Sunday, June 13, 2021
June 13, 2021

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Memories of Mom are unending, unforgettable for Clark County residents

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She’s sweet and loving, with a soft spot for song and dance. She’s frugal and factual and suffers no foolishness. Firmly principled, she’s always ready to insist upon what’s right — except when she’s pulling some hilarious stunt.

You’ve got fans, Mom. Here’s what some of them are saying about you on Mother’s Day.

Hopping fences

My mother knew all her neighbors in Roseburg, Ore., and her home was the usual gathering spot for games of rummy and pleasant conversation. She loved puzzles and games of all types.

One day around 1965, when two young “salesmen” (most likely missionaries) came to her door, she politely said, “No thank you,” and sent them on their way.

She immediately ran out the back door, hopped the fence, knocked on the neighbor’s back door and asked if she could answer the door. The next thing the bewildered neighbor heard was her front doorbell. My mother politely answered the door as if she had never seen the young men before, and sent them on their way.

She continued doing this, responding to doorbells seven or eight more times in two blocks. The whole neighborhood got to enjoy the best prank ever.

Janet Smith, Battle Ground

Scoops of love

In the early 1960s I was in high school in Burien, and at an age when my mother embarrassed me often. One day, going through the lunch line at school, I noticed that my friend Charlie was served two scoops of mashed potatoes even though he said he only wanted one.

When I reached the potato station and requested two scoops, the lunch lady told me, while slapping one scoop on my tray, that I didn’t need two scoops because I was a girl.

When I told my mom about this after school, she was incensed and said she would speak to the principal. How mortifying. She did speak to Mr. Sealey, telling him that my quarter was the same as the boys’ quarters and that if I wanted two scoops of potatoes, I should get two scoops. Needless to say, I never again had to ask for two scoops, as the lunch ladies saw me coming.

Mom’s conversation with the principal was embarrassing at the time, but I’ve come to realize it was about a lot more than two scoops of potatoes.

Sharon Eastman, West Hazel Dell

Only what you need

My mom was Swedish. She was a homemaker. She crocheted doilies and arm chair covers and embroidered pillow cases. She also was an excellent seamstress, making all my clothes through elementary school.

She loved to bake, and making cakes was her favorite. Every year for my birthday I requested an angel food cake. For days she would carefully separate egg yolks and whites, saving 12 whites for the cake. This was before cake mixes were popular. Standing at the stove, cooking and stirring, was a labor of love.

Other birthdays and holidays required different cakes. Mom’s white cake with seven-minute cooked frosting was a favorite of one of my aunts. Before frosting, she would test the doneness of the cake by carefully poking a toothpick in the middle. If it came out clean, the cake was perfectly baked.

Then she would carefully wash and dry the toothpick and return it to the toothpick box. She always used the same toothpick. How do I know this? It was the only toothpick in the box.

Years later I asked her why. Her response? “You only need one.” But she did admit to a spare box in the cupboard for when one would break.

Bev Vogler, Steamboat Landing

No free feed

In 1948, when I was 10, we lived in a circa-1920 farmhouse 5 miles from town. I raised rabbits for my 4-H project. One Sunday, Mom waylaid me heading into the garage with a brown paper bag. She held the broom she’d been using to beat the rug hanging on the clothesline. “What’s in the bag?”

I tipped the top of the bag in her direction. “Alfalfa. I’m going to feed it to the rabbits.”

“Don’t you feed them pellets?”

“We ran out. I forgot to tell Dad, so I cut some alfalfa in the field across the street.”

Mom’s lips closed tight. I sensed trouble. “Did you ask if you could have some alfalfa?”

I shook my head. “Don’t even know who to ask.”

Mom’s lips became a fine line. “Daniel”— now I knew trouble had arrived — “I thought you knew this family doesn’t steal.”

I opted to argue my case. “Mom, I can’t let these rabbits starve.”

Mom, like Dad, knew her moral ground. “If those rabbits starve it’s because you failed to plan for them.” She pointed at the field across the street. “Take that alfalfa back! With luck, the baler will pick it up. And make sure those rabbits at least have water!”

