“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


75 things about my mother

Tomorrow is my Mother's 75th birthday. This is a long post. Settle in.

1. Best fried apricot pies EVER.

2. She taught me - inadvertently - to be fearless about painting. Old metal teapots were not off limits; if it sat still, it was just asking to be decorated with daisies.

3. She has had & still has a life full of pets: Cherie, Citrus Sue & Martin, Noop, Deanie, Coco, Sparkle, Shadow, Angelina, Miss Kitty, Old Joe, Tom Tom, Skye, Ike, Miss Buster, Reggie the Blue Jay who had his own room, Martha, Gray Boy, and thousands more.

4. She is the 16th child in a family of 16 children.

5. She moved - with my father - to a new state, leaving behind friends, family & the only life she'd ever known, dragging 3 kids to an unknown future. No job waiting on either of them, very little money, not knowing anyone, knowing only that the health of my brother - and his life - was at stake if the move was not made.

6. She's a writer.

7. Her gardens were organic before organic was cool.

8. She is overly prepared for any possible emergency. Stuff is in the car in case she & Skye the cat have to quickly evacuate, emergency rations are under the bed. :)

9. When my father died, she put aside her own grief for an hour & came to my house to make sure I was okay, to feed me baby bites of cold sandwiches. (Thank you Kay for those sandwiches.)

10. She has a Sweet Tooth. Capital S. Capital T. I've seen her eat an entire peach cobbler in one evening.

11. Yet she stays thin.

12. She has great eyebrows. (Seinfeld fans will appreciate this observance.)

13. She loves Lyle Lovett.

14. The first tree she plants at any house is a fig. She never has extra figs to give away because she will stand at the tree & just eat them all.

15. She is a lover of all wildlife - birds, beasts, insects, reptiles. Even the snake brought into her house by the ever vigilant Skye - the one Michael had to capture because she had barricaded herself in another bedroom. When he told her he'd caught it, she yelled through the closed door "Well, don't kill it".

16. She once lived in a haunted house.

17. She always has her hair in curlers during any disaster or family emergency. If her house is ever hit by a tornado, no doubt her hair will be in curlers & she will be interviewed by CNN reporters & will be broadcast nationally, to the amusement of all her relatives.

18. She is funny - sometimes on purpose.

19. She's afraid to fly - or at least she thinks she is. She's never flown, so there's no way to know for sure.

20. She tithes, but not necessarily to her church. Sometimes the Salvation Army receives her 10%, sometimes the Humane Society. Once it was a neighbor who'd left an abusive husband, but needed temporary help feeding herself & her kids. She didn't ask, but my mother knew.

21. She is not easily bored - a trait that, thankfully, she passed on to me.

22. She loves my blog - this very thing you're reading. When she first read it, she was so moved that she wrote me a little note telling me so.

23. She successfully threw my father a surprise 65th birthday party. No mean feat - we have a huge family & they all showed up.

24. She hangs my artwork all over her house. Bad high school & early college drawings & paintings that she nonetheless loves. She even has my very first drawing (I was about 2) framed. It's not too bad, if I do say so myself.

25. She has only one grandchild, but that child is a doozy - the joy of her life.

26. When she was 16 she got married. (Not my father.) She was a carhop, he was a cool, unemployed guy on a motorcycle. One day while she was at work, he drove by & waved & that was it. She got divorced & told me that as she was walking down the courthouse steps, she felt free!

27. Her favorite song is Summit Ridge Drive by Artie Shaw.

28. She has a yard full of turtles or tortoises or terrapins or whatever they are. She knows. They're all named & she recognizes them immediately by sight.

29. Her grocery lists are unbelievably indecipherable & written on the teensiest bits of paper imaginable.

30. Because she recycles everything.

31. She can sew or upholster anything. Except for that Halloween witch costume I wore one year.

32. She cannot, however, spell just anything.

33. For this she blames her father, a Hungarian immigrant who could speak 7 languages & even invented a traffic control device that was used for jillions of years until computers came along, but who spoke with an accent. This accent, she claims, is the reason she mispronounces & misspells words. He taught her to speak with a Texas/Hungarian accent. :)

34. In addition to great eyebrows, she has great fingernails, and lives in constant despair of mine.

35. Have I mentioned her Thanksgiving dressing?

36. She can't swim.

37. She loves to limit our Christmas spending, and 5 or 6 years ago, that limit was $5.00! She says she enjoyed that year's shopping more than any other year because it was such a challenge.

38. When she was young, she was a jitterbugger.

39. She has a provision in her will to make sure her cat will be taken of.

40. Speaking of cats, she believes they cannot find their way down or out of a tree, which has led to the climbing of a ladder more than once by yours truly, the cajoling of cats, the pleading. The begging. This usually takes place after dark.

41. She cannot sit still. She is always busy - in the yard, at her computer, in the house. It made my father crazy.

42. She will loan me money if I need it. I try to not need it.

43. She has, in the last 5 or 6 years, survived a broken sternum (car accident), a heart attack, a severe staph infection, several cases of bronchitis, a broken shoulder & hip (at the same time), heart arrhythmias, reactions to medicine, colon cancer, ischemic colitis (necessitating firemen breaking through her back door). I have come to know my way around emergency rooms & hospitals.

44. She knows about plants & flowers - she knows when to trim them back, she understands deadheading, when to plant tomatoes, how to prune azaleas.

45. She has a fireplace that she has never used. She has firewood in case of an emergency (see #8), but did not consider a 3 day power failure a few winters ago emergency enough to light a fire - she just stayed cold. (See #43.)

46. She is a bath person & doesn't understand how people don't drown in showers.

47. She cries very easily. She will cry when she reads this.

48. Despite the fact that my father was a sports nut, was the head of the Little League association when my brothers were young, that he was always glued to tv football & baseball games & attended as many high school & college events as possible, and despite the fact that my brothers & I grew up to be sports nuts, she just doesn't get it. Except for last year's Dallas Cowboys season.

49. She likes Julia Roberts. She especially liked her when she married Lyle Lovett.

50. She sings all the time - it's one of my big memories of her as I was growing up. I remember her singing while washing dishes, or sweeping floors (which would sometimes elicit a jitterbug move or two), or gardening.

51. Deep in her heart, she believes the Harry Potter books promote witchcraft. She denies this to me, but I know it's true.

52. When she was a child, one year for Christmas she received a doll with no hair. Her sister closest to her in age, however, received a doll with beautiful hair - Hildegarde. In a fit of jealousy, my mother cut off all of Hildegarde's hair. When she retells this tale, it never fails to make me laugh & it never fails to make her mad all over again.

53. Great shoes.

54. When she married my father she wore a black dress. I have no idea what she wore when she married the cool motorcycle guy.

55. She became friends with her oldest sister's nursing home "roommate" & when her sister died, she continued that friendship with the roommate until the woman died several years later.

56. She has met Dolly Parton & Henry Kissinger & the cast & crew of "Bonanza" - she & my father happened upon them while they were filming in the Arizona desert. My parents were looking for gold.

57. She was a smoker from the time she was a teenager (again, see #43) until just recently. I suspect she still sneaks a cigarette every once in a while.

58. She loves my sister-in-law like a daughter & tells me quite often how glad she is that my brother married such a wonderful woman, and how lucky she considers herself.

59. She says she will not drive in bad weather, but I know this to be untrue, having shown up at her house during a freak heavy snowstorm to find that she was visiting someone who lived an hour away.

60. She worries a lot.

61. So her house is like a fortress. I've mentioned this before. Multiple locks, tall fence, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms. She is armed. Do not mess with her.

62. She is a die-hard Republican, but she voted for Ann Richards when Ann ran for governor against Clayton Williams. Don't tell anyone.

63. She wants to be an archaeologist when she grows up.

64. She can say the word "panties" without blushing. I, who cannot, find this amazing.

65. Her kitchen is painted bright Granny Smith apple green. And surprisingly, it looks terrific.

66. The last movie she saw in a theater was "Poltergeist".

67. She has a cast-iron stomach. She can eat anything without getting sick. (I sometimes wonder if I am, in fact, her biological daughter.) Many years ago she had a kidney infection, was feeling pretty bad & had, in fact, decided to just go on to the emergency room. But first she had to cook a big supper & eat -she was hungry!

68. Back to motorcycles. When she was a young wild teenager, she liked those guys on motorcycles, and she liked it when they would lean the bikes over & make sparks fly when the footpegs scraped the road.

69. She does not & never has cooked on Sunday.

70. She has a huge, huge, huge collection of depression glass & carnival glass - mostly in storage.

71. She knew my father was the one when she first met him.

72. She once, in a fit of self-pity & anger, referred to herself as old "Mule Jean". Unfortunately, that nickname stuck. I am trying to convince her to start a blog under that name.

73. She likes a lot of lights on in the house during the night. If you're spending the night, take a sleep mask.

74. She expects you to be punctual, even if you've not set an exact time for something. If you say I'll take care of that next week, she expects you to take care of it first thing Monday morning.

