Tuesday, May 10

Some Kind of Wonderful

No, not the movie from 2001. I’m talking about the song from 1960 by Ben E. King and the Drifters. I just heard that song on the car radio yesterday and it really brought back memories.

Wow . . . how can you beat that music? I was a little girl when “Save the Last Dance” came out, but some of my clearest childhood memories are of hot summer days in the 1960s, spent playing in our front yard while my big sister had the radio on at full volume. I can still smell the Sea & Ski suntan lotion and see PJ and her friend lounging on the porch. Music, a chatty DJ, and ads for Rambler automobiles, Pepsi Cola, and Camel cigarettes drifted out the screen door from our console hi-fi. Most especially, I remember the music, the Drifters, Bobby Darin, the Ronettes, Sam Cooke . . . happy, romantic music that made me feel like all was right with the world.

Looking back, I realize those summer days weren’t really carefree at all–at least not for my mother. My dad had left us, Mom was working full time and going to nursing school full time–God only knows when the woman slept. I kinda think maybe she didn’t sleep for over two years. Money was scarce and I know now how worried she always was about keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. My grandparents helped out as they could, but Mother shouldered the biggest part of the burden of four young children and a husband who’d gone AWOL.
Yet, I don’t remember ever being afraid or worried–life was safe and secure. I thought everyone had pancakes or eggs with potatoes for supper a couple of nights a week. Sunday night suppers were always grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup–I thought it was tradition. It never occurred to me it was economy. I wore my sisters’ hand-me-downs that my Aunt Alice carefully altered to fit, and I felt very grown-up. And didn’t everyone’s Grandpa show up a couple of times a week with a bag of groceries? Housecleaning fell to us kids, and we did chores while Mom was at work or school. It was simply our life, nothing out of the ordinary.

Mom studied on weekends–I have a vivid memory of PJ quizzing her on anatomy while I read, curled up next to my mother on the sofa, squeezing close to her to avoid the place with the broken springs. I was amazed that she got almost every answer right. Today, I’m even more amazed–how did she do it? Study, work full time, take care of four children, and attend classes to get her nursing degree in just two years. I’m an empty-nester, and yet as I try to fit editing gigs, caring for two houses, helping with yard work, the gym, meal planning, and writing into one week, I’m in awe of Mom’s drive and determination. We never went hungry, we were dressed in clean clothes, homework got checked, and she always made time if one of us needed to talk.

Mom's birthday is May 13. She would've been eighty-nine this year and I'm guessing she'd still be singing along with the songs from the sixties. Whenever I hear a Drifters song, it always sends me back to those childhood days–long, lazy summer days that were for me some kind of wonderful . . .

17 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post and what a tribute to your mom and the "do what you gotta do" mantra we all grew up to honor and emulate. My brothers smoked Camel cigarettes, too. Were they extraordinarily cheap or something? :-)

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    1. Dunno about the Camels, but I sure remember their radio ads were sure prolific. Mom was pretty cool. I wish I'd realized that when I was younger . . .

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  2. Your post brought my early teen years back - I can smell the Coppertone as I write. Thanks for the sounds, the images and the lovely tribute to your family.

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    1. Funny how we all remember the scent of sunscreen, isn't it, Ashantay? Thanks for coming by!!

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  3. You had a wonderful family. I can remember hanging out with girlfriends at home and the beach listening to the Drifters, Platters and many others with not a care in the world. Thanks for the memories. Hope we see more of each other this summer.

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    1. Hey, Judy! So glad you stopped by! We always had WIFE radio on in the summers--great music! See you soon!!

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  4. what a wonderful tribute to your mom, Nan, she sounds like an amazing woman!

    Fun fact: your mom and mine share a birthday!

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    1. She was surely a different and fun person, Kristi. How cool that our moms are both May 13 babies! Happy birthday to your mom on Friday!

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  5. Haven't thought about Sea & Ski in a long, long time. :) Sounds like you had a terrific mom. Thanks for sharing the memories!

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    1. Hey, sweets, so glad you came by! I did have a terrific mom--she loved us more than anything and we never doubted that for one moment. She started out as a nurse--you two would probably have had a lot to talk about! ((Hugs))

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  6. You really clicked in some memories here. I was fatherless for a while, but my father had died when I was a year old. My mother had to work, but my grandmother took care of me. By the time the 60s rolled around, My mother had remarried and I had a normal household. Great post!

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    1. Hi, Ilona, thanks for stopping by the round pen! Grandmas always seem to pitch in, don't they? My grandma did, too...it's funny how memories become sweeter as we get older, isn't it? ;-)

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  7. I was deeply touched by your mother and what she did for your family. She's a true hero. I had a transistor radio I hung from the handlebars of my bike and listened to as I rode around. What I remember is just hanging and enjoying.

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    1. Hullo, Vicki! Thanks for coming by and for the tribute to my mom. She was an amazing woman. I remember transistor radios! My sister had a little white one that we listened to when we went camping. Music was really music back then, wasn't it? ;-)

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  8. I loved this look back. And your mom was amazing.

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    1. Thanks, Margie...she was, she truly was!

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