Letters from a Housewife

I’ve learned something about my mother that I sort of knew, but didn’t truly appreciate.  She wanted to be a writer.  She wrote a lot over the course of her life and I now have those writings.  She wrote short stories, she wrote historical novels, she wrote mystery novels, she journaled about things she experienced – in short, she was a a closet writer, like I am.  I have been reading through her work and have found some interesting things. 

I find I like her voice as a writer much more in the writing she did in her journals or observations.  In her fiction, she tends to sound “writerly”, if that’s a thing.  I remember one time she shared a story with me that she was working on.  I was about 15 and considered myself fairly experienced with fiction – as a reader.  I told her that people didn’t really talk like that, so it sounded fake.  She took some offense at my comment, and didn’t share much of her work with me after that.  I have a feeling she didn’t appreciate my critical review.  In hindsight (and re-reading), I stand by my assessment.  I will try to remember that in my own work – along with learning to be a little more sensitive in giving feedback in the future.

I wanted to share this piece with you today, mostly because mom is on my mind a lot, as it’s the first anniversary of her death. I also wanted to share it because it provides  great insight into who she was as a mom.  This piece was written in the summer of 1959, I believe.  She refers to her 3 pre-school kids – I was far from school at that point, but suffice it to say she had her hands full – 5 year old Jan, 2 year old Kev, and me – about 6 months, I guess.  That’s a lot of work, but she seems to just take it in stride.
I learned from this that I attended an Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops concert at Golden Gate Park.  Of course, I have no memory of the concert, but apparently, I was there.  How cool is that? I also learned that tacos were a novelty at that time and homes could be purchased in San Jose for $99 down.  It is a remarkable snapshot into their lives from that era.
I tried to type it up exactly as she had it. What is missing are the overtypes, the corrections and the feel of the old-time typewriter.  It was on yellow paper and ran about 7 pages long in the original.  I envision her, typing in the evening after we are all asleep, maybe sitting outside so the noise wouldn’t bother us so much in the small trailer.  I expect she also typed up my dad’s school papers.  She was the typist in our family – dad was all thumbs.  One thing I remember most about his doctoral years was the sound of mom typing at night, working on dad’s dissertation for him.  And she did more than type – she was a good editor and knew how to make things read better. 
I hope you enjoy it and do as I will today – think about your mom and all the rich experiences you’ve had with them.  Mine was a wonderful mother. I hope this gives you the chance to know her as I do – and that you feel a little closer to her for the time it takes to read it.  I know it did for me.

3 thoughts on “Letters from a Housewife

  1. I enjoyed reading your mother’s writing! In 1959 I would have been 6 years old. This makes me wonder what my own mother was thinking about at that time with 3 little ones of her own? We lived in rural Oklahoma, nothing much to do but chase chickens and play in a pond. Still, they were good times for a child. And the suburbs–they’re worse now than ever before, I believe. Nothing but rooftops and one house looking much like the other.

    Nice post. 🙂

  2. I loved reading your Mom’s story…I could picture “the Dode”, chuckling as she was telling it. It made me feel like I was reading Betty McDonald…warm, homey, Northwest-ish, funny and full of descriptive, multi-sensory language. Thank you for sharing it 🙂

  3. I was a year old in 1959. I was in San Francisco the last time, in 2007 and boy has it changed! But then a lot has changed here in CA. Your mom’s writing was awesome. So wonderful that you have that and those memories. I lost my mom in ’99, hardest thing I’ve ever been through. In fact I just wrote on my blog 2 days ago, “Things your mom told you”
    Thank you so much for sharing. Sending Hugs to you.

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