The Boyertown Area Times

Memories of my mother

- By Mike Zielinski Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwrit­er.

I’m the oldest of seven so as the kids and the years multiplied, I didn’t always get a lot of me time with my mother. But in the early years we spent time together taking walks, including in the woods where we would sit and talk while I playfully threw stones at a water tower. I still can hear the sound of the pings the stones made as they bounced off the tower.

My mother was a gifted pianist, and she patiently taught me how to play the piano at an early age as I sat next to her on the piano bench.

I still feel remorse that I gave up the piano. One, I was tone deaf. Two, football was more fun. How was I to know that piano players suffer significan­tly fewer concussion­s than football players? I was 12.

I also would sit next to her on long bus rides to my grandparen­ts’ restaurant where she would help in the kitchen while I raided the ice cream bin’s popsicle supply. We would sit as close to the bus driver as possible because I was fascinated with his big steering wheel and coin machine for fares. I thought being a bus driver was the coolest job in the world. What did I know? I was 4.

The three pillars of my mother Gloria’s life were family, faith and friends.

Abe Lincoln said it best: “He is not poor who has had a godly mother.” Indebted, but not poor. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. Every now and then we would go out for milkshakes at the Pennside Drive-In. But there was seldom enough money to spring for hamburgers as well. Oh, well.

Some Sunday mornings my mom and I would get freshly baked sesame rolls at ATV Bakery. God, how I savored smelling and eating them. We went grocery shopping on Fridays, and she made sure we had ice cream sandwiches to enjoy while we watched The Flintstone­s that night at 8:30.

When you don’t have a lot, you enjoy what you get. And thanks to my mom’s never-flagging buoyance of faith, we never felt poor. We weren’t paupers. My sisters were princesses. My brothers and I were princes. She made us feel like royalty.

Of course, my mother was more of a servant than a queen with her large brood of kids.

I remember when we didn’t have an automatic washer and dryer. Mom used a hand-wringer washer and hung clothes on wash-lines in the backyard or basement. I remember her handwringi­ng out wet diapers before Pampers were invented. And all the formula bottles she took care of when my twin sisters were infants.

She also shoveled coal into our furnace before we upgraded to gas heat. Thank God for that. Mom wasn’t very good at keeping a good coal fire going while our dad was at work.

Father Time always is ticking away over there in the corner, piling on the years like autumn leaves on a sidewalk. Mom, who died at age 92, always was amazed that she lived so long.

Especially since she had seven children. Having seven kids takes a toll on a mother and turns family life into a squirrel cage at times. Feeding seven kids can be more daunting than feeding the Seventh Calvary, especially on a limited budget.

Mom was creative in meeting that challenge. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that chili didn’t come with elbow macaroni, which she added to help feed her hungry brood.

For decades we all spent Christmas Eve at her home and as the grandchild­ren and great grandchild­ren multiplied like the loaves and fishes over the years, we were shoehorned in there like sardines. There hardly was any room to sit or stand and when all the kids opened their presents, there was an explosion of torn wrapping paper.

And every year tears of joy streamed down Gloria’s lovely face as she rejoiced in having her family with her.

But now Mom is in heaven, and I pray that it is even more wondrous than she ever imagined. But God knows that life here on earth isn’t the same without her. To this day I still get the impulse to give her a call, followed by the sad reality that she’s gone.

At least we all have fond recollecti­ons of Gloria that fit into the recesses of our memories like a key in the tumblers of a lock.

 ?? ?? Mike Zielinski
Mike Zielinski

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