My Mother’s Daughter – Becoming Me

My nickname is MagCindy.

It’s one of two names my mother called me. I think I have held onto this for over sixty years because it makes me feel closer to my mom. I was 19 years old, one year out of high school and already in the Air Force when she died. It was a devastating loss which I have explored many times, but not today. Today is about a woman I wish I had known as a woman myself. I think we would have learned a lot from each other.

MyMomI was never a risk taker. Mom always was. She was fearless. I was fearFULL. Earlier today I heard someone say that you are never safe in life. But in death, you’re safe. Let that sink in. Since my mother died, I’ve gradually learned to be more like her, but boy has that taken a lot of effort. But I don’t want to be safe. I want to FEEL, even if it’s risky.

Freida Mae Swift Shortt was a tough cookie. Being her daughter meant you had expectations. It wasn’t enough to be something to someone else, you had to be something on your own. It did not matter one iota what that was – but there has to be something. She supported everything I ever did. Civil Air Patrol nerd – check. Struggling artist – check. Waitress – check. Air Force airman – check. She was proud of her kids – each and every one of us – with every accomplishment, big or small – she was beaming with pride.

Mom was also a jokester, embarrassing to a young girl at times, but her intentions were always positive. My friends all loved her. Every kid in the neighborhood was welcome at our house. Whatever we had, she lovingly shared. When we moved from Virginia to Ohio, it was a hoot. We were quite the ‘country come to town’. Mom fried chicken, made biscuits and milk gravy, and made banana salad (banana sliced length wise, smeared with Miracle Whip and covered with chopped peanuts) for dinner. My friends loved to come to our house to eat – she was a great cook. Country all the way, though.

MyMom2Don’t get me wrong, Mom was not domestic-centric. She wanted to be outside and housework was the last thing she ever wanted to do. That was all left to us. We had a wringer washer and no drier. Clothes were hung outside on the line or in the basement. She didn’t have time to waste waiting on wash cycles and spin cycles. Wash, rinse, get out. No, not crazy about being inside, but outside – she was a force to be reckoned with. She played tag football in the front yard with us and loved being around all our friends. She was very much a people person – another way I wish I could have been more like her. She also enjoyed her quiet time, weeding her portulaca or pruning her bleeding heart.

MyMom3In the forty plus years since she passed away, I have learned more about her as a person. I have letters from friends in high school and her sense of humor was always evident. Pictures that have surfaced show her in a way I never imagined. I always knew she was full of life, but seeing her as a young woman with dreams of her own makes me wish so much we had been given the gift of an adult friendship to share. I know we would have been best friends.

Mom never got to see me as a wife, a mother or a grandmother. There would have been some tough talks along the way had she been there. When I made my stupid mistakes – she would not have shied away from those conversations. Mom wasn’t about hiding her feelings. All in all, however, I think she would have been proud of me. Especially today’s me. I hope she would realize that I attribute a lot of who I am to her and the lessons she taught me in those 19 short years we were together.

So how did this woman who seems to be my polar opposite impact who I am? This is a question I pondered for years and years for we are very different. Mom was a ‘you made your bed now you lie in it’ kind of mom on the surface. In actuality, she understood more than she ever let on. She taught me about honesty and speaking your truth, and doing what’s right. She taught me about being prepared to take care of myself should the need ever arise. She taught me how to exist in moments of silence and look my demons dead in the eye. She taught me about sacrifice. Most of all, she taught me about staying above the fray. That was a hard one and I admit I was not always successful at it, but her lessons are still engrained deep in my brain.

IMAG4468-1Moms never stop mothering – at least the good ones. I wish she had been there when my children were born. I wish I could have seen her rock my babies and sing to them. She taught me to sing the songs that would stay with them forever. The simple, easy songs. The ones that you never forget.

Down in the meadow in an itty bitty pool
Swam three little fishies and a Mama fish too
The Mama fish cried ‘now swim if you can’
And the ‘fam and they fam’ all over the dam.

I love you, Mom.


