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DIANE MAKAR MURPHY My mother's legacy fills a jar and fulfills me



Published: Tue, May 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



"Forget the candy and flowers," writes Susan Bosak. "How often do you really tell your mom or grandma your best memories of her. ...?"

Bosak has written "Something to Remember Me By," and launched a Web site for her "Legacy Project." At www.somethingtoremembermeby.com, you'll find suggestions for maintaining traditions, keeping family connections and passing on lessons from generation to generation.

You can even compose a 100-word essay about your mother's legacy and try to win a Lane cedar chest (contest deadline May 11).

Very helpful are Bosak's suggestions for Mother's Day gifts, among them a Photo Bouquet, Acronym Photo Album and Memory Jar. For the Memory Jar, "write out a couple dozen or so of your best memories of mom or grandma." Bosak lists several questions to get you started.

Below are some of them (I've taken the liberty of answering the questions as well.)

My favorites: What are your favorite family traditions and why?

Every Sunday was family day. The church told us, "No work," and we believed it. We went to church, had a huge meal around 2 p.m., then went on a family trip. Often, since we lived in a Cleveland suburb, this was to a museum. I saw art, dinosaurs, history and science. Later in the day, we ate cold (leftover) chicken and mayo sandwiches while we watched "Disney." Great days!

What are your favorite books, songs, or games from childhood that make you think of your mom?

Every night when I was a child, either my mother or father sang to me. My dad crooned "Pennies from Heaven." Mom had a medley of pieces -- her sister was a rather well-known torch singer for a time. She sang about "polka dots and moonbeams all around a pug-nosed dream" (I don't recall the song's name), and lots of little kid songs. "Little Baby Bunting" she adapted for me since I was bothered by the idea of shooting a bear -- "Little Baby Bunting, Daddy's gone a shopping, to buy a brand new coat for you to wear."

What hobbies do you like because of your mom or grandma?

My mother was quite amazing. On a Cleveland patrolman's salary, she managed to take my sister and me to swim, dance and music lessons. For piano, she bargained with Mr. Barto to allow us to share one private instruction. Chris and I went on alternate weeks. I still play piano and drums.

Special family: What are some things that have happened to your family that make it special?

I can't help but think of stories my mother told me about HER mother. One comes to mind immediately. My mother grew up in the Depression, one of five children in her family. She was a skinny, freckle-faced kid with knobby knees, curly hair and a huge, beautiful smile. Her older brother and three sisters doted on her. One day in school, the teacher scolded her for talking. "But it wasn't me," Betty protested.

"Come up here," the teacher ordered.

My mom thought she'd be pretty clever and "trucked" to the front of the classroom. Trucking consisted of wagging your finger and sashaying your hips. The teacher was not amused and immediately berated my mother in front of the class.

"Look at those clothes. Look how ragged you are! How dirty!" and so on. Betty, of course, arrived home in tears. Grandma (Betty's mom) was not amused either. She marched Betty back to the school, found the classroom and pounded on the door. The teacher opened it, but when she realized what was about to happen, slammed it closed. Not fast enough, however.

As my mom tells the story, Grandma stuck her sturdy shoe in the door and kept it open until she gave that teacher a piece of her mind. The next day, my mother was enrolled in a different school.

Gosh, I was so proud to have THAT in our family history!

What values or beliefs has she taught you?

My mom always stopped to give a nun a ride. She invited the lady everyone called "Crazy Margie" to our kitchen table for a cigarette. She took us to deliver soaps to the state hospital (mental asylum). She subscribed to animal rights newsletters. She wasn't always consistent; she was just a mom. But she taught me compassion and that a person can find lots of places to perform small charitable acts.

I'll bet I can fill a memory jar. How about you?




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