NORMAN — It’s one of my first, and best, memories. And I don’t know if I remember it for real or I just remember seeing the photo so many times.
The picture is of my mom. Her figure is perfect. Not a hair is out of place and she’s wearing a polyester green and white checked pantsuit. I remember her wearing that a lot actually. As a kid, I thought it was the most amazing piece of clothing ever made and I always thought that my mom looked so pretty when she wore it. Now, I understand that maybe it wasn’t the best fashion choice, but my mom still somehow rocked it out. The wonderful stylings of the 70s.
I assume since there are about 20 of my cousins circled around us in the picture, that it’s my birthday. There is a cake and presents can be seen unopened in the background. It’s sometimes hard to tell in family pictures what occasion it is. It seems like we always had a few extra kids around the house. One of the blessings of a large family.
I do know that on my mother’s face is a big smile. She’s in her element here. Kids. Cake. Presents. Family and love. Making us happy was always her biggest reward.
We didn’t have much growing up. I remember asking her once if we were rich or if we were poor. Her response was that we have everything we needed — clothing, shelter and food — and it was my job to interpret that anyway I wanted.
What we did have was amazing. I still don’t know how she did it, but Christmas morning looked like the Sears and Roebuck toy catalogue blew up in our living room. Birthdays included homemade ice cream and cake. A tradition, 40 years later, that I still uphold. No store bought cake will ever grace these lips on my birthday. It’s white cake with chocolate frosting. I know now that most of my cakes were made by Betty Crocker, but my mom was the one who cracked opened the eggs and poured in the oil. That oven didn’t start itself either.