A Story for Mothers' Day

By: Jerry Angst 1981, 2010

During the years between about 1975 and 1985 my Mom wrote a weekly article for our home town newspaper, the Chesaning Argus. Her column was called Harriet's Hearsay and each week it consisted of two parts. One part was more or less a gossip column which informed our small community as to whose birthday it was, who just got back from a vacation, who just became a grandmother, who was having visitors from out of town, etc, etc, etc. The other part was a long series of humorous articles concerning the trials and tribulations of living in an old house and raising seven kids and a husband. Although her name was not Harriet and she never revealed her true identity (in the newspaper anyway) it was obvious to the readers what her state-in-life was, and as a result she had a loyal following of middle-age housewives in the community. To hide her true identity she always referred to my Dad (sarcastically, I presume) as His Honor, and to us kids as Daughter number 1, Daughter number 2, Son number 1, Son number 2, etc. Our house was always referred to as "old house", and our car as "old car".

During the summer of 1981 my Dear Mom was busy organizing a huge family reunion, and during the week of the reunion she had so much to do that it didn't appear she would have time to write her weekly article, so I volunteered to write it for her. The article, in which I tried to mimic the style of my Mom's column as best I could, was published on August 19, 1981. Just recently I came across it again, and after reading it for the first time in many years, I thought it might make a nice LBLR Chronicles entry for Mothers' Day, so here it is.

A View from the Other Side
(The original title)

Because of a family reunion this past weekend, Harriet was too busy to write her weekly article. Although we all knew that she could handle it (we think that she writes it in her sleep sometimes) we (husband, sons 1 through 5, and daughters 1 and 2) have volunteered to write it for her. This may present a slightly different point of view from what you are accustomed to, hence the title: "A View from the Other Side".

Now, we realize that we have the greatest Mom/Wife in the world, and I'm sure you gentle and faithful readers realize that too. But I'm sure, gentle readers, that you also realize that the trials and tribulations so adeptly described to you over the past several years by Harriet have been somewhat one-sided. Life with Mother Harriet has been good, but....uh....well....er....how shall I put this? Well, perhaps a few examples.

For instance, kids having to bring things to school for special occasions can cause many problems for a Mom, and we've all read several of Harriet's comments about them. But there was a time when Daughter number 1 (a kindergartener) had to take a hard boiled egg to school during the Easter Season. That seems like no problem, right? Wrong!!! Harriet sent along a hard boiled egg all right......but it was brown a egg......and the daughter had to color it yellow. The results tasted good enough but it certainly could have been a little more colorful. Somehow I don't think that episode will be very likely to show up in one of Harriet's articles, even if she remembers it. One must look "from the other side" to see a thing like that.

Christmas gifts for school parties (lower grade school) also presented problems considering the fact that the maximum one was allowed to spend was 50 cents, or maybe even a dollar. What kind of gift, for that price, would a little boy like to receive at a grade school Christmas party? Harriet once suggested a nice pair of socks. Nice, perhaps, from Harriet's side, but what about the "view from the other side"?

Just bringing a lunch to school can be a problem too, if you have to bring it in a coffee sack. Even at its best, lunch in a coffee sack isn't exactly "cool" in the eyes of a grade school kid, but if Mother Harriet mistakenly gave him a coffee sack with coffee in it instead of a coffee sack with a lunch in it, things were even worse. That's a social blunder for a third grader that Harriet will never understand.

You gentle readers will also remember articles concerning Harriet and her inability to enjoy even a bottle of red pop or a candy bar before someone else in the family grabbed it up. Well, as I remember it, normally one candy bar (for example) per person would be purchased on say, a Monday morning. All of the candy bars but one would be eaten on that same Monday morning. The following Friday morning one candy bar still remained........Harriet's!!!! One candy bar, seen but not eaten, by any youngster can only be endured for so long. To him, that candy bar "always was and always will be", unless he eats it. Besides that, he would think that nobody else wanted it or it would have been gone by then. Eventually someone would give in to the temptation and Harriet's candy bar would be gone. Unfortunately those four days of waiting would most likely be missing from Harriet's version of the story. Wouldn't you consider that to be an example of the "view from the other side"?

You have also heard many stories about Harriet's dislike for mechanical things, especially cars. Sure, there may exist a language used for mechanical things which, according to Harriet anyway, can only be understood by men. You've often read her thoughts about it. But isn't there a similar one used by, and only understood by, women? Harriet would describe, in all necessary detail, a car problem by saying that it went rrr-r-rrrr-rr-rrr and, of course, she would throw in a few equally undecipherable hand and arm motions. I don't know what that means. Do you? Don't you think that could be an example of a "view from the other side" too?

Similarly, Harriet and Daughter number 2 once found some wood splinters wedged around the headlight of our car several years ago. After much discussion they decided that they must have scraped the telephone pole next to the East Side Grocery parking lot, and that must have been the source of the wood splinters. The best remedy, it seemed, was to pull the wood splinters out and thus, hide the whole affair from husband/father. So that they did! The next day Dad couldn't figure out how in the world the wood shims that he had put in to hold the headlight steady had fallen out. I'm quite certain they didn't bother to explain it because that was a view from the wrong side.

I'd like to mention one final thing about Harriet. When I was about six years old and started the first grade at Our Lady School, Harriet took me up to the school at 7:30 AM on the first day and dropped me off in my room. At about 7:50 AM all of us new first graders marched over to the church with Sister Anna to attend mass. During mass the pressure of being alone and in an unfamiliar and scary situation got to be too much for me, my stomach got upset, and I began to feel sick. Sister Anna noticed what was going on and made me lie down in a pew, which certainly wasn't very comforting. Things looked pretty bleak. Just then, apparently from out of nowhere, came Mom. What a relief! She didn't stay long; she just took me to the bathroom and then sent me back into church......but the reassurance it gave me was great. Going to school was to be my responsibility and she was going to see that I handled it on my own. But just in case I needed someone to "hold me up for a moment" she didn't go home after dropping me off. She went into the back of church where I couldn't see her, but where she could see me just in case I needed help. If I wouldn't have gotten sick, I would never have known that she was there.

I can think of a few other times in my life when she unexpectedly "came up from behind" to help me like that, but what I really wonder and probably will never know, is how many times she was behind me when I didn't need help, watching and waiting, just in case I needed a little propping up. Always staying out of the picture when things went right, but always ready to step in if things went wrong. This is also a "view from the other side". But the "other side" in this case is the one which Harriet (and all Moms) see, but everyone else misses. Aren't Moms wonderful!