Today would have been Louise's 76th birthday. Seems hard to believe that this is the second birthday that has passed without her here to celebrate with. I still can't believe she is gone sometimes.
In celebration of her life today I thought I might write down some of the things that stick out vividly in my memory. Things that made her so endearing to me and to so many others.
When I first met her, I was a mere 17 years old and she was 49. Happily married to Joe, and including my hubby, they still had 4 kids living at home. She loved her family. Nothing made her happier than to have a house full of people. She would spend all day in the kitchen, making food, fixing drinks, doing dishes, hoovering around. Rarely did I ever see her sit down to eat, even though her family would say "Sit down and eat Mom." She would wave them off and tell them she wasn't that hungry, then after everyone finished, she would grab a small plate and eat while everyone sat around and talked.
There were constantly people coming and going at that house. No matter the time of day, how close to meal time it was, there was always room for someone else at her table. Never made it feel like an imposition, always like she was thrilled someone else stopped by to eat. As a cook, I don't know how you do that? I make enough spaghetti for my family and if someone drops by I would be scrambling around to figure out how to stretch the meal. She did it easily.
Their house had this rod iron door with glass in it on the front door that was super heavy. Usually when you walked up the front steps you could see her sitting at the kitchen table watching one of her taped shows on the small tv in kitchen. She had tapes everywhere. Lord help you if she saw something on Regis and Kathy Lee or the Today show that she thought would interest you. She would dig through those tapes, fast forwarding, rewinding, until she could show you the little tidbit or recipe she thought you might like.
She would save magazine articles, newspaper clippings of things she read. A lot of it was not news to the person she gave it to, but to know that she thought enough of you to get up, go get some scissors, cut it out and remember to show it to you was just nice.
Passionately proud of her kids. As proud as she was of her kids, you could easily double or triple that for her grandchildren. She would literally light up when she saw her grandchildren. She always had something for them. Some little happy meal toy, or a little something from the dollar store, or she would find all the pieces to some of the toys she had at her house and it was like new again.
She gave all children her absolute undivided attention. She didn't try to multitask like I am so prone to do. She looked them in the eye, she listened with both ears, she exclaimed delight in what they were telling her, sadness or frustration if that is what they were feeling. She was 100% in the moment with them. Never hurried. Always running late, because she was never hurried.
When she used to keep Harold for us before we moved to Texas they were the sweetest thing to watch. She loved being with him and he loved being with her. She would sit in the floor with him all day and let him tell her all the names of every train he had, watch countless hours of Barney or Little Bear or they would walk to the creek and throw rocks. Even though she didn't have the opportunity to spend as much time with Chip, when they were together she would sit for hours in his room building legos, marveling over the toys he would show her, trying to play some video game or another, play countless (and I mean countless) card games of War, letting him will all the time. Never would she make you feel like there was anywhere on earth she would rather be at that moment than with you. That is a gift people that doesn't cost a thing and that lasts forever.
She loved all kinds of people, regardless of whether they were young or old, rich or poor. She bought gifts for everyone. I swear she gave the person at the Dry Cleaners, Gas Station and Doctor's office a Christmas present. Mailed cards to all of her relatives in Rhode Island for all occasions - birthday, anniversary, Easter, Valentines, always had a stack of cards going out. This is from a woman who didn't have much either. She always said, "I came into this world with nothing and I will go out of it with the same thing."
She would "knock around the house" (her saying) in one of those duster robes. I have her pink one with blue stripes hanging in my closet right now. I love it and will keep it forever.
She decorated for every holiday - I mean EVERY holiday. It it was St. Patrick's Day, you can bet there was a green wreath of some kind on her door and a flag flying in her garden. Valentine's, yep. Decorated for that too! July 4th - yep! Halloween and Christmas - You better look out!
She was always ready to go, do anything at any time. Do want to go Roller Skating? Sure. It is 11:30 p.m., you want to go with us to Dairy Queen for an ice cream? Sure. You want to run out to the apple orchard with us? Sure. You want to drive out to the middle of nowhere, turn around and come back. Sure, let me get my purse. No matter where you took her, she had more fun than anyone there. I often had to pull her off of video games at Chuckie Cheese or someplace when the kids were long done, she was the last one out of the pool every time. I feel like she savored every experience.
Every meal that I ever cooked for her was the best meal she ever had. She would say "I don't know how you can throw together a meal so quick and it be so delicious. You should write a cook book." Yeah right. I can't cook that well, and my boys eat the plainest food on the planet, but meant so much to hear it from her. She made me feel like I was a super mom and a super wife. Isn't that a wonderful gift to give to a daughter-in-law? I always felt like she loved me just like one of her own. I hope that I can do that for my future daughter-in-laws.
There are a million things I remember, like how she would have me order for her whatever I was having at a restaurant, how at Christmas she always bought her kids the exact same number of gifts even when they were 40 years old, how she would stagger and stumbled when she bowled, the little notebook she carried around in her purse with her lists in it, how she would run that crazy calculator with the paper roll at the kitchen table, how she stocked up on snacks for any and all road trips, how she would never go to bed until the kitchen was clean, how she would tear up every time we had to say goodbye, her Easter paper plates, how just her laugh could make her kids laugh...hmmm, it feels good to write this stuff down. I want to remember all the little things that made her so special to me.
I loved her. I loved her alot. I miss her alot too. Happy Birthday Lou - I hope you are doing something special up in heaven today! We are going to be sending you up some balloons tonight, so be on the lookout for them!!!