“Mom—”

“Now!” Mom’s fuse was shorter even than Dad’s. She was a creased lip away from taking after me. I eyed the broom. “Now!”

I surrendered and carried the sack back to the field.

The next morning, Mom pressed two quarters into my hand before she left for work.

“Get on your bike. Ride to the feed store. Buy rabbit pellets. Don’t forget to tell your dad you need rabbit food. Those rabbits are hungry. Leave! Now!”

Lesson learned. I’ve lived by it these 72 years since.

Dan Strawn, Hockinson

Extra sugar

Mom was a prankster, pure and simple. My sister and I were her foils. During grade school, Mom would “April Fool” us.

The first memorable event was one breakfast, when suddenly all the cereal disappeared. Seemed odd, we had plenty yesterday.

“Your father ate it,” she opined. All that was left was some old, stringy, bland, wheat squares. “Put some extra sugar on it,” she suggested, shoving the sugar bowl at us. We both heaped up. One bite in, we were sunk. “April Fool,” she snickered as we ran to the garbage, spitting out the massive amounts of salt we had just ingested.

Older and wiser the next year, we tested the sugar and confirmed the night before that there was plenty of cereal available! We were safe for breakfast, but forgot about lunch. On our way out the door we were given lunch sacks with the happy comment, “I made you something special: sponge cake.” It was iced up and carefully wrapped. “Have it for dessert.”

We sat delighted with our friends, glowing about having something no one else had. Lunch finished, we carefully opened the cake wrapping, wiggling with delight. No fork? Weird. Oh well, dig in.

One bite and we knew we’d been had. It was sponge cake for sure, but made with real sponges from the kitchen. At least the frosting was good.

From that day forward, we always made our own April 1st breakfast and took money for school lunch. To this day, my sister will not eat cake without first cutting through it to confirm it is truly cake. Thanks, Mom, love and miss you every day.

Michael Roll, Barberton

No fear

I had the honor of fulfilling one of my mom’s dreams by escorting her to Hawaii. Although she had always hoped to go with my dad, he passed away before they could make the trip. She was thrilled that I, her only daughter, who lived 3,000 miles away, agreed to take her. One particular incident on the trip epitomized my 86-year-old mom’s determination, fearlessness and zest for life.

We completed the activities on her wish list, including Pearl Harbor and a luau. On the last day we did what she was most excited about, a day on the beach.

We ventured down to the water, but the undertow was so strong that it was difficult to keep our balance. While I was ready to retreat, she was eager to wade in deeper. I protested, trying to convince her it was unsafe (and inwardly chuckling about what a role reversal this was).

Her stern reply was, “I’m not leaving until I’m at least up to my waist in the Pacific Ocean!”

She grabbed my hand and in we went.

Seconds later, the undertow dragged us under, sending us tumbling on the rocky ocean floor. Each time I tried to grab her, I was pulled back under. I faintly heard chuckling, but that soon turned to cries of “ow!” As I was desperately trying to help her, all I could think of was my brothers demanding how I could have let this happen to our mother.

Fortunately, a nearby beachgoer saw our plight and pulled us out. Despite some minor cuts and bruises, Mom laughed like she had enjoyed our little adventure and exclaimed, “I can’t wait to tell everybody what happened!”

I raised my eyebrows and replied, “We tell no one!”

Sue Dely, Ridgefield

Sweet song and dance

My mother loved life and living in the Overlook neighborhood of North Portland, two blocks from the Alibi restaurant, where she grew up around lots of family. She spent her days caring for her home and nine children. On Saturday nights she went dancing at the Polish Hall with Dad.

My siblings and I walked to school, and walked home for lunch to help feed the babies. Mom always had music playing on the radio. One day when I was feeding my brother, a song by Nat King Cole titled “Rambling Rose” came on the radio and Mom said, “Frank, get up, we’re gonna dance.”

We danced the whole song around the kitchen, and she told me, “That’s one of my favorite songs,” and gave me a big hug.

This was one of the most tender moments with my Mom, and every time I hear that song I remember our dance in the kitchen.

