My mother died on September 8, 2013. Even if you know the whole story, let me give you the three crucial words: My. Mother. Died.
There are some out in the world who are going to be tempted to jump on me because the relationship has been fractured for the past few years (and if you don’t already know why, you don’t get to hear the story. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is) and they want to censor/silence me. To them: Fuck you. She was my mother. I get to mourn and express myself in my own way. If you don’t like it, go see a therapist. And if you don’t like that answer: fuck yourself, you sniveling narcissist who probably needs a therapist AND medication.
My mother was Priscilla Tillson Thatcher. She was an Aries, a Mayflower descendant, Red Sox fan (who held a grudge against her husband for ‘disappearing” a Ted Williams autograph she got at Edaville Railroad as a child), Massachusetts native, married for 55 years to Clifford R. Thatcher, Jr., mother of 4 children (And her favorite expressions were “Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.” and “I wish the Pill was retroactive”) grandmother of 5 (she liked them better. She didn’t have to raise them), an artist, a fan of cashews, the combination of chocolate and raspberry, cashews, macadamias, pecan (pe-CAHNS), NO black olives, apples and cheddar cheese as a snack, carousel horses, black licorice, cashews , and one of Robert Redford’s biggest fans, and loved garbanzo beans, orange cats, “The King and I”, “The Way We Were,” the Beatles, and Frank Sinatra (I heard “September Song” until I was damned near suicidal when I was 6. I later gave her the CD with the stipulation, “Do not EVER play this in my presence”). When making spaghetti sauce, the two of us would hover over the garlic press and inhale like a couple of cokeheads getting a fix. She hated winter (it’s where I learned it) and once the kids were out of the house, would flee to warmer climates from November until it was safe to come back (after Mother’s Day).
This is the 2 of us in 1988. I’m on the left.
If you’ve read These Foolish Things, she is not Delia. NO. Delia was a helluva lot colder towards her only child. I was one of four.
Understand: when I was little (we’re talking pre-school), she was my best friend. I remember holding our cat, Ralph (who objected because I clocked him with a hairbrush when I was 18 months old. I do not remember this incident) and having her sketch a picture. I vaguely remember seeing the sketch years ago but not since. She may have destroyed it.
For her love of carousel horses, I made this for Christmas one year:
That’s about 4 months worth of work and includes cat fur from Vicki, my Seal Point Himalayan, who insisted on being on my shoulder while I stitched.
Vicki. She liked Vicki.
That’s my Dad, Clifford R. Thatcher, Jr. I’m like him. It was something she noted when I exasperated her. “You’re just like your father!”( And that’s a bad thing? BTW, I GOT Dwight Evans’ autograph for her – had to help him spell “Priscilla”- instead of making a Ted Williams disappear. Take that, DAD!)
When the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for those who don’t recognize the initials) had a special exhibition of Winslow Homer, I made her talk to me about those pictures. She studied him and John Singer Sargent as an art student at the Massachusetts School of Art. I do not remember her replies, but while the other members of the party drifted off, I got a guided tour from someone who knew the work intimately.
I have been to two games between the Red Sox and the Yankees (both at Fenway). At one of them (1985-1986), she was yelling at Dave Winfield so loudly, he heard her. We are Red Sox.
I do not have pictures available for this post of our miniature Schnauzers. There is a picture of Mom, 7 months pregnant, with Lily, the puppy my dad had to have, in her lap. The expression on her face is “Yup. Gonna have to kill him.” Lily’s son, Max, was Mom’s biggest fan.
I’m happy to think this is happening with Max. It’s been 29 years.
She used to look at him and say, “You are my favorite baby. You are the best child I ever raised.” Meanwhile, his actual mother would be sitting in an armchair that she’d conned me out of with a “WTF? That was ME giving birth to him and 6 siblings in the kitchen, not you.”
She had a remarkable sense of humor that would manifest itself in memorable ways. A Christmas gift of a back saver shovel (funky design that shifted the effort) was disguised as a reindeer with wrapping paper tubes for legs. One year, I gave my brother-in-law, Mike (now ex-brother-in-law) a Costco bottle of pepperoncini one year. With a pink pillow case, she helped me turn it into a pig. One Christmas, my father was given a Christmas gift and a card with instructions to “Open first.” The card read something like, “The answer is: In here.” Dad opened the present (a shoebox) and found it filled with inexpensive flashlights. In the bottom of the shoebox, she’d written, “Jesus Christ, Priscilla! Where in hell are all the goddamn flashlights?”
From her, I learned about Charlotte’s Web, A Girl of the Limberlost, John Singer Sargent, an appreciation of birds (especially wading birds like herons and egrets), and John Michener.
I also learned about loyalty and its potential costs (Again, if you don’t already know the story, tough). You know how kryptonite is toxic to Superman? Little itty bitty piece of his home planet can kill him? Same deal here. The distance was necessary or else I’d be 400 lbs. and/or dead by my own hand. Those with great potential expect it to be realized in others.
Both parents and one sister in better times.
When my dad retired from the bank to devote his energy to law, she taught herself how to use a computer (this was a woman who had had us call to make dentist appointments and do “professional/business” kinds of phone calls as we grew up). She got to be good enough to work as a legal secretary for Dad.
She is out of her distress and reunited with her husband, her brother and parents, various dogs and cats that loved her throughout her life. After a lengthy drought, she got to see the Red Sox win two World Series championships. She painted pictures not only of children, but grandchildren, Vermont, doorways, sunsets, boats, whatever caught her eye. Her work was sold in art galleries and one painting of fishing boats in North Carolina was made into a lithograph.
Priscilla Thatcher was an artist, a Red Sox fan, a Parrothead, a conservative, a daughter, a sister, a mother, (and you can add “in-law” to all of those).
And now she’s gone.