Native Writes: Memories come with May


Springtime in the San Luis Valley is as varied as its people, but the memory of one remains.

Call her Momma, Mommy, Mama, Mom or another sweet nickname, everyone has or had one.

We become sentimental as lilacs begin budding and leaves appear on trees and bushes. The sound of trimmers and lawnmowers pierces sunny afternoons and the people begin warm weather routines.

My mother loved lilacs and waited for them to bloom. She also loved the muddy hunt for wild asparagus in late May and into June. That was physical dirt. My mental messes were another matter.

Those lucky persons who still have their mothers should give extra thanks. There is something special about that maternal unit.

I was usually able to discuss my feelings with my mother, who listened and commented — or not. Her belief, and I think it is sound, was that the solution to a problem existed within it and talking usually brought it out where it could be resolved.

Looking back, I think she just didn’t want to argue with me. She laid down the law when necessary, though.

When I was a teenager, I figured my mom was sitting on the moral lap of Queen Victoria. Liberal politically, she was not a free thinker where I was concerned.

The one item she protested and wept about was the Elvis Presley underpants I saw at a downtown store and took her to see, thinking she would love and buy them.

She declared that, if I really wanted them, they would be bought with my own money, but I could do some extra chores to earn a larger allowance. She suggested I give up popcorn when I went to the movies and put that money, all 10 cents of it, into savings.

She had given me a bank that had to be opened by the banker, with the money going into a “real” savings account.

I began hiding my funds in my bedroom where she might not find them. It was a gamble since she had found the bootleg copy of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” I had hidden in my pillow.

It was 1955, I was 15 and the $2.98 price tag on the forbidden underwear loomed large. I couldn’t wheedle it out of my grandfather and my aunts were on mom’s side.

I decided neither of them would get a Mother’s Day card from me. I would tell them I saved the money for… guess what?

Worse yet, my birthday was within a few days after Mother’s Day and I didn’t dare make too much of a deal of it.

I made cards for my aunts and bought my mom a lacy hankie. It took 25 cents out of the savings cache.

I received books and socks, but not the coveted underwear.

I kept going back to the store to ensure the item was still there. It never moved. I guess no one else wanted it as bad as I did.

A sweet woman clerk approached me and suggested that, if I really wanted the underwear, I could buy it on lay-away. I did.

When I finally became owner of the panties, I rushed home to hide them. I got caught.

My mom lectured me on honesty, frugality and self-reliance, noting that they were essential to a solid adulthood. She must have had a crystal ball. “You will remember buying these long after you’ve forgotten them and all your other little whims.”

In addition, I would have to wear the panties under my layers of petticoats, so no one except family and close friends would ever see them. My enjoyment popped its elastic and fell apart. I carefully put the underwear in a drawer with all my other “unmentionables.”

I think I wore them twice and have no idea what happened to them. A conspiracy theorist on TV has suggested that Elvis is still alive. Maybe he knows.

My mom laughed about them until the grandsons were old enough to understand, then they were never mentioned again.

Unmentionables.

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