Celebrating mothers past and present
Mother’s Day is a bittersweet time for me.
My mom, the late Grace Compston, was never one to make too big of a fuss over most holidays and birthdays. Christmas was always a big deal, of course, but for Mother’s Day just about anything we did for her was good enough.
Sometimes, my Mother’s Day gifts to her weren’t really gifts at all. Instead of buying her some perfume or a fancy trinket, I would simply scrub the front porch or perform some other chore I knew she either dreaded or simply couldn’t complete on her own.
There were exceptions, of course. The first time I actually bought her a gift, it was a very big deal. I don’t remember how I “earned” the money I had (Dad may have slipped it to me), but I took it and proudly walked to Averil’s — the little beauty shop in town with an adjacent boutique. After carefully browsing the jewelry, dresses and other items on racks and in a glass showcase, I selected a pale green, silky nightgown with a little housecoat to match. I almost never saw my mother in her night clothes, since she was a very early riser and quite modest. But I guess I wanted her to be comfortable and stylish as she slept.
Shop owner Averil Lynn and the other ladies at the shop that day assured me I had made a good selection.
The surprise on Mom’s face when she opened her gift confirmed what they had told me.
Mom died in June 2016, so this is the fourth time I will pass Mother’s Day without her. Also gone are many of the other ladies who played maternal roles in my life when I was a child. I only knew my maternal grandmother, Nancy Lambert; my paternal grandmother, Ella Compston, died more than a decade before I was born. Grandma Lambert died when I was in high school, but not before teaching me many things, such as how to embroider, and how to make braided rag rugs and fresh applesauce. And not before buying and hiding away my graduation gift — a massive set of dishes that would help to ensure that I was ready to start my own home.
Other ladies in my life who have passed that I think of each Mother’s Day include Irene Kline, my best friend Sandy’s mom and my longtime babysitter; Bernice Bartels, Mom’s good friend and colleague and mother of a whole clan of folks who remain my friends to this day; Sally Neal, who was my piano teacher for close to a decade; and Myra Mann, another friend and colleague of my mother who not only allowed me to stay at her home from time to time but also gave me one of my first jobs, cleaning her house on a regular basis.
But Mother’s Day shouldn’t just be a time to look back and feel sadness about those who are no longer with us. We also need to appreciate the caring, nurturing women we still have in our lives, even if they haven’t been around in those maternal roles for as long as those we miss.
I see amazing mothers all around me these days. Jordan Compston, married to my nephew Jim, is raising two beautiful little red-haired girls. Amy Compston, married to nephew Zach, is currently expecting their first little bundle of joy. Jayna Blevins, married to nephew Craig, also is raising two girls about the same ages as Jordan’s girls. Meanwhile Marie Compston, married to my brother Larry, serves as “Momo” to that entire bunch and to her son Brett Blevins and wife Amy.
All the while, each of these ladies is holding down a demanding job and dealing with all of the demands of life during a pandemic. Marie is a teacher, while her four daughters-in-law all work in some aspect of health care.
Another health care professional/mom is my sister-in-law Amy Pelligrini. Her kids are somewhat older, but they still get plenty of love and support from their mom. Her son, Tyler Strough, is a West Virginia University graduate now working in Wheeling, while daughter Brooke Chamberlain is an honor student and athlete at St. Clairsville High School.
The matriarch of that side of the family is my mother-in-law Midge Strough. There’s a good chance we will all visit and/or shower her with gifts this Mother’s Day, but all she really wants is for her family to be around her. Her devotion to and affection for her entire family — children, in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews and grandchildren — should be an inspiration for us all.
So, I will do my best this holiday to hold on to fond memories of those mothers who are no longer with us while celebrating the ones who are. They give so much of themselves to the rest of us each and every day, that is the least that we can do for them.
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On an unrelated topic, friends and former students plan to celebrate the life of Stan Sobel later this month.
A memorial service for the former mayor of Belmont and longtime science teacher at Union Local High School is scheduled for 2 p.m. May 23 near the playground that was named in his honor outside the former village school. Stan died Dec. 15 after a long battle with cancer, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented a service from taking place at that time.
A memorial fund also has been set up through the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley. All proceeds will support the ULHS science department.