Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman

Back in the day when televisions had nine-inch round screens, rabbit-ear antennas, and a whopping three channels, there was a program called Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians and featured a comedic Hilo Hattie.  My mother loved the music and decided to learn how to play a steel guitar.  She took lessons, practiced diligently, and got quite good, to the point she played in a steel-guitar band for awhile.  It may be that Hawaiian music went out of vogue or Mother's enthusiasm waned, but she gave that up for other interests.

A hobby that lasted longer and was certainly productive was making hooked rugs.  What a tedious process that was.  Mother would go to thrift stores and buy woolen clothing, cut them apart, somehow bleach the color out, redye the material to her needs, and then began cutting it into quarter-inch strips.  The backing was pattern-printed burlap and the strips were hooked in and pulled up into even, tight loops.  It must have taken forever.  These were big rugs, over six feet long and four feet wide.  They were quite beautiful.  I have three or four still, some in a chest downstairs and a small one with rose buds that was made for my bedroom is in the guest room now.  It's a little the worse for wear, but I'm not willing to give it up.

She could have been a professional seamstress.  She made almost all of my clothes as I grew up.  She had insomnia and many were the times I'd wake in the night to hear the whirring of Mother's sewing machine, the only light coming from the machine.  My brother-in-law brought home a silk parachute from the war (WWII), and Mother used the real silk material to make a negligee and peignoir set for my sister, pure luxury.

Mother never learned to knit, but she could crochet up a storm.  Our house was filled with doilies and antimacassars made by her hands.  She also could tat, something I could never get the hang of.  Much later, she would sit outside where the light was better and tat lace to edge handkerchiefs.  I have the last ones she made.

We had a large orchard with a variety of fruit trees.  Mother picked and canned fruit for hours in the summer.  We didn't have air conditioning then (either), and she and my sister sweltered as they cut and stirred.  Shelves in the garage were filled with sparkling, jewel-toned jars to bring a taste of sunshine throughout the winter.

When she was 50, the Los Angeles Police Department was trying out a new program, putting civilians on Harley three-wheelers and making them "meter maids."  I'm not sure she knew what she was getting into, but Mother applied for the job and got it.  The PD didn't know quite what to do with civilians, so sent them through the cadet academy like regulation police officers.  It was a grueling exercise, but Mother persevered.  Her graduation was one of the proudest moments of her life.  She worked in Los Angeles riding a motorcycle until she retired at age 65, and then she began traveling the world, sometimes alone and at others taking a grandson along.

We didn't always get along, but with all the hoopla about the new movie "Wonder Woman," it's made me think of her


Emmy Abrahams said...

Sounds like she passed along many of these qualities to you.
Quite a woman there....one to be very proud of.

Kathryn Williams said...

I second Emmy's comment. And it makes me wonder what I do with my days and nights. I certainly have no rugs or a storehouse of food (that I canned) to show for it! Thanks for the interesting blog!