Monday, May 13, 2013

My Mother's Lullabies

Mary Allen Burkholder Smolenski

She wasn't country club, 
though she grew up in it.

She was practical and matter of fact.
Mary Allen Burkholder, 9 years old, the middle daughter
She used a big magnet to hide 
an envelope of cash in the corner metal cabinet and a safety pin to keep the legs of a toddler's sleeper together and in the crib. "Necessity is the mother of invention," she'd say. 

I tried to pull her into my teenage drama
but she wouldn't come.

I got it from her.  She could redirect any child with a raised eyebrow.
When my children yank my chain they hear me say  "I will not be playing that game" or "Welcome to Camp Pat"...they pretty much know... 

She didn't go to every sporting event
and never felt guilty about it.
She didn't plan lunch dates or shopping dates
or mommy/daughter time.
She read to me, tucked me in and
sang adorable lullabies.  When we were sick 
she brought us scrambled eggs
on her special plate, with her china doll and a shoe box full of weathered family photos.

The Little Small Red Hen... she read this over and over to us with great inflection and drama!

She washed and sewed and thought of "umpteen" ways to sort socks.  She ironed shirts, gave spit baths to toddlers on the run, lined us up weekly to shampoo 10 heads, and made countless meals...
always the loaf of bread, in a stack, on the dinner table.

She said funny things like "If you're thirsty, swallow your spitand "I am not Everybody Else's mother."
She said "uneducated women talked about people
and educated women talked about things."
That "men put their pants on one leg at a time," 
and some she "didn't trust as far as she could throw."

I shopped for my prom dresses in the attic closet,
worn by 7 sisters before me.  I wore every one of the bathing suits in this photo...
happy to have so many choices
and I never thought to ask for more.

She didn't drink (much),
she wasn't angry or resentful and sometimes,  I wonder why.

She taught me, scolded me, sang to me
and loved me, she told me so before she died...

"You're one of the good ones, Patty."
Add caption

Patricia Smolenski Spreng

In loving memory of Mary Allen Burkholder Smolenski (1918-2008)  

The lullabies she sang to me...


  1. I love this so much, Pat. I would have enjoyed your mom, I think. I know I enjoy YOU. You are, indeed, one of the good ones. I'm traveling with my husband and trying to open your music - maybe I'll be successful. We're cruising the Elbe River in Germany, headed to Prague. (I know I told you that Burkholder is a big name for my husband - we went to Burkholder family reunions in Upland CA for years. His grandmother was a Burkholder.)

  2. Thanks Susan and Diana = )
    Diana... I do remember mentioning that you looked an awful lot like one of my sisters (even though the Burkholder genes are on your husband's side)!! Marvelous traveling mercies for you!

  3. There were few women like her then and even fewer now. So glad you wrote this up!


A penny for your thoughts ...