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't...you 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."
Happy 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.
Please 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: email@example.com