Thirteen years ago, on December 30th nineteen hundred ninety-seven my mother, Norma Jean Hancock Keesey, passed away from complications of her long fight with Diabetes, although the official cause of death is listed as congestive heart failure. I still miss her.
I still find a joke, or read an article, of see something that I know she would find as funny or ironic as I do, and I want to reach for the phone and call her….and then I remember that I can’t. But that does not stop me from talking to her daily. I often share things with her as I drive to and from work.
My mother was an artist. I have seen some of her early works, and would have used the word “artist” loosely if those were the only examples, but when I was in Jr. High, she discovered a class on Japaneses Brush Painting and found her true love. Well after a few years of practice when the brush and ink finally began to bend to her will and produce the pictures she saw in her mind, she loved it. She studied both Japanese and Chinese Brush painting for many, many years and was actually quite good. One of her teachers, Jack Wang, a highly respected artist and teacher in Taiwan, arranged a trip for her class to go to Taiwan and have their pictures hang in a special exhibit at the Taiwan National Art Museum. My mother was so excited and thrilled by the honor. She prepared a 4 foot long scroll and an amazing picture of an orchid for the display. The orchid picture appeared on the back of the brochure about the exhibit. Years later, she proudly hung the picture of the orchid in her office and on a small table below the picture, she displayed the brochure back page facing up, so everyone could see her picture in the exhibit. I think that this is the only display of vanity my mother ever made.
My mother was going to be a home economics teacher and possessed amazing sewing and cooking skills. She taught me to sew when I was 10 or so, and I thank her for that skill often. She collected cookbooks and cut out recipes from magazines, papers, school bulletins, anywhere she could find them. Piles of recipes. I do not think you could have ever prepared all of the recipes that she collected if you cooked one for all three meals a day for a decade!
My mother was a child of the depression. Prior to her death, she wrote a brief bio of her life. After reading how she was shuffled from relative to relative while her brothers stayed with her mom and step-father, my mother’s hoarding tenancies make a lot of sense. She was never going to be without again. I won’t go into the hoarding, suffice to say that I will never have to buy stamps again. I have stamps that she collected, based on the prettiness of them, my entire life. Some of my letters have 10 stamps on them to total the current postage, but I will never pay for postage again!
My mother never said a bad word about anyone. Ever. She lived by the rule of Thumper “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Seriously, I never heard her say a derogatory word about anyone. She always saw the good side of any challenge. I lost in the final round of a 4-H cooking contest, and while consoling me she pointed out that even though I lost the competition, the fact that I made it to the County-wide competition was an honor and I should hold my head up high that I did that well.
My mother loved “good clean humor.” her favorite jokes were puns and play on words. She did not enjoy sexual innuendos or mean-hearted humor. Her favorite jokes were ones like these:
“A city slicker turned farmer needs to know how to tell his two horses apart. Puzzled by how to do this, he asked the county vet what to do. The vet explained that horses are measured by “hands.” The vet patiently shows the greenhorn how to measure a horse from the front foot up to the top of the head. The farmer went home excited in his new found knowledge. He measured his two horses as soon as he returned home. And that is how the farmer learned that his white horse was 10 hands high and his black horse was 11 hands high.”
“A little girl opens the refrigerator door and finds a mouse snuggled up on the top shelf. She asks the mouse, “What are you doing?” The mouse asks the little girl, “Is this is a Westinghouse Refrigerator?” The little girl looks at the front of the refrigerator and responds, “Yes, this is a Westinghouse Refrigerator.” The mouse responds, “Then close the door, I’s westing.”
My mother always had time to take us to the park, to swimming lessons, to a special store. She lived by the credo that children and memories were much more important that a spotless clean house. While other mothers in the neighborhood were too busy cleaning house and polishing the the brass to spend time with their children, my mother was taking all of us kids to the park, or the movies, or for a real cherry coke at the real old fashion drug store uptown. This is one gift I made sure to pass on to my kids.
My mother encouraged me through all of the stages of my life. She was an amazing women and I still miss her.
In Loving Memory
Norma Jean Hancock Keesey
1931 – 1997
Loving Wife, Mother