The Birthday Mother’s Day Mix

Today was a mixed bag of worries and blessings. People I love are sick and facing hospital stays and tests and unknowns and it is hard to be on the sidelines watching helplessly as the clock ticks by.

In the midst of the craziness that made up my day, my husband told me to check my phone. We were on our way out to run errands and I didn’t give his words a second thought. As I walked to where my phone was, I saw two boxes. One was a long box and a separate box, square and nondescript. It took a minute, but it hit me that this weekend is Mother’s Day.



I opened the boxes and found beautiful long-stemmed roses from my daughter and daughter-in-law. They were gorgeous. In the other box was an ice-pack and a box of truffle cookies.  Each were packaged with lovely notes straight from the heart. I immediately took a couple of pictures and sent a text thanking them for the thoughtful gifts. I am so blessed to be loved and remembered. The gifts are nice, but it’s really the love that means everything.



DaddyLater in the day, as I checked my phone for messages, I noticed the date. Tomorrow would be my father’s birthday. He would be turning 89 tomorrow if he were still here. 89. Wow. That seems so hard to fathom. Time has gone by so quickly and I miss him so much it guts me. I had a special connection with my Dad – one that I never apologize for even though some people make me feel I should. Dad wasn’t perfect, but to me, he was everything. He loved me – he loved all of us – and that is what I miss. The talks, his deep bass voice, the way he said my name – the advice I never wanted to hear but repeat to myself over and over now. He was my Dad and I miss him.

IMAG4468-1Re-enter Mother’s Day. My mom would also be 89 this year. She was so young when she passed away that 89 doesn’t even seem possible. She will always be young and vibrant to me. She had a smart-assed way of saying what was on her mind and she was SO strong. My sisters got her strength and her wit. I think I got her way of turning inward to process thoughts and feelings. I rarely feel strong. I remember my first Mother’s Day without her. I was living away from home and at the time, long distance calls were quite expensive. I was walking through the mall and passed a group of short wave radio people who had come together to help people make calls home for Mother’s Day. One of the young women asked me if I wanted to call my mom. I just said “No thanks” and walked on. Then her words – “Why, don’t you love your mother?” I wanted to lunge at her and take all my anger out on her, but I didn’t. I just walked away – hurt and feeling lost in this world. It would take many years before I could get through a Mother’s Day without feeling broken.

Now I have the blessing of children and grandchildren and extended family. I am not sad – I am blessed. The timing this year is unusual – Dad’s birthday and Mother’s Day together. So, today I process and just put aside the little girl and remember that I am now the mom and the grandmother and the JOY comes right back.

Tonight I shared my truffles with my husband with a glass of wine. I sent a Snap Chat to thank my girls for the gift. SO MUCH JOY!

I will stay up until midnight, and wish my Dad a Happy Birthday and wish my Mom a Happy Mother’s Day.

Saturday we are meeting my son and his wife and two of my beautiful grandchildren for a sweet Mother’s Day dinner. We will laugh and celebrate this holiday together for the first time in 20 years. It will be perfect.
Today was a day of reflection mixed with JOY and a little worry, but it brought me to a place of gratitude for all I have been blessed with in this life. We are who we surround ourselves with and by those standards, I’m pretty perfect.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Mom, Happy Mother’s day a little early.

Thank you for everything but most of all thanks for the love and the memories. I miss you both and only hope I can somehow in some small way fill those giant shoes for my family.


Happy Birthday, Mom

Mom’s birthday blog. Take four.

The words are not enough. I do not want to describe my mother to people and tell them how strong she was and how hard she fought for her life. I feel like I should tell the world how wonderful she was and how much I miss her but there are no words to convey the emptiness and the void that have filled my heart for the 42 years she has been gone. It took years for the anger and the loss to subside and for me to be able to forgive myself for the anger I felt at her, at cancer and at God. Our family lost our normal when mom died and losing someone as special as my mother is not something you recover from easily or quickly.

