The Gal with the Big Legs

My mother is visiting me this week from Florida. I just can't tell you how happy I am to have her here. I haven't seen her in seven months, when she and I set out on a road trip from Florida here to Northern Illinois.

The only difficult thing about leaving Florida last year was putting so much distance between us. My mother had coped with the death of my father by concentrating on her family (she lives with my sister and brother-in-law,) and here I was leaving the state and moving 1,100 miles away. It was extremely gut-wrenching for me.

I was the last of my parents' children, and they had been married more than a decade by the time I showed up. They weren't exactly young parents - I was born four days before my father's 46th birthday (he lived until 1999,) and my mother was going on 39. (I guess you could call them trailblazers for today's generation of older parents.) My mother will be 89 years old later this year.
As the youngest with five years between me and my nearest sibling, I got to have her all to myself while my siblings were in school. There were five of us in total, and a family joke is that if my parents had World War II not intervened and my parents gotten married earlier and started having kids right away, plus had the ones that were miscarried, there'd be so many of us that we never would have gotten out of public housing.

My parents met at a skating rink in suburban New York in 1942, when he nudged his friends and asked, "Who's the gal with the big legs?" as he tried to finagle an introduction. As you can see, back in the day, my mother was definitely ready for her close-up. She was 26 years old and every inch the glamour girl when this picture was taken in January of 1945. I'm sorry to say that neither myself nor my sister was this pretty when we were 26.

At 88, Mom is past the glamorous stage, but she is, if you'll pardon the cliché, she's cute as a button (you might be able to click on both photos to enlarge them). Her height in her prime years was a mere five feet, one-and-a-half inches. She's now down to four-eleven because of age and shrinkage (I tease her that she'd make a great jewel thief because she probably doesn't leave fingerprints anymore). She complains that she has to take two steps for every one step everybody else takes because of her short legs, and a pet peeve of hers is steep stairs and high-sitting SUVs. But she walks quite well, without using a cane. She has the enthusiasm of a little girl when presented with a new experience, like riding a double-decker commuter train when I brought her into the city. She constantly reminds me that she would have lived here in Chicago had she married the GI she was seeing before my father came along and made her forget all about him.

I'm just tickled pink to have her here and am already looking forward to joining her on a trip out West in the fall.


Donna D said...

Wow! God bless your mom! She looks terrific. I hope you really enjoy the time with her. It's a blessing that she's in good health and able to travel and visit with you.

Have fun!

P.S. She was a looker!

bettye griffin said...

Thanks, Donna! I'm definitely enjoying quality time with her.


Patricia W. said...

Your mom is beautiful.

I understand your angst. We have a lot in common. Youngest child, born to older parents. (My dad was 50 when I entered this world!) Recently moved away from widowed mom. (Mine turned 86 this year.)

I'm so glad you're getting to spend time with your mother. I hope to see mine soon.

Gwyneth Bolton said...

Girl, have fun with your mom! I love the story about how your parents met. You need to put that in a book. LOL.


bettye griffin said...

Nice to know that someone else had middle-aged parents. My friends' parents were easily 15 or 20 years younger than mine. Ironically, my parents outlived many of them.

We've had a great time! Lots of quality time, and since my husband is still out of town I didn't feel like I was neglecting him. Mom goes home tomorrow (Thursday), and hubby comes home Friday (to be gone again on Tuesday morning).

I'm exhausted and have written very little this week, but I'm also very happy.

Patricia W. said...

Upon seeing them for the first time, folks used to ask me whether my parents were my grandparents! Didn't mind at first in my teen years, I found it annoying.

bettye griffin said...

You definitely have to read my upcoming (May 2008) book, Once Upon A Project. One of the characters is an older mother who gets asked if she's the grandmother.