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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Small steps and giant memories with Mom

Apr 27, 2024 08:56AM ● By Tom Preble

Times were different when I was a lad. There were giants on the Earth in those days. 

My parents were the biggest giants of all. But it wasn’t just them—friends’ parents, teachers and Scout leaders all seemed larger than life. 

Mom was tall and leggy, though to my child-sized perspective, everyone appeared that way. I recognized people by their kneecaps and calves. With her long legs, Mom could cross the room in three strides and “snatch you bald-headed” if you were doing something you shouldn’t—like poking at the silver-bubbled centers of Dad’s loudspeakers. In those same long strides, she could just as quickly scoop you up and kiss your elbow or skinned knee and soothe the worst problem in the world.

I remember spending lots of time with Mom before I was dragooned into kindergarten. We frequented the park and circled the big pond together—her with her long strides and I with my eager, yet shorter steps. 

She would moderate her pace to match mine, reaching down to hold my hand. Together, we counted each step around the pond: “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Eeek! Eeek! My knees feel weak!” Through these simple walks, my mother taught her small boy to count.

One day, Mom proposed a deal to my older brother and me that seemed too good to be true. If we agreed to eat wieners and baked beans for a week, she would use some of her grocery money to purchase each of us a small battery-powered boat for the pond. 

True to her word, not only did she buy us those tiny boats, but she also made time to take us to the pond. As we launched our boats, I worried. Would the boat get stuck in weeds in the middle of the pond? Would the weak little battery poop out and the boat sink? I could only stand helplessly on the bank and watch the tiny boat as it made its brave but feeble way to the other side of the pond, bobbing over wavelets and passing potentially ill-tempered geese. Whenever they reached the opposite bank, Mom would laugh gently, embrace us and reassure us, “See? Nothing to worry about.”

One day, Mom and Dad brought home the second-best gift they could have given a small boy. Mom sat me down and tenderly placed my new little sister into my 5-year-old lap. As I gazed at the sleeping bundle, and then slowly looked up at Mom, my eyes were wide with love and awe for the wonders life continued to show me and the trust she had in me to cradle my new sibling.

As I grew older and my legs grew longer, I found more ways to assist the special lady who always kept my best interests at heart. Mom taught tennis lessons to earn some extra money, and I would run around collecting the stray balls. 

Mom’s beauty wasn’t just the “pretty as a picture” sort. She had grace and power, though I lacked the words to describe it then. 

We made trips to a store in town on her old, dark green English bicycle. In those days, there were no child seats for bikes, so I’d sit on the rear rack, gripping the back of her leather saddle tightly. 

“Mind your feet,” she would caution. “Keep them out of the spokes!” 

With every pedal, her strength pulsed, carrying us miles through town and up the steep hill back to our home.

Mom always expected the best of her children. We were “of good stock,” she would say, confident that we would excel in school and in life. 

Regarding my earlier mention of my sister as the second-best gift, let me clarify: the greatest gift Mom gave to all her children was her time. 

The fondest memories of my youth aren’t of tangible objects or structured activities, but to moments spent together—learning, laughing and being surrounded by love. Mom brought stories to life for us, her voice lending shape and color to the adventures of “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Jungle Book.” Our imaginations were rich with vivid imagery long before these tales were made into movies. 

Mom’s death was sudden and unexpected. 

I didn’t see her or Dad this past Thanksgiving, as they live far away. However, I cherish the memory of the last time I saw her. I told her how much I loved her, and as I bent down to kiss her forehead, I realized my legs had grown much longer than hers. 

Mothers are so very important to their children and to the world. My mom was a remarkable woman and I know she masked her worries well. I’m grateful she lived long enough to see all her little boats bob through the waves and safely reach the shore.