Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Smartest (Mouthed) Mom on Earth

The current Carnival of Genealogy topic surrounds the education of our mothers.

Mom, how'd you get so smart? We'll examine our mothers' education. What schools did your mom attend? Did she graduate high school or attend the school of hard knocks? Did she attend a one room school house or was she home-schooled? Was she the first in the family to attend college? Maybe your mom took self-study courses or was an avid reader. Tell us all about how a mother figure (mother, grandmother, mother in law, godmother, etc.) in your life became so brilliant!

Sadly, as is typical in my family, I had to do some second-hand research in order to answer these questions. While I remember some stories about my mother's school days, there aren't that many in my memory to give an in-depth answer to this question. Unfortunately, mom is no longer with us, having died from lung cancer in 1988. So I called on my father and the Internet to help me with this topic. The Internet proved to be rather useless, too, I'm afraid. Apparently two of the three schools my mom went to are no longer in existence.

I do recall a couple of funny stories about my mother's elementary years. I remember her tales of Catholic school, and how she hated it so. She told of the story of her teacher who wanted her placed in the class for ... well ... "slow" students because she (my mother) had the audacity to ask the teacher why "2 + 2 = 4".

Teacher: 2 + 2 is 4.
Jean: Why?
Teacher: (patiently) Because if you take two apples in one hand and two in the other and count from left to right, you'll get 4.
Jean: Why?
Teacher: (not as patiently)Okay, hold up your index fingers and your middle fingers. Now count. See how you get 4?
Jean: Why?
Teacher (not at all patiently): GO TO SISTER{ insert name}'s OFFICE RIGHT NOW.

My poor mother. All she wanted to know was why it was called "FOUR" and not "SNUFFLEOPHAGUS" or something. All the teacher had to say was 'Cuz God Said So" and mom would have been perfectly content. Instead my mom got in trouble. No wonder she had to resort to tricking her mother, who walked her to school, by walking the front door only to walk out the back door when gramma was out of sight. (and this "hooky" playing on the part of my mother didn't come out until all of us kids had finished our own schooling!).

I don't have any stories of mom's junior high school years. How sad is that? Dad says she went to South Junior High School in Niagara Falls, NY. The Niagara Falls NY part I knew, but a picture I have of her in front of her Junior High School I swear said "North Junior High School". Not having the original photo, I can't check it. But dad said he and his sister went to North and mom went to South. Here is a picture of my mom with a little bit of her Junior High School in the background.

As for high school, mom went to Niagara Falls High School, graduating in 1956. I don't have any stories of her high school years, either. How sad is this (and how many times am I going to ask this question?). I do, however have a great story about her high school ring.

My mother's first cousin was Jane (WILLIAMS) JOHNSON (1927-1996), the daughter of Margaret DOYLE (1900-1948) and Raymond WILLIAMS (1900 - ?). I was always very close to Jane and always referred to her as Aunt Jane. She was the secretary at Colonial Village Elementary School where I went to grade school, was there for me when I got sick and had to go home and when I got sent to the principal's office for punching Jeff W. in the stomach (he pushed me first!). Today, the library at Colonial Village School is named for her.

Sometime in 1996 I got a little box in the mail from my uncle Neil, Jane's husband. I knew something was wrong; Jane was the correspondent in the family. Sure enough, he'd enclosed a letter explaining that Jane had died in February of that year. He and his daughter were finally going through Jane's things, and in the process of cleaning out one of her purses, he found the item in the box he sent me: My mother's High School ring from 1956! I was absolutely dumbstruck. Apparently Neil and Jane had found the ring somewhere, and Jane put it in her purse to keep it until she could mail it to me. She never did, obviously. That ring is among my most treasured possessions.

There is a lesson to be learned by all in my story this month: Sons and Daughters: TALK to your parents about their own growing up years. DON'T roll your eyes at the stories they tell --WRITE THEM DOWN. Mothers and Fathers: TALK to your children about your growing up years AND about family stories handed down. LET your children roll their eyes: TELL THEM ANYWAY.

And yes, I did mean to yell ;).


Elizabeth said...

Ah, so very true. And what a treasure you got from your Uncle!


I love the story of your mom walking out of the school when her mom was out of sight. Your mother had what we call "pluck."

I think no matter how many stories we have of our loved ones - we always wish there were more.

I think maybe that's why some of us blog - as a way of passing on bits and pieces of ourselves.

I enjoyed your story!

wendy said...

Hopefully you've asked your dad all these same questions & written them down. I wish I'd paid more attention to the stories my grandparents told - my mom can fill in quite a few blanks so that's a good thing.