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Katrina Willis "Table for Six"
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Ever since I can remember holding a pen, I remember writing. Words are my constant companion, my solace, my connection to humanity. I write because I must, but I also write to share a common experience. If one of my sentences makes you feel like you are not alone in this wide world, then I have done my job. We have so much to share as human beings, don’t we? Thank you for letting me share my words.
Mama Love
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Mama Love

January 08, 2014 | 12:21 PM

It is her birthday today, my Mama. And also, Elvis's.

I always have to do the math. Mom had me when she was 30… I am 43… that makes her 73 today.

73 years is a long time to be loved unconditionally, and yet my Mom has always been up to the task. We may not have had much materially when we were young, but Carrie and I were loved and cherished with abundance. Our Mom, she never skimped on that.

Here's what I remember from my childhood:

Trips to Ernie's on payday to restock the Cheerios, the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, the ground beef. Anxiously watching the total tally on the cash register, fingers crossed, hoping there would be enough money left over for Twinkies.

Hanging out at Anderson Family Practice while she finished the day's work. Watching her meticulously balance the books, punching buttons on the adding machine, careful to ensure every number was perfect.

Special occasions when we went out to dinner -- to Jim Dandy, the Brandywine, the Suhr's -- and splitting a meal amongst the three of us.

Accompanying her to the beauty salon to watch David work his magic.

Resting my head on her lap, breathing in the scent of her lotion and shampoo while we watched "Happy Days," then "Laverne & Shirley."

Watching her morning beauty routine: a simple, magical mix of Dove soap, dime store lotion, blush, mascara, and lipstick.

Winter and summer vacations at Lake Tippecanoe with the Tosicks.

Black hair dye in the bathroom sink.

Listening to the stories of her childhood: eight kids, one bathroom, shaving her legs on the side of the tub while simultaneously bathing her baby brothers.

Evenings spent in the company of her life-long best friend, Kay, and Charlie the Worm.

Brown County weekend road trips in the Chevette, Carrie and I stretched out on blankets and pillows in the backseat, Granny eagerly awaiting our arrival.

The abundant laughter and love of her large and loyal circle of friends.

Standing bedside while she battled pneumonia, praying with all my Catholic-girl might for her quick and complete recovery.

Ironing my white St. Michael's blouses in the hallway while Carrie curled her hair at the make-up mirror on the kitchen table; Mom scurrying around, preparing for another day at work.

Hamburger Pie and tuna casserole and cherry chip birthday cakes.

The undisputed blanket of her love wrapped around me, and the abiding fear of losing her to some unknown, unseen tragedy. Daily post-Communion Mass prayers to keep the three of us together forever.

Her wicked dance moves and a smile that illuminated everything in her orbit.

Helping me bake hamster treats for Hinky Jo in my Easy Bake Oven.

Elegant fingers gripping a Merit Ultra Light; flakes of tobacco stuck to the gum in her purse.

A baby doll under every Christmas tree.

Loud, loving family gatherings with our grandparents, her seven siblings, our cousins.

Finding her asleep on the couch in the morning, paperwork from her third job scattered on the floor beside her.

Watching her (and Aunt Mimi) earn their black belts with Master Yoon.

The parade of male admirers that courted her, fell in love with her, asked for her hand in marriage.

Basking in the light of her beauty; wishing my round, freckled face would magically turn into her stunning, angular, olive-colored one.

Her wicked sense of humor that would bring my cousins to their laughing knees.

Walking to the Robaks every Christmas Eve; spending Christmas day with Aunt Janie, Uncle Charlie, David, and Matt.

The arrangements she made with my sweet Uncle Chuck so I had a date for the father/daughter Brownie dance.

Her brave, hard-working, uninhibited spirit.

Neil Diamond, John Denver, Carole King, Willie Nelson, and Kenny Rogers.

Her face in the crowd at every basketball, volleyball, or softball game I played -- even if she didn't understand any of the rules.

Ice skating in the field behind our apartment, at Lake Tippecanoe, at the Coliseum.

Her requests for private concerts: "Just sing that one for me one more time, Trinks."

Here's what I remember from my childhood:

Not nearly enough.

And everything that mattered.


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