My mom raised seven children in a house built by her pioneer ancestors on the shores of Utah Lake. My parents worked hard to make the old house as up-to-date and comfortable as they could within a limited budget. Two floors in this work-in-progress home illustrate my mother’s character.
The living room had the most welcoming floor in the house, thanks to Mom’s industriousness and ingenuity. When she decided to beautify this central room with a rug, she searched thrift stores for items made of sturdy fabric and accumulated family clothing no longer deemed worthy of hand-me-down status.
From these cast-offs, she cut narrow lengths of fabric to sew together and braid into fat plaits of multi-colored fabric. Next, using a curved needle and twine, she sewed these thick braids into an oval rug where one color faded into another in perfect harmony. It was a grand, attention-grabbing rug, fifteen-feet long and nine-feet wide, the only carpet we ever had.
We wrestled, played Parcheesi, and spilled popcorn on this work of art; Mom’s projects were intended for use rather than protected with rules or saved for special occasions. We smiled as though we helped create the rug when visitors praised its magnificence — but fought viciously over whose turn it was to vacuum our source of pride.
The floor in the remodeled kitchen didn’t have the same allure.
Between working swing shifts at Ironton Steel and farming, Dad accomplished a kitchen remodel with minimal missteps and profanity — until he and mom covered the floor with asphalt tile.
When they finished, the confetti-patterned floor looked grand. Then we walked on it. With each step, the black adhesive Mom and Dad applied too liberally as bonding material oozed between the squares, belching and befouling the new surface. It glopped here and there and dried in swirling, 3-d patterns, intriguing to children but a disappointment to Mom. She had wanted an attractive, easy-to-clean floor and instead walked on the creature from the black lagoon.
Unhappy as Mom was, however, she brooked no nonsense from her children about either the unsightly floor or the effort involved in fixing it.
It became my job to use SOS Pads to scrub the tarry protrusions until they gradually disappeared, a slow, tedious battle. The scope of work exceeded normal chores, so I was given a dime for each hour I toiled. I thought the pay generous because candy bars only cost a nickel; but I still whined.
One morning, scrubbing and complaining, I muttered, “Why couldn’t Dad have done it right in the first place so I wouldn’t have to do this yucky job.”
Mom usually ignored her children’s petty grumblings, but not this time. With ice in her voice and fire in her eyes, she responded: “Janet, you should give thanks every day for a father with the strength and determination to work a full-time, exhausting job and a farm. And then, when he has a few hours off, he remodels this house for his family. I did the tile with him. We made a mistake. You sound like a selfish, unappreciative person this morning, and I’m not sure I like you.”
My mother molded me and filled our home with beauty: I both liked and loved her.
Happy Mother’s Day.