75. She is the best mom in the world, and has 3 children, a daughter-in-law & a granddaughter who love her dearly. Happy birthday!

UPDATE 10:30 PM, 7/16/08 - According to one of my commenters, I am incorrect in stating that my mother never cooked on Sunday. I assume this commenter to be one of my brothers, probably the one with the computer. He's younger than I & no doubt has a better memory - I've been old a lot longer - but I have no recollection of Sunday meals.


  1. i'm-a-comin' back to settle in for that good long read later. i am off to work but felt a little thrill to see you have a good story for us.

    now let's all sit in a circle in front of debi's fireplace while she reads us a story...now this is in her her own style of story telling...75 things for 75years. now that is gonna be good. no wait...maybe we can sit in front of her air condition to listen :)


    happy birthday debi's mom!

  2. where is that dang edit button for us ill trained typists ? can you mark out one of those "hers" for me?

  3. Oh Lordy - this IS long! Send me the bill for your popcorn!

  4. U.G. - Hmmm . . . . what do you know that I don't?

  5. A very good article. The fact that you don't write a novel is a sin. U G

  6. Happy Birthday! to Debi's mom!
    Wonderful tribute!

  7. Happy Birthday to Old Mule Jean.

  8. Oh, Debi, This is the best way to begin the day! Happy Birthday to YOUR MOTHER!!!!! I enjoyed reading all 75 reasons that she is the worlds greatest Mother! What a fabulous tribute to her and to her amazing greatness! I would love to send her a handmade belated birthday card. If you are so inclined will you email me a snail mail address where I can send one to her?

    Thank you again my wonderful, fabulous, porch sitting girlfriend. I adore you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your friendship and continual support over these past weeks and months. Every girl needs a girlfriend like you.

    Thanks for helping out yesterday and joining in!

    Hugs, and love,

  9. Cookie - Thank YOU! We have to be there for each other, and I'm SO GLAD things worked out well for YOUR mom. I've emailed you an address - MY mother will be thrilled!

    Love ya!

  10. What a beautiful, beautiful post! I hope your mum had a wonderful day :-).


  11. This was a fantastic read! I loved all 75 of these wonderful little tributes.

    How I wish I could go back in time to when you were young to see you in that witch costume!
    Do you think she likes the lights on in the house all night because she once lived in a haunted house??I hope one day you might tell us some juicy ghost stories!

    Loved this!!!

    Happy Birthday to your amazing mom. What a fascinating lady she is.


  12. Oh...

    And Hildegarde's little haircut made me laugh out loud!!!

    So funny.

  13. Wonderful tribute to you mum.A gift from the heart.

  14. oh my goodness..that was so, so funny. i totally love the excuse for not being able to spell because of her father's accent.

    my mom, who will be 70 next year, also loves lyle lovett and julia roberts because she married him. ha!

    what a fantastic list! i hope she had a great birthday!

  15. To all - My mother is quite OVERWHELMED with everyone's good wishes & sends a thank you. Yes, she cried when she read the list (starting at about # 3 or 4), and yes, she got mad all over again when she thought about Hildegarde.

    And for Robert - I asked & she says she wore a red dress when married the motorcycle guy.

    :) Debi

  16. it was worth waiting for..i ate an entire jumbo sized, extra butter popcorn. the bill is in the mail.

    i smiled the entire way through.. and at about 3 or 4 i felt like crying too. you know so many things about your mom! i can't think of anyone who wouldn't cry if the read this about themselves. it is a treasure beyond anything debi. it is like hearing the best of your eulogy while still here to appreciate it.. please be sure your mom knows. i mean no disrespect at all by that comment. quite the contrary. she is amazing! a birthday card to remember.

    p.s. and i agree completely with UG about the fact that you might want to write a novel... or at least a book of short stories.. or maybe even a collection of essays.. not about politics though.

  17. Robin - thank you!

    And you're right. NEVER politics!

    :) Debi

  18. What an enjoyable read. I wish I had done something like this for my mom. . . maybe my husband and I will do something similar for his mom. . .thanks for the inspiration!!

  19. Deb - be prepared for tears! In a good way of course.

    Thanks for dropping by!


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  21. this is marvelous, I want to write a list like this for my own Mom.

  22. E - You should do it. It was harder than I'd thought it would be, but it really made me think about my mother throughout her whole life, and that was a lot of fun. Plus, SHE loved it!

    Thanks for stopping by.
    :) Debi


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