My mother would have been 81 this week. Marion Louis(e) Erdman was born January 19, 1929 in Philadelphia to George James and Emma Mary (Esthimer) Erdman. She was born at home in the Kensington section. A step up, she was told, from her parents' beginnings in Fishtown. She always told me her middle name was Louis (loo-is) as it was spelled that way on her handwritten birth certificate. I came to find out that her name was to be Louise (loo-eeez)but it was misspelled. Just another quirk of fate, as she was prone to say. My mother was typical of a blue collar family. She dropped out of school to help with finances when she was a teenager, spending 20 years as a seamstress in what was then Webb's Curtain Company, 4th and Cambria Streets (now the heart of the Badlands) in Philly. Even when she got adventurous she was subject to fate. She and my aunt, her best friend and my namesake, decided to take a road trip to Florida. Her car broke down in North Carolina. While waiting for it to be repaired and them to return to Pennsylvania, she met my father (but that is another story for another posting), she returned to NC, married my father, and the rest is, as they say, history.
My mother worked off and on while I was growing up in NC as a seamstress, babysitter, and her final job, the one she spent the last 18 years before her retirement, as the lunch lady. She loved this job. Never much of a cook, she stirred, mixed, baked and served 500 kids lunch on a daily basis. During her summers off, she made afghans, sweaters, mittens, doilies and all sorts of other items for her co-workers and their families.
She wasn't a fancy person. She was, however, aware of how 'fate' can deal you an unfair hand, but it was up to you how you played it. She never spoke of dreams of what she wanted to be when she was younger, she always stayed in the here and now. A lot of what I took, at the time, for being cold and hard-hearted, I see that now she was only trying to teach me that sometimes dreams are just that. Don't have caviar tastes when all you can afford is hamburger. I think she tried to dampen my enthusiasm to keep me from failing at something I couldn't acheive. Was she right? I don't know. All I know is that she tried her best and now that she is no longer with us, I miss her. She passed away from uterine cancer July 29, 2001.
My mother and my father's sister developed a close relationship after they were both widowed and retired. They shopped and took 'day trips' and generally 'hung out'. They were in an accident in 1995 that killed my aunt. Since the accident took place in my mother's driveway, she emotionally could not stay there, so she came to me to recouperate. This is when we indoctrinated her in our family's birthday tradition. On your birthday, you get whatever you want to eat, no matter how elaborate. Her option: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas.
So, this year, on the 81st anniversary of my mother's birth, almost nine years after she passed, we are going to celebrate her life. Tuesday, the actual date, was busy here, so with her permission, we set aside the celebration until the weekend (we do that sometimes for birthday do's if the birthday falls in the middle of the week). So tonight, we are celebrating my mother's life. Happy Birthday, Mama Mac! We miss you and will have only happy thoughts about you while we have meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas.