One of the things I miss the most about teaching Elementary School is reading aloud from favorite childrens’ books. There’s a chapter in Kate DiCamillo’s ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’ about a “big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor” whom the main character, Opal, names because she found him outside the Winn-Dixie grocery store. Opal and her father are on their own because her absent mother died ‘because of the drink,’ he tells her. Then he recounts ten things about her mother, one for each year Opal had been alive. 

This inspired me to make my own list about my mother, Helen Elizabeth Lindsey, who also died ‘because of the drink,’ at the age of 55. I honor her here, this week of my birth.

My dad, bottom left, and mom, pregnant with me, ca. 1951.

Ten Things About my Mother

1. She was determined to make something of herself when she left her home and family in Montana at the age of 19 and moved to Seattle. I married at 19 and 20 years later moved to Seattle.

2.  She never knew a stranger and welcomed people of all races and colors, waaaay before it was a cause celebre, just because that’s who she was.

3.  She loved to belt out Johnny Mathis and Ella Fitzgerald songs. I get all my love of music and song from her.

4.  She wrote down her life on bits and pieces of paper, stealing away from five busy children and a full time job whenever she could. I got the writing bug from her.

5. She taught my brothers and sisters and I the importance of working together and pulling our weight. I started my life as a paid employee at age 15 because of her.

6.  She was a mad, creative seamstress, whipping up Barbie Doll clothes (yes!) Christmas pinafores and Easter dresses for my sisters and I, even made my prom dress and wedding dress.

7.  She was always game for adventure… time during a summer in Newport Beach, she was sure we’d be able to rustle up stew from sandcrabs, so we and our housemates stormed the surf for hours collecting them.  You can’t make stew out of sandcrabs.

8.  She loved passionately, perhaps choosing partners poorly four different times, always believing there was love for her somewhere.

9.  She doted on her grandchildren, the two she was alive to meet–and left small and quiet gifts in books and poems.

10.  She died way too young–at 55–a life cut short by drink and disease.  But not before daring greatly to make a difference in the world, loving us all with everything she had.

This is an edited version of a post which originally appeared here on my blog in June of 2015.

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