Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Real June Cleaver

My friend Susan's mother passed away a couple weeks ago. I find it ironic that Mrs. L died just one week after the passing of Barbara Billingsly the iconic June Cleaver. Mrs. L was the real-life June Cleaver.

I have very fond memories of time spent in Mrs. L's house as a teenager. Susan and I were best friends from our early teens through our 20's. I loved being at Susan's house as much to be around her mother as to hang out with Susan.

I don't mean this as a slight to my own mother, but ours was a different family. I had responsibility and chores to do from an early age. They were good to me, gave me all the love and attention I needed but I did not get the type of attention that Susan and her brother got. The same attention I received when I stayed there. Mrs. L was always a stay at home mom. My mother worked part time in my earliest years and then full time from my fifth grade on.

Lots of the things Mrs. L did for her kids, and me when I was there, weren't the types of things that necessarily help children learn responsibilities, but her philosophy was that there was time for that. She was the kind of mother who cut the crusts off your peanut butter sandwich, picked up your wet towels from the bathroom floor without complaint, and brushed Susan's hair long after it was necessary. She just made life in general easy. Staying with Susan was a little escape for me.

I don't look back on the responsibilities put on me at an early age negatively. It was good because it made me self sufficient early and able to take care of myself, to know the real world long before many of my friends. I was married and on my own at 19, and I was more than capable.

I have so many memories of Mrs. L. I remember the glass jar of milk that was part of the lunch brought to Susan and me when we were painting the classroom for the Kindergarten class we taught in Sunday School. She put a piece of plastic wrap (we called it all Saran Wrap then) between the glass and the metal cover to avoid leaking. I still do that to this day, and it still works.

I remember in Mrs. L's closet that her shoes were still in their original boxes with a description written on the end. That was the first time I ever saw that, and I do it in my own closet today.

She was older than most mothers of the 50's when her kids were born. Mr. L was in the service during the early years of their marriage and they put off having children his discharge. She was a very pretty lady who always wore her hair in an upsweep. She went to the hairdressers weekly and slept on a silk pillow case to keep it in place between appointments. Her hair must have been long although I never saw it down.

She always wore dresses and had a beautiful smile which she wore most of the time. Although I do remember occsional exasperated moments of "Oh, Susan!" I never remember my parents taking me to Susan's. Her mother would usually drive over to my house to pick me up. She would take us to basketball games and wait for us in the car.

We were always called to meals already on the table. We never helped in prep or clean up. All this probably sounds like her children were spoiled, which I suppose they were, but it was her way of life, that's what many mothers of the 50's did. It was like a vacation for me because my mean parents made me pick up the table and wash the dishes. Certainly not slave labor but at 12 it felt like it.

The L's had a beach house which was an even better place to visit. All that pampering AND a nearby beach. It doesn't get much better than that.

It was at that beach house that Mrs. L passed away after 70 years of pampering her family. At the end Susan and her brother got to repay some of that care. But given a choice, I'm sure Mrs. L would have been happy bustling around her kitchen in her apron putting her meatloaf, green beans and baked potatoes on the table for her family.

Rest in peace Mrs. L, you were a special lady.


Ellen said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm a child of the 50s and I knew these kinds of mothers intimately. My own mother was one of them. Such a wonderful time to recollect on for me. I don't know why, but when I was a young woman, I didn't want to be the same type of mother, silly me. Now I see that my children really missed out on something special.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

So sorry, she sounds like she was really special. ((HUGS))

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

My 1950s mother was in the middle somewhere--she gave us all responsibilities but did an awful lot for us, too, and with a lot of warmth.

Debbie said...

She sounds like such a wonderful woman and someone that made a positive impression on so many. This was a loving tribute.

bettyl said...

She sounds like a wonderful lady. It's good to have fond memories.

Lazarus said...

That was a very moving post, remembrances like this are one of the highest and best uses of blogs, in my opinion. I'm sorry to hear of your loss, Mrs. L sounded like a special person. The shoe box labeling is, I'm sure, just a small part of her influence on you. I came by through Best Posts of the Week and am going to sign on to follow. Keep up the great blogging.

mama-face said...

Such a sweet tribute. Thanks for sharing.

Vanessa Rogers said...

a wonderful tribute. It made me realize how different life was back then.


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