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A day to remember

Apartment 40sI don’t remember the house we lived in when I was born. My earliest recollections happened here, in the building pictured, where we lived in an apartment over the store housed below. And my most vivid memory took place when I was about six years old.

It was a crisp fall morning. I woke up to the smell of tomatoes cooking. I got out of bed quietly so as not to awaken my baby sister and walked into the kitchen where my mother was stirring tomatoes she planned to can. I knew she was canning because I saw the Mason jars lined up on the table. My mother was still dressed in her long, blue chenille robe. Apparently she’d been in the kitchen for a while.

“Oh, Patricia,” she said, “I’m glad you’re up. Here. Stand on this stool and keep stirring the tomatoes while I go downstairs and get some more Mason jars.”

Since my mother wasn’t the kind to allow her daughters to do much in the kitchen, I was thrilled to have this job. I took the wooden spoon she held out and climbed up on the indicated stool and began stirring.

The next thing I remember is my mother’s scream and then the sound of her falling down the stairs. I threw down the spoon and ran to the head of the long flight of stairs leading to our outside door as well as the storage closet below. My mother lay like a broken doll at the bottom. I ran downstairs, crying all the way. When I reached my mother, she managed to say, “Get help.”

Frantic, I ran next door and roused our neighbor, who was a friend of my mother’s. I vaguely remember the ambulance that arrived soon after, the way the EMTs gently placed my mother inside, and how the neighbor cared for me and my sister until help arrived. I don’t remember who came — whether it was one of my mother’s sisters or my dad, who worked in the steel mill and probably wouldn’t have been reachable until quitting time.

I also don’t know how severe my mother’s injuries were or how many weeks it took for her to recuperate. I know she hurt her back very badly. I think it was broken, but I can’t be sure. I do know her back gave her problems for the rest of her life and she was often in pain because of it.

I wish I remembered more. I also wish I’d asked more questions when my parents were alive to answer them. Their lives were hard, but they never complained. I think they were grateful for what they had, and I know they were proud of their daughters. So I guess I remember the most important thing of all: they loved us and thought we were wonderful and could accomplish just about anything. That’s a pretty great memory, isn’t it?

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