Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Stories in 2017--Dixie High School Class of '67

I'm dedicating 2017's Saturdays to stories from my life or from my family. Here's one I remember about my mom.

She’s always been my mom. She sewed for us, cooked for us, taught us how to clean a toilet, and enforced piano practicing. She came to our games and our plays and our church activities. I vividly remember the night I realized she was a person before she was Mom.

Dad and Gary were off on a Fathers’ and Sons’ outing, my younger sisters were asleep, and while I’ve always been someone who likes to go to bed early, I didn’t want to sleep yet. Mom and I were downstairs in the 70s family room of the house I grew up in—green shag carpet and mirror wallpaper—she was probably sewing or ironing while I sat on the couch watching TV. What motivated me to pull out one of her old yearbooks, I don’t remember, but I will never forget that night.

My mom went to high school! She participated in drama and loved to do readings. That blew my mind. My dad is the more vocal of my parents, and I always thought I’d inherited my tendencies toward the dramatic from him, but my mom was in plays?

My mom was a writer! She wrote poetry and had some of her stuff published by Dixie High School. I’d seen Mom write in her journal occasionally, and she wrote letters to my grandparents in Utah (those were the days), but she used to write for fun?

My mom was a student body officer! She lived a dream I would never fulfill. How was my fairly quiet, almost always behind the scenes, supportive mom ever so . . . outgoing?

I squealed with each new revelation, and I anxiously turned the black and white pages searching for photographs of my mom when she was young. Sophomore class—look for the O page—there she was, Diana Olsen. School play group photo—sitting right there on the side. Yearbooks led to dance pictures and stories of dating my dad, making her own dresses, and dragging Main Street.

These stories opened a magical world for me, one I never knew existed—the world of my mother before I was born. Sparkles lit her eyes that I’d never seen before as she told story after story about small town St. George, Utah, in the 60s and her friends, Lorelei (who shared my mom’s birthday), Cathy, and her best friend, Bonnie. Others wove through her story—Carmen, Kenny, and I’ll never forget the name Gary Picklesimer. I saw them in photographs and in my mind, together with my mom and her attempts to beehive her fine, thin hair. We stayed up well past midnight, huddled there with her on the couch and me on the floor with yearbooks, albums, and loose photographs, laughing and talking like friends. I loved seeing this side of her, and I didn’t want the night to end. I sat at the kitchen table the next morning, and things were different between Mom and me—like I’d grown up overnight as she’d let me into her other life, before any of us. My sisters ate their breakfast, unaware of the change. But we knew.

I was only in junior high at the time, but this late night look into my mother’s high school years created a bond that hasn’t dimmed in over 30 years. When I offered to take her anywhere in the country on a trip, just the two of us, I was happy when she suggested St. George. She hadn’t been back for more than a few days since she got married in 1967, and that’s the only place she wanted to see. I’d seen all of her places and met all of her people decades before on the floor of our family room, and it was time we meet in person.

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