76 Trombones
Wednesday December 20th 2006, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Knit

Her fourth baby in six years’ time came a week early, and so missed being born on her birthday. That one was always one to jump up and down and run around like a hyperactive house afire, so it’s no surprise she’d started off that way: eager to come see the world. Ten minutes apart and the time is NOW!

She herself grew up the daughter of a man who ran for the US Senate when she was 18. Her dad made an agreement with her: if she would stay home the first two years of college and help keep an eye out for her younger brother, she could then go anywhere she wanted. She took him up on the offer, and later transferred to Wellesley. (Ed. note: her mother went to Radcliffe, not Wellesley, too, as I wrote earlier. Oops.)

And where she was courted by a friend of her brother’s from the days the two men had gotten to know each other in France. The friend was a grad student now, finishing up his master’s after having spent three years as a missionary for the Mormon church once the war was over. There was no language training center in those days; you simply went where you were assigned, studied very hard, and learned to become fluent on your own during your first year. Which the two men had done. And now he was nearby, finishing up his schooling on the GI bill at Boston University.

They married, raised six kids, and when the children began hitting their teens she began working in the English department where they went to high school–a good excuse for a goody-two-shoes-anyway kid to behave: Mom’ll catch me if I try to pull anything! She was someone who told her kids that any time they needed to blame her as being an unreasonable parent who wouldn’t allow something, go ahead and blame her. You need a curfew? Go ahead and claim it in all honesty, because she hereby declared whatever curfew her kids might need, any time. Any rule you need? Make it her fault. Done.

As the kids were growing up, she drove her first and third daughters to piano lessons way over by the DC line in Somerset, twice a week each, though the two actually only overlapped by a few months before the older daughter became too ill for a year to go, and then never picked it up again. Still–that was 25 minutes each way every Tuesday and Friday, if the traffic wasn’t bad, but it was always rush hour down River Road coming home. At the same time, she was driving her second daughter across the Potomac into northern Virginia for flute lessons. Soccer moms had nothing on this one. We’re talking major taxi-mom hours–music lessons with the best teachers were that important to her. Piano didn’t take quite so well with the fourth daughter; that one got art lessons at the Corcoran Gallery in downtown DC. The boys? The older one played violin for awhile, the other made up for lost time later by learning guitar in college, playing up and down the East Coast in a band, and eventually marrying the best of the best, settling down, and building custom guitars. Electric ones, with gorgeous mother-of-pearl inlay, carrying on the tradition of associating art with the family’s name: jeppsonguitars.com.

She and her husband one fine summer bought a pop-up camping trailer, packed up the kids, tried to figure out how to squeeze eight people’s worth of luggage into the scarce space–when, standing right there in the driveway about to hop in and go, the fourth child declared her tiger was going with her! Or she was staying home! Her husband said, There’s no room, and you are ten years old and a big girl and you are too old to have to take that tiger still everywhere you go. She gently talked her husband into relenting, and the child, who knew she really was quite too old to need her tiger, who was embarrassed at needing that tiger, but was afraid to face all those strange places to come without him, was thrilled and relieved that he got to come too. He would stay right there in her lap, she promised, where he wouldn’t take up any extra room. (Now that she’d won her battle, she was secretly so happy about it that she suddenly realized she no longer actually needed him, but he’d wangled his invite by then and she shut up about it and he came.) Most of that summer was spent driving in a wide circle around the entire US, coast to coast, top to bottom, with a day trip into Mexico and two weeks or so in Canada thrown in. It wasn’t really meant to be that long at Moose Mountain; the camping trailer broke a part that had to be shipped over from the factory. The nomadic life went on temporary hold, and boredom threatened. The tiger was a comfort. But the volleyball landed in the campfire. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police found the woman’s wallet when she lost it, and returned it to her–weeks later, with all the cash still in it. Go Canada. The little girl thought it was so cool that someone who got to ride a horse to be a policeman also got to be the hero for her mom.

Who knitted and knitted and knitted the long hours away while her husband drove, state after state, art museum after art museum. Business for him, minding the kids for her, show the children the country for all of them. And the child with the tiger watched, and wanted a sweater like that one her big sister was about to get, wanted to be able to knit like that…

And later grew up and knitted one for her own husband, as best as she could reconstruct it all those years later. Only, not in a ’60’s shade of Harvest Gold, thanks, though.

The woman’s baby brother, long grown up, eventually became a senator too. The little girl with the tiger, whose own kids were beginning to outgrow their stuffed animals, managed not to argue politics with him. Although: she did thank him for sponsoring a bill giving patients the right to see their medical records, which in some states they could not at the time. He was surprised, and exclaimed, “Nobody *thanks* me for anything!” that he did in the Senate. Argues, yes. Thanks? Blink.

Later, when the woman was visiting her 95-year-old mother, her mom asked her, “Frances. How many grandchildren do you have now?” And Frances answered, “Twenty-one.”

“Beatcha!” her mom grinned impishly. Who had twenty-nine. Frances later got up to twenty-five, and loved each and every one and bragged on their accomplishments like a good grammy should.

Cue the guitar, piano, organ, tenor sax, clarinet, flute, oboe, cello, violin, trumpet, harp, let’s see, sibs, what else we got here, okay, everybody, open up and sing:

Happy Birthday, Dear Mom/Grammy, Happy Birthday TO YOU!!!

And Many More…

4 Comments so far
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Okay, that was THE best tribute I’ve ever read!!!!!

And check out the smile in that top photo!

Anyone who knits is alright by me, although I’m a crocheter, myself!
: )

Comment by Kim 12.21.06 @ 10:44 am

Thank you! And hey, Mom taught me crochet too–I have a granny-square afghan I made in junior high school after she took me to her favorite yarn store.

Comment by AlisonH 12.21.06 @ 11:52 am

Oh great, the new Blogger rats me out. I made a comment to set a fact straight, then simply put the correction in the text about Radcliffe rather than have it be down in the comments section. Used to be it wouldn’t show up noted as a deleted comment if it were my own, but I guess I can’t get away with anything anymore–well, but then, after all, my mom’s here, right? So what did I expect?… Lol!

Comment by AlisonH 12.22.06 @ 11:50 pm

[…] mother’s mother broke her hip when my mom was in college, and Mom, small-boned and thin, was always afraid of that happening to her. And so it was that one day, […]

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