Appalachia Holidays in Appalachia

Listening To Mom

Today’s guestpost was written by Susanna Holstein.

mom early 1980s

Mom, always the English lady. 

“Marigolds are pretty, but they have a terrible smell.”

“That Lucy and Desi, they’re so common. I don’t want you girls watching that show.”

“Tea must always be served in an English teacup, dear, with a saucer. And milk and sugar. And brewed in a teapot.”

“Depression glass is just cheap glass.”

“China made in Japan is no good. Not worth wasting money on.”

“Wrap that baby up! Poor little thing is freezing.”

That was my mother talking. Her opinions, lightly and carelessly dropped, shaped my view of the world, of housekeeping, gardening, and child-rearing. I followed her rules and her lead, and only recently realized how much she influenced my own likes and dislikes.

Take silver for example. Mom loved silver. Looking back, I bet she would have adored having a real silver tea service but that never came to be. She also liked brass and copper, and there were certain pieces that we kept on display in the house for years, polishing them for the holidays. Two crystal decanters sat on either end of the buffet in our dining room; one held port, the other sherry. I do not remember anyone ever drinking those dark red liquids, but I do recall washing up the decanters along with all the other sparkling serving dishes for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

It was surprising to realize when she passed away how many of her likes and dislikes she passed on to her daughters. We all love crystal, silver and flowery English teacups. We all grow flowers, have an apron tucked away somewhere in our kitchens, and most of us still drink tea with milk and sugar. For a long time I did not watch the Lucy show or the Mary Tyler Moore show either (“Common,” Mom sniffed). To this day I cannot watch movies with violence or children being hurt, and I’m a fan of happy endings.

Granny Hagger's 60th birthday, she was visiting us in Centreville April 18, 1954

My English granny, Naomi Florence Hagger, who was visiting us in Centreville, VA, on her 60th birthday when this photo was taken. Granny’s tastes and opinions probably had just as strong an influence on my mother as Mom’s did on me. 

I was surprised when I found that I actually liked the smell of marigolds, and of a bruised tomato leaf, another scent my mother did not enjoy. And I left the delicate English teacups in favor of the more substantial and, I think, just as pretty German-made cups and saucers. I have never been a big fan of pale pink and green Depression glass, but when I found I really liked the pale yellow version, I felt guilty for years!

My tastes began to become my own when I left Virginia and moved to the mountains of West Virginia. I became intrigued by handmade art-pottery, quilts, and baskets filled my home. I wore jeans and seldom put on makeup (Mom put hers on daily, and “freshened up” with new lipstick and a clean apron just before Dad came home from work). My mother visited my mountain home only rarely, and for the first few visits was visibly upset at the hard path her oldest daughter had chosen. I did not think it difficult at all–to me it was all a great adventure, a challenge to learn how to provide for ourselves in this then-remote place.

mom and sue

Mom and I, 1988, at my son Jon’s wedding.

Over the years my tastes gentled; Mom was surprised on her last visit here in 2003 to find air conditioning, lace curtains and a more civilized way of life–at least to her way of thinking. I went from minimalist to an eclectic, comfortable style that includes all of the things I love in a glorious mishmash that is still orderly–unlike my mother, I do not want “everything out where I can see it, dear.” I still recall how quickly she could trash a place, scattering belongings hither and thither, filling a dresser top with makeup, medicines, lotions and creams and completely covering a countertop in less than 10 minutes. She was happiest with a comfortable clutter, as she called it. I can deal with clutter for a limited time but then it has to get organized and cleaned up.

Every now and again, I’ll start to say something, and I’ll hear my mother talking again. I have to smile because even though she’s been gone for eight years, her opinions live on in her daughter’s subconscious mind. It makes me wonder if I influenced my sons in the same way. Is it this way with all mothers? Do you still hear your mother’s opinions coming out of your mouth?



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  • Reply
    May 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    My mother is still alive, and I find myself sounding just like her. She is an amazing person, she turned 92 in April and lives by herself. I’m just 20 minutes away if she needs something. She had a new aortic valve put in and a stent back in February and her cardiologist say she could easily live to 100. This story is beautiful.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    May 13, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Suzanna such a great article. where did the hats go, Mother had to have that hat. thanks Tipper for this post.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    May 12, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Such memories, b. Ruth! Thank you for the morning smile. I can remember a few of those from my mother too!

