Today was Mom's funeral. I wrote the Eulogy:
Margaret Sylvester. She was just one person but had a lot of personalities, alter-egos and names!!! Margaret is her given name but she would answer to a whole slew of different ones - Honey, Marg, Mag, Peg, Mom. I think of all of them, her favorite one was Nanny.
Mom grew up over here on Spring Valley Street in the 1920’s – the depression. We always heard stories of mashed potato sandwiches, sharing a bed with Aunt Viney, being on ‘relief’, plucking a chicken (and the smell it) and getting milk at school because she was too skinny! That irony inevitably made her laugh!
Mom lived in Beacon all her life but never drove a day of it. Donna tried to give her a driving lesson once (I mean once) down the ‘old’ driveway… I was sitting on the concrete steps up to the back porch when my mother barreled into the garbage cans! End of driving lessons… Living on Oak Street meant she could walk to all the places she needed or wanted to go so she felt she never needed to drive. Whether it was to get her hair done with Mary Ellen, pick up a few things at the store or have lunch with Lois and Butch at Quinn's she walked all over town.
But that didn’t mean she didn’t go other places. My mother was carted around by more people than you can imagine. Aunt Viney would pick her up for the weekly trip to Price Chopper for grocery shopping – it was quite an event that always included lunch. Besides her kids, Nancy and Sue would take her out regularly for breakfast as did Ella for dinner. She was entirely spoiled by those around her who enjoyed her company for the smiles she brought them.
Then there was Dad. Henry spoiled her most of all. When Dad left us, we had some big shoes to fill. We did the best we could, but she was angry that he left and let us know it! I’m sure she’s giving him a hard time right now! They both had this finger thing – I can see it now. Dad shaking his big sausage finger at Mom and she waving her crooked finger back at him! Ahhh True Love! They showed it in their own way. The thought of them being back together makes me happy.
For all of my 49 years I had to convince her that I didn't look like her. She'd say 'You look like me' and I'd say 'No Mom, I hate to break it to you but I look like Dad. Donna looks like you!' She was happy with that because 'Donna is such a pretty girl' and I'd hear all about how the boys (The King and The Prince) and ‘aren’t they so funny!’ And then there’s me – the baby of the group. The others say I was spoiled – yeah, I’d have to agree.
As sweet and funny as she was, she was a tough cookie growing up. There was not a lot of yelling in our house, but if you got the 'evil eye' or the 'cold shoulder' you knew you were in big trouble! The silent treatment was one of her favorite methods of motherly torture! Mom was notorious for staying up and waiting for you to come home after a night out... There'd she be at 4am laying on the sofa with a puzzle book wide awake waiting for us to come through the door. She never did quite understand why we had to stay out that late, but never stopped us from doing so. Of course, we had to sit and have a reasonable conversation before going to bed just as a test. She supplied plenty of guilt to make you think twice before doing anything wrong!
You could always count on a pot of coffee being on at our house. I have fond memories of mom sitting with coffee, a cigarette and a Harlequin Romance. Being in the center of town meant everyone stopped over to visit. I could guarantee when I would walk thru the door after school, any of my aunts or Mom’s friends would be sitting at the table with her chatting and laughing, coffee cup and cigarette in hand. There might be a Pokeno or card game going on – some high stakes gambling! Dinner was promptly at 5 o’clock so everyone had to be gone in time to cook.
Saturday nights held even more gambling with Aunt Viney and Uncle Roc! (I’m feeling a theme here.) They would rotate game sites and would play several different games and serve snacks. Thursdays was Sewing Club where not a lot of sewing was going on! Whatever it was, there was always plenty of chatter and laughter with her friends. The occasional bus trip to Atlantic City was also a source of fun with Fran and the crew.
Mom was a great cook who never used low-fat or low-sodium anything! Her claim to fame were her meatballs and sauce – pretty good for not being a bit Italian! She would credit the ‘old’ grandmother with teaching her that skill. Roni’s were on the menu at least once a week. You could always count on your favorite dish for your birthday and the grand children could expect theirs anytime.
My mother was a very religious woman and always had her prayer on her lips and her rosary beads in her hand. She spent the last 2 years at the Lutheran home attending services there but it wasn’t the same as coming to her church – St. Joachim. She wasn’t born a Catholic, but converted as an adult. She gave us a good solid background in our religion, but never was one to be prejudice of others of different faiths. I will never forget when I was engaged. She wasn’t upset that I was marrying a Jew she knew I loved him and he loved me. In fact, she embraced it. She simply said to me – ‘as long as there is religion in your home, that’s the important thing’.
But there was also this twinkle in her eyes – those big blue eyes. I’ll never forget when I realized how funny my Mother was. She was quite the troublemaker at a baby shower or a Tupperware party! It was like she was a different person in the company of these women-only parties – if you know what I mean! She had plenty to say about everyone and laughed about everything. At a wedding, her big move was the hip shake and she was happy to take credit for my dancing ability. Hard to believe she never drank a drop of liquor!
But her real pride and joy were her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Each one was so special to her and they in turn hold a special place for her in their hearts as evidenced by the beautiful group in front of me. Nanny was the one person who made you feel good no matter what – no judgement, just love. She would have done anything for them. They brought her such joy even to the very end.
We laugh often over some of the things she would say – I’ll call them Nannyism’s.
She brought smiles and joy to our lives and her memory will live on in us.