MomMom would be 88 years old today.  88!  Wow, that is so hard to fathom. You see, my mom was in her 40’s when she died so she is always young to me. She will never be an old woman in my eyes and my heart. I close my eyes and see her jet black hair and that spark of mischief she had in her eyes. I see her smile and her laugh as everyone around her fell into her spell. Everyone loved her and growing up, all were welcome in our house. My friends came and went and she loved them all. There was always room at our table and no one was ever turned away.

This is not to say there were not ups and downs – of course there were. But those times are easy to set aside in favor of the love and joy in the every day moments of our lives.

As kids, we played records and danced to Chubby Checker in the living room with our parents. I can see Mom doing the twist and the jitterbug just like it was yesterday. I see her resting her chin across Dad’s shoulder and telling us that was how beatniks danced. We sang songs and played games on all our road trips. She always carried round pink mints in her purse on those long trips between Ohio and Virginia. What I took for granted I now know is something that many people never had. We were loved and we learned to love in return.

After Mom was diagnosed with cancer, money was tight. One year, I was invited to a Valentine Sweetheart dance. I was so excited to go and chatted about it nonstop for weeks. One Saturday, Mom asked me to run an errand with her. We got in the car and drove to a discount store (similar to K-Mart) where Mom told me to pick out a dress for the dance. I found a red and white peasant topped dress. It was simple and made of inexpensive fabric, but it was pretty and it was new and Mom made sure I got it. I think back and believe the dress cost $10 but it might as well have cost $200. It meant the world to me.

When I was in high school, Mom made sure I took drivers training although I did not get my license until years later. I was the kid that was terrified of driving and she had to force me to drive when I finally got my learner’s permit. I think she knew how important independence was and that was something she wanted for all her children.

While in the Air Force, I came home to fly to Virginia with Mom. She paid to upgrade my flight to first class (my first first-class trip ever – back then it didn’t cost that much). It made her feel so good that we could have a special moment together and relax and talk. I don’t remember much of anything about the flight but I remember being with Mom and how happy she was and that was all that mattered.

MomUniformMy biggest regret is that I did not have time with my mother as an adult woman. I missed the chance to talk to her about adult problems and just have every day conversations between a mother and her daughter. We did have a lot of conversations when I was in high school about some very deep and meaningful things, but she was busy fighting for her life and I was trying to just get by knowing my mother would not be there much longer. So many times I wanted to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hi, Mom.’ To have her with me when my children were born or to hear her read them the same poems she read to us would have been so amazing. And then to imagine her holding her great-grandchildren is more than I ever dreamed of.

Mom would be proud of the way her children stayed close. Even with distance and marriages and life problems we each experienced, we were always family. We came from a woman who taught us how to love and the importance of always being there.

Mom, a lot has changed since you were here with us but one thing has not. You are loved and you are missed more than you may have ever realized possible. Sometimes it’s a song or a memory or an ornament placed on the Christmas tree that brings me to my knees. But I get up. I remember how you fought and I remember how much you loved us all. For that, I am forever grateful.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love and I miss you SO very much.


Mother’s Day – 2013

Tonight I sit and think about the women that influenced me in my life.  I was one of the fortunate ones that had many, strong-willed, loving and determined women in my life.  Tonight I hope that in some small way, they understand the path I have traveled and in some small way they are proud of me.

My Grandmother Swift (Granny) was bigger than life.  If I close my eyes, I see her with her gray hair pulled up in a bun, falling around her face.  I see her in a house dress, barefoot.  It’s funny that I don’t think of Granny wearing shoes unless she was in the garden or going to Church.  Maybe she’s the reason I kick my shoes off as soon as I walk in the house.  As a young child, I think I was always a little apprehensive around Granny.  She wasn’t one to hug and kiss us a lot as I remember.  She was determined in every movement.  I remember her singing songs, reading poems, rocking in one of the rocking chairs that GrandDaddy made.  She was fiercely independent and steadfast in her faith.  It was very early in my life that she taught me how easily people can twist the Bible to make it say what they want it to say.  I’m so thankful she got to see my daughter and so sad she never got to see my son.  She was a rock to my mother when my mom was sick and it’s only now I think I fully understand how hard it was for her to watch her daughter dying of cancer.  I cannot imagine a pain greater than losing a child.

