of love.