Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Mother's Friends

The array of women that pretended to be my mother's friends fascinated me. My mother never learned how to drive so, by and large, at least half of the women had cars. And my mother's generation believed in very small families. I have no brothers and no sisters.

One of her friends thought of herself as a gourmet cook and whe willingly agreed to share her recipes. However, she always omitted a key ingredient. Eventually, everyone learned to throw her recipes away. She had no children but bragged extensively about her niece, her brother's only child.

Another friend, also a nondriver, had two sons. When the boys were in their early teens, the family planned an automobile trip to Florida. All four of them were in the car and one of the boys complained and whined that he didn't want to go. So they stopped the car, he got out, and the three of them proceeded on the automobile trip to Florida. When my mother heard the story, she was horrified and asked, "Weren't you worried?" "No. I knew he would make his way to his grandparents' house." Many years later, my mother's friend didn't feel well and after listening to her complaints for a couple of weeks, my mother encouraged her to make a doctor's appointment. She told my mother, who asked "Is he any good?" Her answer, "I hope not. I don't want him to find anything."

Another of her friends, also childless, but a driver, would take her shopping from time to time. This woman was very tiny and I wondered how she could see over the steering wheel. But her driving saved my father and me many trips.

Perhaps her best friend, short and very stout, a driver with a wonderful sense of humor and two daughters, never lost her patience with my mother. I don't remember the reason, but shortly after the Roosevelt Boulevard extension of the Schuylkill Expressway opened, my mother and her friend went shopping in the NorthEast. My mother was a brilliant woman but she had a limited sense of direction. For example, when she came to Philadelphia from New York, 1934, she told me that she had to go to the Eagle in Wanamaker's (now Macy's) in center city to get her bearings. Then she could figure out where she was. So - my mother and her friend drove along the Roosevelt Extension and my mother told her friend, "all I know is that you have to stay all the way on the left. And, the two of them were chatting when my mother's friend started to giggle. She was not angry. Not even a little put out. My mother got the directions wrong - First, the driver had to take a right exit before getting over to the left. Not a problem for her friend who got off at Girard Avenue and wended her way back through the city streets. This same friend was told to eat at least one banana every day for its potassium. "That's not a problem," she told my mother. "I have a banana split with two scoops of ice cream over my banana every night before I go to bed."

Of course, there were women connected with the PTA but they were activity specific. And neighbors who either actively tried to convert her to their church, or sell her their latest remarkable antique finds.

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