My Grandmother Short (Mam-Maw) raised us for many years.  We lived with her and I now know and appreciate how hard it was on her to raise her grandchildren – to balance discipline and love and feel the responsibility for more children when your own were grown.  Mam-Maw made elegant deserts and set a beautiful table.  It was the memories of her Blue Ridge dishes – that somehow disappeared – propped up in her china cabinet that made me always want to make a celebration at the table.  Pretty linens, and pretty dishes.  It is her voice I hear in times of sadness or despair – singing Peace in the Valley.  It calms me.  Today, I think of her every time I make a bed.  Maybe she would smile as I throw the bed together and don’t make perfect hospital corners on all those sheets because she would never have done that.  Keeping her house was her life work – no, not keeping a house, keeping a home.  That white house was the home she built for us and I was devastated to lose it.  Maybe that’s why I understand so well how my Grandson feels.

My mother was the rebel in the bunch.  She played semi-pro basketball.  She always wore jeans and cut offs.  She hated housework and loved being outside.  She would rather play a game of touch football than wash a sink full of dishes.  Mom had a spark in her that could not be diminished.  I remember my grandmother telling me that while she was pregnant with my sister, Barb, she put two horses side by side, with one foot on the back of each horse and rode standing up – now this was not something that pleased my Dad at all.  But everyone survived.  Mom loved to read – I think it was her escape and her way of traveling to all the distant places she never got to see.  Once she was in the story – you did not get her out.  “Mom, the house is on fire.”  “Um huh.  That’s good.”  It was so hard to see this woman who was so strong and so independent suffer so much.  We lost her much too early.  She never got to see her grandchildren and I know they would have brought her the same great joy my grandchildren bring to me.  She taught me what it means to be family and the importance of dancing in the living room.  Maybe that’s where I get my silly streak – who knows?

Mary married my Dad after we lost mom.  I don’t refer to her as my step-mother.  She was always Mary – Susie’s mother.  Mary was my friend, my advisor, my long-distance phone call on many, many long and lonely nights.  She taught me what it meant to forgive and to move forward and never look back.  We watched soap operas together, spilled spaghetti on the floor, secretly poured gravy that refused to thicken down the drain all the time swearing we never made any!  She reminded me of the value of family and face to face conversation.  It was my time with this remarkable and faithful woman who helped me untangle the most difficult time of my life.  I don’t think I could have ever forgiven myself without her there to guide me.  Thank you Susie and Tommy for sharing her with me.

That brings me to the two remarkable women I was fortunate enough to have as sisters – Rosie and BJ.  Rosie had the fiery temper – she spoke her mind and never looked back.  She was ALWAYS there.  Not just for me, but for anyone that was down on their luck.  She had a heart bigger than anyone.  I remember how much I always envied her talents.  She made her own clothes, she taught herself to play guitar and she knew more about politics than I will ever know.  BJ was my big sister with the big, beautiful laugh that never met a stranger.  She, too, would give you the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it.  She was there for my daughter during one of the hardest times of her life – when I could not be there – and for that I will be forever grateful.  We were young moms together when neither of us had our own mom to lean on.  We lost Rosie much too early, and I refuse to let go of BJ.  Rosie always lives in our conversations and memories.  And there will always be the cabin…

So many strong beautiful women in my life – this just scratches the surface.  I have been blessed with such good role models and friends.  Throughout my life I have tried to honor them by telling their stories and keeping them all ever-present in my life.  On this Mothers’s Day I am thankful and proud of my history and the legacy of such rare breeds of women.   I would not be who I am without them and I feel grateful that they loved me throughout my life even with all my quirks and faults.  I know I am a very, very lucky woman.

I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who continue to love, nurture and support the lives of others.  To me,  this is the true spirit of motherhood.   I have been blessed to have so many of these women in my life.  I am also blessed to know that all my grandchildren have these same types of strong beautiful women as their mothers.  And to my grandchildren yet to be born – you are already loved.  You will be born into a family of fabulous women and I can only hope that one day, they tell you the stories of those who paved the way for all of us.