Pretty Woman

I don’t think of Mom as being vain about her looks. Yet at the rehab center after breaking her hip, she resisted leaving her room for meals and for therapy. My sisters finally realized that some of that was due to Mom worrying about the way her hair looked.

After a hair dresser gave her a wash, trim and styling, she was more willing to venture out to the lunch room and to participate in the therapy. She still fussed about how the other patients would perceive her. Many at the rehab were city folks from the Wichita area. Mom’s insecurities lingered, possibly going back to her childhood as the outsider, the oilfield camp kid.

She asked her daughter to bring her books so she could show them to the staff. Remembering that she was a published author who had won an award and been honored at book signings bolstered her courage.

Gail Lee Martin Locket
Gail Lee Martin Locket by vallain

We all want to look our best in a challenging situation. At 88, Mom was still a pretty woman. Her wrinkles showed years of smiles etched into her soft skin.

January 4, 2013 - about a week before her death from a heart attack.

January 4, 2013 – about a week before her death from a heart attack.

Here’s Mom with her hair freshly styled at the rehab center. Her sister, Carol Garriott took the photo. I have another page with more photos of Gail Lee Martin showing that women are beautiful at any age. It’s a different kind of beauty from the bloom and vigor of youth, as we get older our character shows through our features. There’s kindness, humor, inquisitiveness and so much more showing in Mom’s face at 88.

Mom’s Jackdaw Tendencies

I pull a folder from my mother’s files. What treasures will I discover tucked away inside it?

Frequently it reveals another jackdaw nest of newspaper clippings, old letters and photos that caught her eye. Like that bird, she collected these shiny tidbits and hoarded them away. For ravens, jackdaws and magpies, it is shiny coins or pieces of metal that attract them. Their nests reveal bits of glass, barbed wire or other polished gleanings that the acquisitive bird wanted to keep.

For Mom, it was nuggets of information and memory triggers. I scan through the yellowed newspaper clippings for clues. Did she save this article because it held information about our family history? Was it information that she needed for background for a future article? Perhaps one of her many writing buddies from Prairie Prose or the Kansas Author’s Club had written it. Some memory pieces about the good ol’ days must have reminded her of something she wanted to write.

Here’s a sampling of clippings from some folders:

  • How to behave when pulled over by a policeman (Lou Grizzard)
  • Alligator behavior during mating season
  • Ann Landers column on breast implants
  • Profile of an 89 year old lawyer in the Ozarks
  • Background history on songs about yellow ribbons
  • 60th anniversary of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping
  • Popular entertainment during the years of WWII
  • The fading away of a small Kansas town (Luray)
  • Clara Barton’s role in the Civil War and in starting the American Red Cross patterned on the Swiss

My First Mother’s Day without Mom

I created this Smilebox with a photo of Mom and me. There really aren’t that many pictures of us together. I guess most of the time, I was the one with camera in hand so most of the family photos I have don’t include me. (Ignore the big blue alert about the music. Just click the X in the upper right corner to make that go away. This has a short ad before it starts playing)

Click to play this Smilebox greeting
Create your own greeting - Powered by Smilebox
This free greeting made with Smilebox

A Country Girl

As an author, my mom, gave people the impression that she was a simple country girl who in her old age jotted down her memories. Her book won an award, the Ferguson Kansas History Book Award.  Hey, that was easy…. anyone could do it.

The reality was that she honed her writing skills with many years of attending workshops with the Kansas Authors Club (KAC) and with critiques from the local group, Prairie Prose. She took a class at the community college to develop her computer skills.

She entered writing contests held by the local museum, the Wichita newspaper and the annual contests held by KAC. She took the judges’ criticisms to heart and reworked the pieces many times. She shared them with her daughters who checked her grammar and gave input on the flow of the stories.

I’m finding umpteen versions of her stories among her papers. It shows how much work she put in to end up with the seemingly simple memory pieces that resulted in her book. Yes, she was a simple country girl, but her writings are carefully crafted and honed through much effort.

Kids at the old camp in Greenwood County, KS

Kids at the oil camp in Greenwood County, KS
Gail McGhee in front, Melba McGhee on the right, with cousins Buss and Wanda.

Having Librarian Genes

I became a librarian, spending 30 years as a children’s librarian, reference librarian and library director. Interestingly, many of my sisters worked in libraries over the years as well. My older sister worked the check out desk at the local library, another sister helped organize a church library and a third sister became a children’s librarian. Mom’s sister worked at the Seadrift Public Library and was instrumental in their getting a new library there. My niece, Diana went to library school for her master’s degree and works in the Kansas City Public Library.

Mom never worked in a library but she organized her home library with the authors and types of books grouped together. Dad built a bookshelf unit that covered a long wall in their living room. The top shelf displayed Dad’s collection of Lincoln biographies. Other shelves showed off their vintage favorites like Zane Grey, B.M. Bower, and other classic westerns that Dad liked to read over and over.

There was a section for books on Norman Rockwell, William Allen White and Will Rogers.  A stack of 1940s Saturday Evening Posts sat on the bottom shelf. The books and magazines spilled over into other rooms with bookshelves in the bedroom, the computer room and even the enclosed back porch.

Mom cataloged the books in a brown spiral notebook. Lists arranged by author filled the lined pages. There were even lists showing the runs they had of magazines like Organic Gardening with the dates they owned and the ones they needed to fill out their collection. I’m guessing she took the list with her to yard sales so she knew what to buy and what they already had.

Librarian genes definitely run in our family.

mom's book list notebook

Was Mom Lost?

The title for this new blog, Discovering My Mom, might lead someone to suppose I was an adopted child looking for my birth parent. That is not the case. I’m one of six children from a family that I used to describe as close-knit.

The reality is that I left home for college back in the 1970s. The years went by and I left Kansas when I finished college and started on my career. Sure I would visit several times a year from wherever I was (Ohio, Maryland, Texas, Florida, New Hampshire). For two weeks, I’d  soak up the family atmosphere and catch up on the family news. Between visits, letters and phone calls kept me somewhat filled in on what was happening in the family.

During those years that I was gone, my younger sisters grew up, started working, married, and had children. For the most part, they lived nearby to the folks and saw each other weekly or even daily. They seemed happy to see me each time I made my pilgrimage to Kansas.

It wasn’t until Mom died at age 88 that I realized how much I had missed over the years. My sisters were willing for me to bring Mom’s papers home with me. She and I were collaborating on three family books and there was still a lot of research and compiling to do on those. I packed up 22 boxes of files, photos, diaries and notebooks to carry back to Florida with me.

Now I need to get to work on those books to carry on Mom’s legacy. As I pull out a file and see the notes in Mom’s handwriting, I’m finding bits and pieces of my mother that are new to me. Thus my blog is about discovering my mom.

I don’t know who might read this blog. Perhaps my sisters will or my writing friends. Maybe it will interest other women wanting a closer connection with their mother or who’ve lost their mom. We’ll see.