Frank Spitulski, Mount Vista

Small feet, big memory

Some of us don’t want to take on our mother’s characteristics when we get closer to her age. Well, it happened to me! Mom was barely 5 feet tall and had small feet. I am 4 feet, 7 1/2 inches tall with small feet too!

Years ago, when we lived on Ward Road, my sister and I would hop into our 1939 Plymouth coupe and Mom would drive us to the Yacolt Stage at Union Corner (now 119th Street and state Highway 503).

Mom didn’t like to drive and we were always afraid to ride with her. She could only turn left into our driveway because she had poor eyesight in her right eye, so she always drove north past our house, turned left into a farmyard, did a U-turn and went back to turn left into our driveway.

From Union Corner we all took the bus to the Vancouver Depot and then to Portland, to shop at Meier & Frank. What was the draw?

No. 1, we got to see our Grandma Gerda (Mattson), who cooked in the Meier & Frank cafe. (Later on, she had Gerda’s Coffee Shop in Hockinson.)

No. 2, the bargain basement and sample shoes for a dollar a pair waited for our small feet. We were not wealthy, but once per year Mom allowed us to buy more shoes than we ever needed. Seven pair was a good number! This was always a fun time and Mom made a true bargain shopper out of me.

I still have too many shoes, but my fond shopping memories with Mom and eating lunch with her at Meier & Frank outweigh all the shoes I own.

Daphne Kivinen, Truman neighborhood

Polka plop

My husband Walt and I both had parents who loved to dance. In 1969, to celebrate our upcoming nuptials, they all decided to take us out to a Polish dance hall for a night of dancing. Polkas were part of Walt’s mother’s heritage — and simply the best fun to do.

After dinner, Walt danced with me, then with his mom. He was a vigorous polka dance partner, like a joyful grasshopper, with excellent time as he hopped. One dance with him and you needed a rest before taking the dance floor with him again. But he only seemed to be more energized.

He invited my mom to dance. My dad was more of ballroom dancer, so she jumped at the invitation and off they went.

The polka revved up. Walt luckily had a firm grasp on my mom, because suddenly she slipped all the way down to the floor. While Walt was able to soften the landing, her dress skirt flew up to her waist as she landed. There sat my mom, her legs splayed out at an angle from her torso, looking like a rag doll. Surprised looks everywhere!

Walt, strong and agile, helped her up as quickly as possible, including adjusting her skirt back down to her knees. They were laughing and so were the rest of us, once we knew Mom was OK. We went on to dance and laugh through the rest of the evening.

This remains one of the sweetest and funniest stories for me of my mom.

Jeanne Ratterman, Washougal

Positive spin

Mom was essentially a single mother to four girls, thanks to my Dad’s drinking and cowboy ways. She valued education above all else and found a rental home just over the boundary of an affluent community, giving us access to the best schools.

Car rides were an opportunity to learn state capitals, presidents, spelling and history. On a trip to Mission Carmel she told us the story of its founder, Junipero Serra. We drove aimlessly around Carmel-By-The-Sea until she finally announced, “They’ve moved the mission.” No one is perfect!

Money was tight, but Mom made us feel extraordinary while surrounded by peers who wore designer clothes and received BMWs on their 16th birthdays. We wore fake Capezios and homemade clothes. Each birthday Mom would say, “Anyone can buy a bakery cake, but I’m going to make a special cake just for you.” Halloween was the same, with her saying store-bought costumes are all alike, but ours, put together at Goodwill, would be one-of-a-kind.

We actually felt bad for the “rich” kids. My best friend lived in a glass palace with wall-to-wall white carpet and a Zen sand garden in the foyer. She spent holidays abroad. I took her on our family camping trip and, even though her parents made her shower before reentering her house, she said it was her best vacation ever.

My mom suffers from dementia, lives in a memory care facility and believes she works there. While out to lunch she glanced at her watch and said she needed to get back because she didn’t tell her boss she was leaving. Once again she is putting a positive spin on her situation!

Martha Sherin, Whipple Creek


Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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