Today in the United States, we remember mothers and express our gratitude for their lives and for their influence on our lives. I am remembering and thanking, in a special way, three of my mothers: Anna, Angeline, and Doris Rose. These are a few special memories.
Mémère Anna, my paternal grandmother, was always so serious. When my family visited her at her home, she seldom spoke directly to my older brother and me. When she did speak, it was in French, a language that I had not yet learned. We were allowed to play on the second floor, but not in one specific bedroom – the room with an airplane that was big enough for us to sit in! Of course, that’s where we could always be found! I remember playing with the wonderful matching sets of hairbrushes, mirrors, shoe button ties, and miscellaneous jars on her bureau. Once returned to the parlor, we would be served Coca-Cola in plain 4-oz. juice glasses. I found the piano so tempting, but was not encouraged to make a lot of noise on it. Stories and pictures of Anna revealed a woman who had been active in civic organizations during World War II, as well as a woman who organized and managed life with Pépère Thomas and my father. I was not fortunate enough to become better acquainted with Anna because she died when I was ten years old.
Mémère Angeline, my maternal grandmother, was a constant quiet presence throughout my childhood years. She lived in the first-floor apartment next door to us; we shared the same cement-floor back porch. She would have Sunday dinner with us at our house, and was always the first in the car when it came to Sunday drives and picnics. Although she was always a part of our family activities, she never offered suggestions for how we should be raised, nor nagged us about remembering to wear our overshoes on rainy days. She was our primary babysitter when Mom had to run out for errands. Angie’s house was the holiday gathering place for the Lebel clan. By the time I was old enough to graduate from the “kids’ table”, the extended family had disbursed to other holiday celebrations and traditions.
My mother Doris Rose always counseled me to “make every day count”, as she herself did. She knew how to make every day special. She showed me how to embrace life, how to be strong and gentle at the same time. She loved the beach and I believe she took me along my very first summer – and I was born in May! Mom wore many hats with great style – literally and figuratively. Our hand-sewn Easter outfits were not complete without patent leather shoes, white gloves, and of course, great hats. Even Chatty Cathy and Corduroy Bear got new clothes hand-sewn by Doris Rose. When she and I were older, we traveled together and created so many special memories: Bermuda, Holland (MI) for the Tulip Festival, Paris, and London, to name a few. Doris Rose excelled in caregiving, and also in being able to accept care with graciousness and gratitude when she needed a helping hand.
Four years ago, I traced my ancestry back to France, and so I can say “thank you” to so many other great grandmothers: Salome, Alphonsine, Victorine, Marie-Louise, Adeline, Archange, Marguerite, my 7th paternal great grandmother Marie-Anne, my 6th paternal great grandmother Marie, my 7th maternal great grandmother Therese, and my 2nd maternal great grandmother, Hermine. (This fourth branch does go back to France as well, but I could go no further in the records than Hermine.)
I give thanks for all these mothers and to all those other women who were as mothers to me. Happy Mother’s Day!