By Mark Carpenter
Last week I wrote about growing up in our little neighborhood, but in describing all of our sports exploits, I neglected to mention the one person in each of our homes who really had total control of what we were doing. In lieu of Mother’s Day being last Sunday, I think it only proper that the real bosses of our “hood” get their just due.
You often see a Facebook post that mentions how growing up years ago meant no clocks, just play from sunup to sundown. Well, there actually was a clock in every house that we had to pay very strict attention to. You guessed it-Mom! No matter what we were doing outside, one person had the power to get us in the house and change our plans immediately. Yep-Mom. If Mom stepped out the front door and into the front yard and beckoned, we had better heed the call.
As you all know, the role of “Mom’ has changed considerably since the days of my youth. June Cleaver is a distant memory in households today where both parents need to work just for families to be able to make ends meet. My house was a pretty unique situation. My family ran a factory in Higginsport (about eight miles down the road) where they made baby shoes (more on that later). My Dad would be the one who got up early and headed for the factory, while Mom stayed behind and took care of all of the morning “Mom” duties, which usually meant having my bowl of Captain Crunch ready.
In the summer around mid-morning, Mom would throw my brother, sister, and I in the station wagon and head to Higginsport to do her part in the family business, which usually began with secretarial-like duties and then moved back into some part of the shoe assembly line, along with Dad, my grandmother, my grandfather, my uncle, and a bunch of ladies who adopted me as one of their own, though their cigarette smoke literally killed me.
Now, what were two boys to do stuck in Higginsport for an afternoon? Of course, we created a baseball field in the open yard next to the factory. Hit one on the roof of the factory and you had a homer. More than a few times I went deep in my best Bartolo Colon style (present-day reference there). When I wasn’t dominating the pitching of my younger brother, I could be found headed down the street to the Bookmobile which always stopped at the Higginsport park. Who was usually there with me? You got it again-Mom. I have a whole bunch of good memories from that factory in Hi-Port, except for when I had to work there during my summers off from college and it was about 150 degrees inside, but even then that same bunch of ladies kept it entertaining.
Back at home, we scattered out in the neighborhood for the usual business while Mom went to the kitchen and did one of the things that she still does best to this day-she cooked! I should mention that lunch for me usually meant a couple of bologna sandwiches, the energy needed to continue my quest to be the neighborhood home run king. I knew when I saw Dad’s car pull up the driveway, supper time was near and if it was a good day, Mom’s macaroni was waiting for me. Still my favorite dish of all-time. After we all sat at the table and ate dinner, yes I said all sat at the table, it was either time to head back outside until darkness rolled in or head to the living room to enjoy our three channels of television.
In the summer of course, many of my evenings were spent on the baseball diamond in my Knothole days with my Dad as the coach. (Check out the 1969 Ripley “D” team, one of the best ever.) Dad was the coach, but you know who the biggest cheerleader was. There was none of this silly “bring snacks for the kids” stuff, we were a bit tougher than that in our wool uniforms on the hottest days of the summer, and our teams had some pretty tough Moms on the sidelines, mine leading the way. You’d have to check with her, but I think she may have been ejected from the premises a few times.
I am lucky enough to still have my Mom around, but those days of my youth with her being in charge were some of the best ever. I only wish my age and fading memories allowed me to remember even more. I mentioned earlier that my folks made baby shoes and guess what, they still do. The factory has gotten much smaller and moved to their garage but they are still at it at the ripe old ages of 82 and 81. You can drive up one of the steepest hills in Ripley to their house and likely will find them in the garage, with Dad on the cutting machine and Mom with a baby shoe in tow and cement all over her hands. It’s rather cool actually, though I wish they could just retire and see the world. After all the gray hair my brother and I have given them, they deserve that much, but there’s something to be said for being close to home and they don’t stray too far.
Mom and Dad didn’t even want to go out for Mother’s Day, so my family and I bought pizza and took it to their house, enjoying their new furniture and television set. They bought couches with recliners on each end and I imagine after all their years of hard work and parenting, they deserve to put their feet up every once in awhile. At least until Dad asks her to get up and get his ice cream. I’m just hoping that she doesn’t get so angry with Bryan Price that she throws something at her new TV set and smashes it to pieces.
The role of the Mom has changed today and in my eyes, that is not a good thing. The world needs more June Cleavers, Carol Bradys, and Marion Cunninghams, and that simpler time of life. If you are lucky as I am to still have your mother, I hope that you made last Sunday a special day. If you have lost your mother, I hope that your heart is filled with many beautiful memories and Sunday brought a smile to your face as you thought back. Funny, the little boy who ran around that Ripley neighborhood is grown up and married to a Mom who gave him the two greatest kids on earth (just a little biased but you all better say the same about your own kids). Life really does come full circle, but none of it would be possible without Mom. I’m just a few days late, but Happy Mother’s Day to you all, especially the ones who ruled the roost on Meadow Lane Drive.