  • Reply
    May 12, 2014 at 7:02 am

    A great read! Thanks for sharing this with us. Made me remember many similar things about my mom.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 11, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    and Susanna…Yep, I’m my Mother..
    She was 93 when she passed a few years ago…I used to catch myself saying some of these things to my kids…
    As a child…”Somebodys going to have to help me clean and pick up”…that somebody…Me..the brothers got away with everything, almost!
    “Don’t peel with the knife blade toward you, you’ll cut your fingers off!” ….Still do, most of the time!
    “Be sure to put on clean underwear beofore we go to the store.”..Why, I just did this morning when I got up…”Well, we might be in an accident! “Oh, OK sounds reasonable or NOT???
    “Don’t slam that screen door!! I still hate to hear a door slam also..
    “Shut the refrigerator door, we aren’t rich, and the milk will blink!…Still hate that too myownself..
    “You need to pick your friends from the right section!” I always hated that phrase…I am a artist and I pal with just about anybody and love everybody no matter what “section” they are from…sorry Mom!
    “Don’t bite your nails”…OK, I quit!
    “If you sleep in those aluminum (or brush) rollers, you will have a headache in the morning before you go to school! …I don’t remember having one, but maybe I did!
    “Take your bath tonight, you will catch your death if you go out in the morning with open pores!” Take morning baths still…LOL..unless I’ve been in the garden…
    “Don’t roller-skate backwards coming down that hill, you’ll kill yourself!”…Almost did, but still did it when I knew she wasn’t looking out the window!
    I was 24 when she said to me after I got home from work one evening…”Was that the boy you’ve been writing to all this time, he stopped by here, before he went to your office. He thought you might be home!” “I don’t know if I like him or not?”
    Too bad Mom…I married him and I think I made the right choice…LOL and she did too, he was so good to my Mother!
    Thanks Tipper,
    and Susanna, yes it’s a good thing one remembers some of these things to pass on to their children!

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    May 11, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Miss Cindy, you have a right to be proud–a man who can cook like your son is a gift to any woman! and he’s handsome and smart in the bargain 🙂 (and boy did he pick a good wife!).
    I’ll be thinking of you and your mother tomorrow, Ken. 101–so many years ago, so many changes, but her voice is still with you. How special is that.

  • Reply
    Joyce Heishman
    May 11, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I am setting here wishing I had been more mature growing up. I might have appreciated my Mother more. As it was I was all wrapped up in myself. Because of that I don’t have many outstanding memories of my Mother. She passed away from cancer when she was 57. Maybe if she had lived longer I would have learned more of her. In the end I did learn. I know she was with my Jesus when she left.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Tipper–This was written with grace and love, and certainly there is no way the author’s mother could reckon it was “common.” It is a striking, moving tribute.
    I think it is true for all of us who were blessed with loving mothers, whether they are still with us or not, that every day, sometimes in the strangest of ways, we hear their voices or recall their ways.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    May 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Apparently this little rhyme is true for many of those commenting today.
    “Mirror, mirror on the wall,
    I’ve become my mother after all.”

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 11, 2014 at 9:45 am

    And Susanna,
    Thanks for the little peek into your
    past. I enjoyed it very much. Mothers
    influence our lives long after they’re
    gone. Tomorrow my mama would be 101,
    and the memories are still as clear as
    morning in Autumn.
    Wishing all Moms a Happy Mother’s day.

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    May 11, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I think we all hear our mother coming out of us from time to time ,and you know that’s not so bad, for look what kind of women we are today.
    Happy Mothers Day to all you mothers.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Yes, my mom’s ideas and opinions do linger in my head. I have developed my own style and do so whether she would have approved or not. Mothers are a big influence on their children, especially girls. They are responsible for teaching us how to run a home from the inside. However, I like doing inside and outside. I love flowers and relish in their beauty. Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms who are fortunate to be a ‘Mother!’

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 11, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Yes, Susanna, I think it is that way with all of us. I still hear my mother sometimes when I speak and I see her when I look around and see comfort taking precedence over stylish. That’s just the way it is.
    Sometimes my son speaks and I hear myself. I look at my son and I am so proud of what a fine man he has grown into and what a fine family he has created and what a wonderful mother he picked for his children!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2014 at 7:21 am

    O yea, Still have my Mother, but her voice is heard in my head as a child, calling us to come and eat or get out of that mud or you better get that grass mowed before your Daddy get’s home, or like get the wood in before dark, yea a voice that will forever be etched in my mind…

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 11, 2014 at 7:18 am

    What a beautiful story, I hear myself sounding like my mother all the time. I use her sayings and love some of the pieces she loved. I however use mine do not put them on display, she hid hers away for special times.

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