Mother

By Bob Litton

I thought I would write another memoir about Mother—one concentrated more on the positive things about her as a person and her struggles. However, I just now re-read my May 11, 2014, post about her and saw that, while I had indeed written perhaps too much about the emotional distance that developed between us, I had also related some of the good moments we shared. No need to repeat those.

I will mention one part of our history together that I neglected in that earlier post.

I attended a small, privately-run kindergarten with thirteen other children. One day I was surprised on being informed by our teacher that a cab was waiting outside for me. I had never ridden in a cab before, much less alone. The cab driver took me downtown where Mother was waiting at her workplace, a dress factory called Lorch’s; she was a silk-finisher there. (Mother made all my shirts while I was in elementary school.) Lorch’s was a couple of blocks from the original Sanger Brothers department store, where, each Christmas season, the delightful mechanical elves hammered away at toys in the display window.

Mother’s workday had concluded by the time I arrived. We walked from there to a hole-in-the-wall book-and-magazine store a short distance away, one of my favorite places of all time. After I had selected a couple of used comic books and Mother had picked out a book for herself to read, we continued on to a nearby cafeteria for supper. Then we went to a movie theater on “theater row”.

After we got out of the movie house, it was getting dark. We boarded a street car headed for our neighborhood, and that’s when the biggest treat of the day happened: I could view all the colorful marquee, business, and street lights; and, closer to home, smell the aroma of bread baking at the Mrs. Baird’s factory. After that experience I had a hard time going to sleep without a streetcar ride downtown to see the lights. I think I made a nuisance of myself because of that addiction.

I regret that every time I write about Mother—as in the anecdote above—her image and character seem too pale, as though she had the supporting role in a play, not the central role; but I guess that is inevitable since I am writing essentially about my own memory.

That’s all I want to add as text to last year’s essay, but I will include some photos of Mother that I did not publish before. Interested readers can find the other two writings about Mother by clicking on the titles at the bottom of this blog post page.

Maurine (right) and Dorothy Tanberg in citrus orchard, Combes, TX, in 1928

Maurine Emily Tanberg (r.) at age 18 and her sister Dorothy Irene Tanberg at age 16 standing in front of a fruit tree (orange or grapefruit) in 1928. Their father, Carl Anton Tanberg, started his citrus farm in 1913, in the Rio Grande Valley. One of Mother’s brothers, Carl Lee Tanberg, continued it as such for a few decades and then transformed it into a grass farm.

Maurine Emily Tanberg as a teen on her horse Ned in the Rio Grande Valley

Maurine on the family horse Ned. Her father, in his brief memoir, “Family Gems”, wrote that Maurine was  the only one in the family who could stay in the saddle whenever temperamental Ned took off on one of his unexpected runs. Maurine and her brother Norman were excellent equestrians, their father wrote. The progeny numbered four boys and four girls, all of whom survived far into adulthood.

Maurine Emily Tanberg-Litton-Smithart about a year before she died in Dallas

Maurine Emily Tanberg-Litton-Smithart a year before she died in Dallas, Texas, at age 84. She had suffered a mild stroke a couple of months earlier. Oddly enough, during the year after her stroke she appeared to be in the best health she had seen in decades; her cheeks were rosier and her outlook more cheerful. She liked this photo better than any other because absent is what she called her “hangdog look” that marred many of her earlier photos. (She had sometimes used a razor blade to slice her face out of photos in which she appeared with others.) Actually, all the Tanbergs had prominent indentations between their cheeks and their lips; but Mother had an absurdly poor self-image. While, yes, a plain woman, she was not nearly as ill-featured as she imagined herself to be.

Rest in peace, Mama!!!

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