Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Art of Listening to Your Mother

Harriet Strange Puttmann at 15 in 1939.
I posted this photo of my mother on my Facebook page this week-end in honor of Mother's Day.  She was just 15 when this was taken, and although it is just one single picture, it gives a glimpse into her personality.  First to be noted is that she has her arm around one of the many dogs who graced her life. My mother talked to them, doted on them, and loved them.  And any dog she loved, loved her back with the fierce loyalty that dogs save for those people who understand them the most. The face in the photo also shows someone who was a dreamer and  a bit unsure of herself. Mom always retained the ability to think beyond her reality and always fought those insecurities that might hold her back. She encouraged the same in her children.    

This photo was also taken just before my mother contracted polio. I wish I had asked her more about her illness.  She mentioned it little, although it affected her until the end of her life and may have contributed to her death from aspiration pneumonia.  Her lungs and left side received the most damage, and while most never knew, she worked hard to conceal the constricted throat that caused her to choke easily and the arm and leg that were less strong and agile. Mom spent time in an iron lung, but she fought the machine and proved herself able to breath on her own.  When the Salk Vaccine became available, she made sure my siblings and I were among the first in line to receive the inoculation.

My mother taught me many things, but as I leaf through old photos, a few stand out on this Mother's Day evening.

Mom and Maia, 1997.

Read!  Read to yourself, your friend, your child, your significant other... Mom always had a book that she was reading and another that she was sharing.

Who knows when.  I have so many of these photos.

Don't be afraid to have fun.  Mom was gracious and almost-always a lady, but she knew how to have fun.  She loved to laugh, and she never took herself too seriously.

Crystal Lake, Sayner, Wisconsin, 1970's.

You must find a lake.  Mom loved to camp because it brought her to the edges of lakes all across the United States.  She was a swimmer, and she would keep track of how many times she plunged in in a single day.  A pool was never equal to a lake.

My first birthday with Carla, 1991.

Birthdays are a BIG DEAL! No one celebrated a birthday like Mom. You didn't have to make your bed, you received the exact meal you ordered (fried chicken, baby peas, and mashed potatoes with cream gravy, thank you...), and always a homemade birthday cake.  That meant made from scratch with real cake flour... 

Part of Joli's gift to me today, Mother's Day 2015.

A little bit of really good chocolate is a whole lot better than a mess of bad chocolate.  Mom was the one who taught me to go into to a high end chocolate shop and buy one or two pieces of the best and really savor.  In all honesty, I must also add that my mom taught me that if you really needed a chocolate fix, a spoon and a can of Hershey's fudge sauce might get you through.

Mom and Dad .  Enough said.

Hold tight to the good times and the memories they bring, and they will see you through the bad. I remember Mom telling me this after a particularly tough year in our family. 

There are so many others, but the hour is late, and I am ready to crawl in bed with my latest semi-trashy novel (Mom would have approved) and bar of fair trade, organic, 60% cacao chocolate. (Thanks, Jo!). 

Mom and Biscuit.

This picture brings the post full-circle. Mom and her last dog. Thank you. Thank you for being that part of my life that helped make me who I am today. I didn't mention how you taught me the joys of a good scotch--splash of water and no ice.  I will save that for another post.

Love always,
Prairie Sherry


  1. Oh Sharon! This is such a beautiful tribute to your mother and Eydie was right to suggest tissues!

  2. I love that your mom taught you to dream, to risk, to have fun! Wish mine had been more like that and had the time with us to share it. I am working on the dog thing at least!