My mother, Pauline Baker, is 91 years old, has been a widow for almost two years, and lives alone on the family farm in Southeastern Indiana. My blog entry today, a Mother’s Day letter to her, is about connections—family, community, earth. Picture Mom walking out her front door, holding onto the rail beside her front steps as she makes her daily trip to the mailbox, then going back into the small, two-story farmhouse, opening the card addressed to her, and sliding both card and letter from the envelope. She’ll let you read it when she’s finished—she always leaves her cards and letters on the kitchen counter for at least two weeks for family and neighbors to read when they drop by. She’ll probably even pour you a cup of coffee to sip along with the reading. Enjoy.
Next Sunday is Mother’s Day so I thought I’d better get started on a letter to you—you know how I am about remembering things at the last minute, a day late and a dollar short, sometimes a month late and ten dollars short, but I usually manage somehow and don’t mind that my last minutes and shallow pockets have become part of family lore.
Yesterday didn’t meet the criteria for a day of rest that Sundays have traditionally honored in our family, but we took time to smell the roses along the way—metaphorically, of course. Roses aren’t blooming yet, for one thing, and if Bill had taken time to smell them, his allergies would’ve clobbered his head and mucous membranes—not the optimum combination for a preacher! No roses, but red buds, dogwoods and crab apples, blankets of yellow wildflower fields, and the many shades of spring green as far as our eyes could see filled our senses as we buzzed along the roads, to and from our destinations.
We left the house (and our sad-eyed puppy) at 9AM and didn’t get home till after dark, after 10PM, after the chickens were roosting and the duck had given up her vigil at the open chicken house door and was sleeping against the far wall in a pile of hay with her head tucked under her wing. It was a long day, a full day, brimming with friends and community—a hundred and forty-mile zig-zag from home to Terre Haute to Bloomington and back home again.
We didn’t linger long after Bill’s preaching gig at the Terre Haute UU Church—grabbed a cup of coffee for the road and drove to our Bloomington church to help with the annual talent auction. We arrived just in time to get the last two bowls of Vivian’s vegetarian noodle soup for lunch, which brought us back to earth and ready for the task at hand.
Darrell was auctioneer, as usual, and Bill was his sidekick, so you can imagine their twin antics, unrehearsed, feeding off each other’s spur of the moment commentary and quips. It was a fast paced, laughter filled, lucrative fundraiser. It amazes me that Bill and Darrell still crack me up after more than fifty years of hanging out with them! And I was one of the two “Vannas” who held up auction items, paraded them up and down the aisles for all to see, and, in general, added to the spectacle. Neither of us Vannas have long slender waistlines or glitz and glamour like the real Vanna, and we both wear comfortable shoes, but our unaltered, aging beauty and genuine connection to the gathered community far surpasses hers—at least that’s my biased opinion.
We had only two hours, not enough time to drive home, love on our puppy and take naps before the concert we had tickets for at 7PM, and Bill had worked up an appetite since that bowl of noodle soup, so we went to Nick’s and shared a fish sandwich—my share was about five bites. Of course, I always think of you when there’s fried catfish involved—so glad you enjoyed the first catfish out of our lake this year. I can pretty much count on Bill to follow through when I ask him to: “Go catch a catfish for Mom.”
The concert we attended was the final performance of an acapella women’s group, Kaia, that has been part of Bloomington’s music scene for fourteen years—songs from around the world, in their traditional languages, and songs for justice and peace. We know most of the seven women who sing in it and love their harmonies and rhythms and message. It was a beautiful and bittersweet concert (since it was their last), and a worthy ending to our long day.
So now, on this blue-sky, sunny Monday morning, Bill has gone again to Terre Haute, to visit Chad, the young man he mentors on death row; Obi (that aforementioned “puppy” who’s almost three years old!) is on the rug at the back door, watching for squirrels, and hoping I’ll close this missive (her vocabulary is quite advanced for a dog of her age) and take her to the creek soon. I’m supposed to go to a meeting in town, but think I’ll beg off—I need to spend today at home—all day long.
Wishing you were here to hang out with me, to see the hostas, ferns, wild phlox and azaleas in my front yard. To walk up to the garden and see where we’ve tilled, weeded, trimmed and planted a few seeds; to see the pear tree, apple trees, and blueberry bushes in bloom. To eat some leftover beef stew with me for lunch and read a few chapters of whatever books we’re into before taking an early afternoon nap. (Obi will let you have her recliner since you’re the honored guest.) And I have a couple of pieces of peach cobbler left that we could put a dipper of ice cream on and have with our three o’clock coffee. I do wish you lived closer, Mom, so we could spend more time together. I love you, I’m glad you’re my mom, and I am so very grateful that you are still at the hub of our opinionated, story-telling, diverse, loving, and mostly functional family.
Happy Mother’s Day!
With love and gratitude,