Memories flood my brain, the few I have of my dad who would be 100 years old on February 28, and many memories of my mother who will be dead five years on February 28. I can no longer remember what Dad’s and Mom’s voices sounded like although I’d like to think I would recognize their voices if I heard them. I do remember stories of their lives though and that’s what I’ll tell for the next week until the anniversaries arrive on February 28.
After my father died in 1984, my mother accepted an invitation from my father’s step-sister to visit. Aunt Gladys lived in Yucaipa, California in a “mobile home” park, which back here we would have called a “trailer” park. I made that mistake one day and Aunt Gladys explained to me the difference. People in mobile home parks lived refined lives of leisure and only lived in them because they were maintenance-free. The occupants of trailer parks came from the lower classes. Following that lecture, I never made the “trailer/mobile home” mistake again.
Aunt Gladys was a good ten years older than Mom and lived a life of abundance unlike my mother’s budgeted living. Despite these disparities, they got along famously. They shared a common Midwestern background and a common family history. My mother always liked elderly people (a trait she passed on to me). She enjoyed their stories and my aunt had tons of them to tell from a life lived away from Missouri for nearly 60 years.
Mom had never traveled much and she fretted over going to “foreign” places like California. She decided to take precautions. I never knew the extent of them until I traveled with her to visit my aunt.
The three of us had gone to the grocery store and my mother offered to pay. I noticed that she didn’t have her billfold with her.
“Mom, did you leave your billfold in the car?”
“No, honey, I don’t carry one. It’s too dangerous.”
“How are you going to pay for the groceries? Here, let me buy them.”
She slapped my hand. “No, I have money.” She reached into her pants much to the shock of the clerk and me. She fiddled with her underwear, or so it seemed, struggling to free something. A couple of minutes later, she pulled out two safety pins and laid them on the belt before she extracted a $20 bill to pay for the groceries.
As the clerk watched, mesmerized by the woman who pulled cash out of her underwear, my mother took the safety pins, stuck them back in her pants and looked up, pleased as punch. The transaction completed, we walked out of the store.
“Mom, do you keep money in your underwear?”
“No. That would be silly I have a security pouch sewn into every pair of pants I wear. It’s much safer that way.” When we returned to Aunt Gladys’ mobile home, my mother showed me her “security pouch” collection.
Always the practical one, she’d hand-sewn pouches from unbleached muslin, washed them so they’d shrink and then sewn them onto the waistbands of all the pants she planned to take on her trip. For added security, she safety-pinned the sewn pockets to the waistbands and then safety-pinned them shut, a sort of two-step system. When she went out, she placed her money and state ID in the pouch and safety-pinned it shut.
When I moved her to the senior citizens’ apartments after her fall, we sat in the house and went through every article of clothing she possessed to decide what went with her and what went in the trash. She had made almost all of her clothes, except for her blouses. It was a painful process to cull through 56 years of accumulated clothing.
At one point she threw a pair of pants at me. “Throw those in the trash. I won’t be traveling anymore.” Inside the waistband, still securely sewn in place, was her security pouch.