Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother, Mom, Mum... Erma

Originally uploaded by mdt1960
For those of you who remember my mother, Erma, I’m happy to tell you that she is still making deserts, tending to her garden during the growing season, pampering her dog Mandy, and finding projects for my dad around the house.

On this mother’s day I thought I would tip my hat to her for the life she has carried on; especially the one that had to deal with me when I was such a disrespectful, self-serving, arrogant teenager.

Erma Wilma Kline Tyree is now 81-years-old.

My mother was the second daughter and the seventh child born to Thomas and Stella Kline. Seven more siblings came after her as well—fourteen children in all. Here is the line-up: Velma, Earl, Gayle, Herb, Fred, Paul, Erma, Imogene, Shirley, Hillis, Russell, Elenor, Leo, and Dorreen. Of this list, six have passed on including the oldest and the youngest.

Raising children throughout the 60s and 70s, my mother was probably not much different than others during this period. She was a stay-at-home mom which seems luxurious compared to the mothers of today’s kids. I could always count on her to make sure I was awake on time and ready for school, while having a lunch ready for me when I returned home midday. Whatever activities/sports I participated in, she was there to witness my accomplishments and failures and lend an ear of support.

Erma & Pauline Ave House
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I learned many things from my mother. She taught me to behave around girls/women as I entered courtship, she encouraged me to fight my own fights and challenge anyone that spoke untruths. She didn’t tell me who I should make friends with and who I shouldn’t, but she told me a lot about what to look for in a friend. Many of these friends that she welcomed into our home often told me she was a “looker,” but I saw her as the person who kept me in line, took care of me and rewarded me when she saw fit. Several times when I was in high school, I would come home at some point in the evening with a few friends and she would drop whatever she was doing and make us all some of her delicious French Toast. She has always been willing to feed or offer drink to whoever has come around.

As a junior and senior in high school, I was stupid enough to tell my mother during any given disagreement how much I looked forward to moving out after I graduated. And indeed I did—going off to college in far-away Arizona. Fortunately, during my freshman year at ASU, I realized how good I had it thanks to her and—soon after—how much I truly missed her.

Grand Erma
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Each year I travel back to Akron to visit her and my dad. This year will be no different. I’m uncertain as to how many years are left for such visits, but everything about her is permanently written into my fiber.

Along with my own mother, there are a few others who took me in under their wing from time to time as well. These are the “other moms”—the mothers of friends and family.

The Belle of the Ball
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Helen Pryseski lived next door to us and was my best friend’s mom. She always laughed along with our stupid jokes and antics, made the best chocolate chip cookies and was responsible for my appreciation of good chili. During World War II, Helen worked on aircraft that were produced inside Akron’s giant airdock. Never one to get out much, Helen was the quintessential stay-at-home mom who was always upbeat and positive despite losing her oldest son when he was in his 20s.

Phyllis Gilbert was another next-door-mom who raised the five-famous Gilbert kids. Despite the ups and downs between her oldest boys and myself, she always treated me warmly and welcomed me in whenever I came by their house. Florence Henderson’s “Carol Brady” had nothing on Phyllis Gilbert.

Alice Fuller tolerated the taking over of her laundry room by her son Jim and I when we started our own photography business in high school. Even when Jim wasn’t home and we had prints to make, she allowed me to come over after school and set up our basement darkroom while a meal awaited me when I was ready to take a break.

Mamie Lew is Kevin Lew’s mother—my roommate all through college at ASU. I loved this woman before I even met her. She made the best beef jerky and often sent an abundance of it to Kevin with instructions to share it with me. When I travelled home to Oregon with Kev following the completion of another school year, I was as good as adopted in this extensive Chinese-American family.

Orillia LeRoux’s son Bouvier taught me to make tortillas from scratch. He had learned from his mom because she suffered from arthritis. Once I was visiting their place and Bouvie wasn’t home from work yet, and she needed a batch of tortillas to go along with the evening’s dinner. I offered my new skill and following the completion of dinner, Orillia and the entire family paid me several compliments for the tortillas I had made. To this day, every time I make tortillas, I’m thankful for her and the arthritis she endured back then.

Lastly, I can’t forget my grandmother Marcella Tyree who possessed a sharp wit like no one else I knew growing up. She was a prolific crossword puzzler, a wicked card and domino player, scored the Cleveland Indian baseball games she listened to on the radio and always had cookies and milk whenever I visited. Marcella always kissed my friends when I brought them along with me for a visit and truly loved meeting any girlfriends I was willing to introduce to her. An impeccable dresser and always in fashion, she wasn’t shy about discussions that some might have found uncomfortable. One of her more humorous and memorable comments had to do with how she couldn’t do housework in the nude any longer because the wooded area behind their house was being thinned and those living in homes on the other side of the wooded area could now see through.

These accounts above remind me of what Mark Twain once said about his mother, “My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart—a heart so large that everybody’s joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation.”

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