A BLAST FROM MOTHER'S DAY PAST: FIRST PUBLISHED MAY 8, 2011
My most vivid memories of my Mother, Rosemary,
are not of her baking cookies or even
of her at Holiday times with fine food,
family and festivities with friends.
My most vivid memories are of what
I call, "critical course correction" moments.
Those times when she not-so gently
delivered a message of displeasure
at my misbehavior and shenanighans.
I can recall the flicks of a weeping willow switch.
I can recall the butt smack of an old paddle ball paddle.
I can recall a "head knuckling" and an "ear pull."
I can recall her gentle voice askng, "What were
you thinking?" Or, "Wait until your Father gets home."
I can recall her sitting up with me all night
as we memorized chemical equations for
my final exam. I needed an "A" on the exam to earn a course grade "D."
She made it happen, with all the tenderness of
a USMC Drill Instructor at Paris Island.
I can recall her "briefings" before major
family events. Her detailed instructions were
specific, pointed and often punctuated with
"Or else." I once asked, "Or else what?"
A brief corporal demonstration instantly followed.
Now, don't get me wrong. I was not an abused child.
I was just a "boundary tester" - the kind of child who
was always pushing the envelope, although I would
have described myself as an experimental life enthusiast.
Mom understood that there were "book learners"
like my cousin Patty Perfect, and sisters, Mary Beth and Ann Marie.
And then there was "The Moron" for whom, book learning
was never quite enough...I needed the physical experience.
If I asked. "Is the stove really hot?"
She'd encourage me to touch it.
If I asked, "Will Mike bite ( her overly-trained uber-wonder dog)
if I grab his bone?" She'd say, "Why don't you grab it and find out."
My Mom loved me and fed me and hugged me a lot.
She baked cookies. Shook her head over the "U" and "L"
marks the nuns gave me for just being me.
My Mom taught me how to ride a bike in the alley.
My Mom put methiolate on every wound from a skinned knee to a fractured skull,
My Mom rubbed Vicks Vapor-Rub on to my chest.
My Mom spooned out Milk of Magnesia.
My Mom even rubbed Rueben's Solvens Balm onto
my broken arm after my back-riding and screaming-in-terror baby sister Ann Marie
covered my eyes and caused me to crash my speeding sled into a concrete sewer.
My Mom wiped my tears away at other times and tenderly told me to,
"Stop being a cry-baby!" and to "Punch Eddie Kelly in the nose, like this."
I can still see her knotting up her little Irish fist and
showing me how to deal with him and his bully pal Eddie Houchen.
My Mother told me, "Your name may be Birkenmeier.
But you're my son and that makes you a Collins.
Don't forget that." She always said, "When the
road gets rough, 'Bring out your Irish.' "
My Mother dressed me like a little gentleman.
Two-toned shoes, snappy suspenders and a
nice part in my hair. She hoped for a gentleman.
I came close...and turned out to be a well-dressed houlighan.
There are a million "Rosemary stories."
My cousins can recount them.
Loring can recount them.
My sisters Mary Beth and Ann Marie have
their versions too.
But all the Rosemary stories end the
same way -- with lots of laughter, glee and delight.
Rosemary Ann Birkenmeier (nee) Collins
gave it all she had and loved large.
Very,very, very large.
When the love of her life, Lawrence J. Birkenmeier
died at age 43, she said, "I had 20-years with a good man
and I could have had a lifetime with a louse."
She prayed her rosary everyday.
She never missed Mass on Sunday
or Holy Days. She always went to
City Hall and cooked corned beef
and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day.
I'm sure she's a Saint in heaven today.
Raising her children earned her that spot.
"Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Kelly from the Emerald Isle?
Her hair is red and her eyes are blue
You can tell she's Irish through and through.
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Kelly from the Emerald Isle?"
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY MOM!
Miss you every day.
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY
TO ALL THE MOTHERS I'VE
BEEN PRIVILEGED TO KNOW!
PS: How come there is no Wife's Day?
I'm wondering if there should be because
not every Wife is a Mother. And vicey versa.
As Rosemary used to say, "Don't worry about it...It'll all come out in the wash."