A mother’s hard work not to be overlooked
I thought a cute, safe, saccharine kind of column would be nice for Mother’s Day … wander around Bigtown asking people what they remember best about their moms … write down their comments on baking brownies or quilting or bright kitchens. It didn’t turn out that way.
I found Irene Maretti and her friend Judy Ten Eyck looking at flowers outside a Grass Valley drugstore.
“My mother’s name was Virginia Perata, of San Francisco,” Irene smiled. “She died in the early ’40s, when I was only 11. What I remember most clearly is my mother singing Italian lullabies and songs to me at night. She’d sing to me, rock me to sleep, and kiss me and kiss me and kiss me.”
She began to sing a bit of an Italian song and I wanted to go home with Irene and live with her if she would just sing that beautiful song to me every day.
Judy Ten Eyck’s mother died when she was only 5; she lived in an orphanage until Lester and Alice Quincy adopted her.
“Their own daughter had died in her early 20s of a brain tumor, died around the time I was born,” Judy said. “They were an older couple, obviously; my adoptive mother was old enough to be my grandmother. She was a sweet, gentle person, never had a bad word to say about anybody.
“I was blessed to be adopted into their family. They were wonderful, loving people. As a matter of fact, I took their daughter’s name as my own. My birth name was Joanne.”
Judy grinned at her friend. “We were both blessed to have such good moms.”
They went back to looking at the flowers and I ended up sitting in my car, staring into space and thinking of motherless little girls and a beautiful Italian lullaby that had come to live in my brain.
When I got back to Littletown, I called Philip Copening, a local resident and vice president of the Washington Welcoming Committee.
“I had two moms, my Aunt Dede (her real name is Delores Bishop) and my grandmother, Carrie Copening, who was called ‘Sister’ by me, her own kids, her grand kids, everybody. Wanna know why? Her parents died when she was just a baby, and she was taken to her aunt and uncle and introduced to their children as their new little sister, and the name ‘Sister’ just stuck.
“My real mother sent me to live with my aunt and grandmother when I was 6 months old. I never saw her again. I stayed there until way after I finished high school. Sister stayed home while my aunt worked as a nurse’s aide so she was the one who brought me up, but Aunt Dede was my second mother.
“When I was still in school, my aunt decided to become an LVN, so when she got off work at midnight, I’d sit up with her and we’d do flash cards and study for the nursing test. I took her over to Sacramento, where she took the test and passed it the first time. I felt I was paying her back – not that I had to, I didn’t – but she did something she didn’t have to do, which was raise me. My wife Karen and I call her Mama D; she lives in Michigan with her real son.
“Sister died 24 years ago of breast cancer, when she was 60. What do I remember most about her? Why, she was my best friend. She always talked to me and not at me. Friends do that, you know.”
To those men and women who are doing a mother’s work, and to the grandparents who are doing it all over again, I send my best wishes for a great Mother’s Day.
Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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