My mother was not a “regular” mom. This confused me a lot while I was growing up. Other mothers made cookies, kissed boo-boos. Hung out with other mothers in the summertime. Swapped recipes. Watched soap operas.

My mother didn’t bake anything, much less cookies. She was a terrible cook because she hated cooking. She was an unenthusiastic housekeeper and the whole huggy-kissy mothering thing eluded her. She didn’t watch soap operas, loved the Marx Brothers and MGM musicals. She never graduated high school, but read voraciously and constantly. Especially about science and space. She was fascinated by quarks, black holes, and antimatter.

She never kissed a boo-boo; I don’t remember her kissing me at all. She wasn’t that kind of mom. She talked to me about everything and more importantly, she listened.


She had no interest in gossip, recipes, or cute stories about anyone’s kids. She wanted to talk about politics or the space program and which nations were so hopeless they needed a complete redo, from scorched earth up (she had a list). I think if she were still alive, she’d probably add this country to her list.

She enjoyed talking to me. I’m not sure if she talked to anyone else about being a young woman when FDR became president. How, when the NRA (National Recovery Act) was passed, there was a spontaneous parade in New York that lasted 24 hours. Ticker tape, and all. How the government had surplus crops during the worst years of the depression, and government agents took the extra food, dumped it in vacant lots and put poison on it so no one could eat it. Even though people were starving. I thought she was paranoid, but I have since learned that it happened, just the way she said it did. For all I know, it’s happening right now.

She didn’t trust the government, was sure they were spying on us. Positive that  J. Edgar Hoover was out to get us and he had a long list — and we were on it. Turned out, she was righter than I imagined possible.


She was in favor of equal rights for everyone, everywhere. Pro-abortion, in favor of birth control, gay marriage, putting wheat germ in everything (yuk) and holistic medicine before anyone knew what that meant. She wanted all religion out of the schools and government. She was in favor of the death penalty. She felt there were people who should be taken out and shot. No long terms in prison (too expensive). No years of appeals. One well-placed bullet in the brain and justice would be served.

That was my mom.

She gave me Knut Hamsun to read and a grand piano for my 14th birthday. As well as appropriate anatomical books about sex. She figured I needed accurate information so I could make informed decisions. She hummed most of the time, sang the rest of the time. She got the words wrong all the time.

She read me poetry and sang to me when I was very small. She never treated me like a child. She was a grimly determined atheist and would debunk any hint of religious belief should I be foolish enough to express it.

She was the most cynical person I’ve ever known, but she had a great sense of humor. Amazing how those two things somehow fit together. It seems I am following in her footsteps.

So here I am. Older than my mother was when she left this earth. I think my mother would like this version of me. She always liked me, probably more than I liked myself.

Categories: #Photography, Humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Mother and motherhood, old photograph, Personal

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30 replies

  1. I think I would share many views that your Mother had – except I’m very religious.
    My Mum was a War Bride. Middle Class English. Anglican.
    The house was spotless. The food good.
    She was a nurse in London during the Blitz.
    She was kind and generous. President of the Red Cross in New Brunswick for 3 years.
    She loved us. I loved her.


    • I never doubted I was loved nor did I ever doubt I was appreciated. But my mother was very NOT religious. She kept the house reasonably clean and she made all our clothing for us. Ironed everyone’s clothing. Did the laundry. She was very attached to her family and generous with everyone. But NOT religious.


  2. she sounds wonderful Marilyn, just as you are! Xx


  3. Your mother sounds a lot like mine. Liberated by the invention of the TV dinner, die-hard Women’s League of Voters member and not at all cuddly. Skips a generation – I like to cook and shy away from women’s groups. However my daughter …

    Liked by 1 person

  4. She was an amazing woman, much ahead of her time. You’re very much like her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry’s mother was a lot like mine. It’s one of the way that help us understand each other, especially about having been raised in homes where demonstrations of affection were rare, and having a mother who was not like all the other moms. I am more like her than I thought I would be. The world caught up with me.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I truly wish your Mom had been granted the time to spend more with my Mom. In many ways, they were kindred spirits – especially in the encouragement to pursue dreams, the love of movies (I was my Mom’s movie date), the availability of books and music that I may have been too young to fully understand but nevertheless appreciated.

        There also were similarities in the (limited) show of “mush” but I never doubted Mom’s affection or support. There was much of the back story in Mom’s early life that I didn’t know until it was too late.

        My Mom, despite outward appearances, really admired Marilyn and, in our last lucid conversation, exhorted me to show more appreciation, love and support as a husband and spouse. I’m still working on that and can hear Mom saying, “Work FASTER, you and Marilyn aren’t getting younger”.

        Here’s to Dorothy, Esther and all the other Mom’s who left left indelible marks of “the right stuff” for their children.


      • It’s really lucky that both of you came from similar backgrounds. 😍🌷😍


  5. This is a great post. Your mom sounds like she was very interesting and I would have some things in common with her. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. She sounds wonderful ❤️


  7. She sounds awesome! You were both lucky to have each other!

    Liked by 1 person

    • She wanted me to be ME, no matter what social pressures decreed. She deplored my lack of enthusiasm for sports because she was serious about skiing, skating (ice hockey), riding, bobsledding, hiking, swimming, tennis. I was much less active, though I had a few things I really enjoyed. And she never figured out how come I couldn’t learn to knit or crochet — or for that matter, sew.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Paula, you so very right!

      Liked by 1 person

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