Pomp and Circumstance

  •  Maida Korte

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”  – Hamilton Wright Mabie

I have never been known as regal but I do like the occasional bit of ceremony.  For example, preparing my dining room table for family and guests is something I do one day ahead of time so I can gaze at it before the hoards arrive and riotous behavior ensues, else I never view the fruits of my pre-dining labor.  Glorious chaos as I like to think of it, a learned behavior, when as a small child amidst large groups of siblings and cousins, we were left to our own devices. Adults were always present but shadow-like as they talked amongst themselves and did mysterious things like play bridge.   Mimicking this behavior, my own children and multitudes of cousins never really walked into my parents’ home, but rather burst upon it.  Arriving at my mom and dads’, opening the front door meant multitudes of small people rushing forward, sometimes pausing for a brief hug and smooch, but mostly dashing to see what everyone else was doing and jumping into the commotion. My children learned at a young age to participate in raucous yet innocent cousin behavior.  My mom died young but was philoprogenitive and had 25 grand-children by the time she was 54.  My parent’s simple home was grand-child ready, with wading boots lined up soldier like for stream walking, mason jars filled with raisins and chocolate chips just because and Grampa preparing his tractor to take ‘littles’ for rides around the property in the back of an attached wagon.  My parent’s ability to make something out of nothing was unmatched. One year at Christmas they held an art contest and mailed each of their grand-children a coloring book with an accompanying new box of crayons.  Strict instructions were provided to ‘do your best’ as Grampa would be judging the drawings at Christmas.  To this day my grown children remember their Grampa Walker sitting at a large desk, reading glasses perched on his nose and a very solemn expression as he carefully reviewed 25 drawings – each one drawn and submitted by a small hopeful child.   With a deep sigh my father would pronounce that there was nothing he could do – it was another first-place ribbon accompanied by a squeal of happy acceptance.

Enter my own grand-children, eight of them, and I discover that I want to be my mom.  I have lived as long without my mom as with her, and yet her memory looms large and is the core of me.  I remember a song where a woman is getting dressed and puts her arm in her  sleeve and her mother’s hand comes out.  Yes.  Exactly.  I need not go far for behavior inspiration.  Gwendolyn (Wing) Walker was young when married (18) and died 36 years later, still young.  Today my sister and I bake her cookies, make her fudge, roll out the same dough letting little hands join in, always have a child-proof project ‘at the ready,’ books galore are strewn on tables while little grand-sons back up into my lap for yet another story time.   I’ve inherited my mom’s love of the rain as it splatters on windows when cuddled inside, I too cry at old movies, and break life up into small manageable pieces.   

Mom was not even slightly fancy but she did love a new white blouse with dainty ruffles at the neck worn with a longish skirt.  My tall thin mother had a tiny waist and cinched everything she wore, which most of the time was jeans paired with tucked in shirt, sleeves rolled up high on her thin yet strong arms.  Her make-up regimen consisted of lipstick on both lips and cheekbones, the habit of many women in the 1950’s.  The only time I ever saw wistfulness in my mother was when she longed for a French twist that her short, fine hair could not produce.  I understand this longing as my hair never obeys and causes me to rue many a day’s coiffing disasters.  Simple is always better and my mom taught me that as I watched her get an idea in her head about pillaged outdoor leaves on the table at Thanksgiving, or crafted  green and red ring chains to be hung on doorways at Christmas, or paper plates folded and threaded with yarn to form small baskets for cookies, which led to expanded projects of painting small rocks with Bible verses to be handed out by the thousands, or creating pillows with folded pieces of fabric forming outlandish and colorful pinwheel designs.  Whatever the idea, it was full speed ahead, plunging into an obsessive land of necessity that takes years to fully appreciate, ripening with age into adoration and understanding.  Crowded brains need deep dives into concentrated projects.  I know.  I live this inner life as well and though my projects take on different forms, they keep my mind’s wandering at bay.  I sift through the memory halls of my childhood and remember my mama as I take a dusty idea off of a shelf and bring it into the land of this Christmas season where I will read to little children, bake cookies with multiple small hands, tear up as I talk to my daughters about their unmatched Grandma who took them wading in a creek when they were young. 

5 Responses to “Pomp and Circumstance

  • claremontgmailcom
    9 months ago

    Thanks for putting into words so many things that resonate with me. I enjoy the memories, but also appreciate that you carry them into the present and pass them on. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family. Vic

  • And one day your daughters will tear up as they tell their children about their unmatched grandmother who loved the rain when it splattered on windows when she was cuddling with them inside, cried at old movies, loved to read to grandsons who backed up into her lap, always had child proof projects at the ready, and rolled out her mother’s recipe for cookie dough and happily let little hands join in…

  • You captured her perfectly, Maida!
    Even though it was way too few, I’m more thankful than ever that she was my “mother-in-love” for 8 Christmases, and I got to witness the love she lavished upon her grandchildren that included 3 of my children! She was truly one of a kind! ❤️

    • Oh Nan – I know exactly what you mean – too short were her days on this earth – cannot wait to see her again.

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