Something about Mare

There was something about Mare. She was endearing. She smiled; hardly ever frowned. There was a softness about her; no hard edges on her. She was easy to approach and was eager to offer help. She told me her goal was to be kind and helpful to someone, everyday.

She was eccentric and said things that made you laugh out loud. She talked to everyone. She wanted to know “where people came from”. She was non-judgmental. She was habitually running late, but never hurried. Her watch, the kitchen clock, and the clock in her car were hardly ever set to the correct time and she didn’t care.

Despite her outward softness and approach-ability, she had an inner steel rod of character and strength. Her constant advise to me was: “Be bold. Persevere. Show compassion.” These were words she lived by.

maryamccarthybench

She was an extrovert. She loved to get in her car and “go out’. She loved her cars and they always seemed to turn heads~the 1968 Firebird, the green Dodge Charger, the black Lincoln Continental, the Ford Taurus SHO. Cars represented freedom to Mare.

There were some things Mare was dead serious about and she would let you know it. She had no use for the post office because they would return her out-going mail because she had the wrong zip code. “Now couldn’t they just figure it out?”, she would say.

mailman

Automated voice systems irked her to no end as she would try to talk as if she were talking to a real person. The telephone company was another irritant. She would dial a number incorrectly, a recording would come on and say the number didn’t exist and she would insist she dialed correctly. I would say “But Mom, it’s not a real person, just a recording.”

telephoneoperator

Red traffic lights were negotiable~ “Why waste my gasoline and time?”

She would never buy fruit or vegetables already in a bag. She thought the companies trained their employees to put one rotten piece in every bag just to make more money at her expense. She often used the 800 numbers on appliances to let the companies know that their “engineers didn’t know anything and they should ask house wives what they needed before they embarked on designing anything.”

Comcast was her nemesis as the television was a great source of entertainment and diversion for her in her later years. When it didn’t work, she got worked up. She would call customer service and “tell them off”. If I tried to defend the company or give and alternative explanation, she would say, “OH, bullshit!”.

comcast

Where my father was ‘thing smart’, Mare was ‘people smart’.

You wouldn’t want to argue with her as somehow she would always prevail, despite logic. When Christa McAuliffe was chosen as an astronaut for the Challenger Mission, Mare thought that was awful. Joe thought it was a great accomplishment. “No woman should be sent into space. Her place is in the home with her husband and children”, Mare stated. When the space ship exploded and Christa was killed, Mare spoke up for her bereaved husband and two children, aged 6 and 9.

christa

Lesson Learned~Don’t bet against Mare. In the long run, you will lose.

Mare and Joe start their married life and family

Caruso and Hall - Part Time Workers at Springfield Armory (Women)

Caruso and Hall – Part Time Workers at Springfield Armory (Women)

woman get a war job

Mare worked at the Springfield Armory, making weapons, while Joe served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. They were married and had 2 sons before he shipped out. He would send her his checks and she would save the money.liberty ship

Stationed on ships, he learned about power generation. When he returned home after the war ended, he and my mother, along with her brother, Benny, bought a confectioner’s shop located in West Springfield. It had a counter and they sold sodas and ice cream. Mare said they had a ‘one-armed bandit machine’ in the shop which was apparently illegal. She said when the policemen came in, they would hang their jackets over it. I am not sure how long they had the shop or how it ended.

My mother told me Joe wanted a good job with a steady good paying wage. As he had learned about power generation on the ships he sailed on, he decided to study to become a fireman [stationary engineer], 3rd class and work at the power plant in West Springfield. He passed the exams, written and oral, and was hired at the plant. He continued to work and study and eventually became 1st class stationary engineer.

power plant

Although he was formally uneducated [he made it through the 8th grade, I think], he was a highly skilled and paid blue collar worker. They eventually moved out of their ‘tenement’ apartment in the North End of Springfield with my 2 brothers, Jimmy and Danny. Mare said the apartment was very small and Jimmy and Danny shared the same bed, sleeping at opposite ends.

They bought land from Mare’s father on Bonair Avenue in West Springfield right next door and right across the street from where Mare and Joe, respectively, lived and grew up. I cannot remember where Mare said they got the blueprints for the home they were to build with her Uncle Rocco Germano as the lead contractor/builder. They built their home and eventually moved out of their cramped apartment.

One year later, Mare became pregnant with me. They had to finish the upstairs bedroom for my brothers and I went into the first floor bedroom. Mare said Joe had burned the crib she had for Jimmy and Danny, thinking they weren’t going to have any more children. A friend of hers, Helen Potter, gave her a ratty old crib in which some of the slats were missing for me, as she didn’t want to invest in a new one. Mare told me I would wiggle myself out of the crib when I was old enough.

broken baby crib

In our family album, there is a black and white photo of Mare and my brothers standing in front of the new house. She is dressed up in a suit and wearing a hat; my brother have suits on, too. I must have been Easter Sunday, April 18, 1954. She would have been about one month pregnant for me as I was born in January 1955.

Lesson Learned~Work hard, save your money, and you can have the home of your dreams.

Second Lesson Learned~Don’t get rid of the crib too soon.

Mother’s Day 2016

mare 2

I miss Mare everyday and today is no different. I focus on what makes a ‘good’ Mother. What I mean is how does a parent love and protect and guide a child to help them become the person God meant them to be.

I think of Mare’s qualities and her character and her sole devotion to my brothers and me. Even at a young age, I marveled at her selflessness.

I don’t think or say things like “She was the BEST Mom.” A statement like that is judgmental and comparative. It says another Mom is ‘less than’ and I just don’t think in those terms.

I like to hear and read other mothers and daughters speak about their experiences and relationships~smooth, rough, troubled, overcoming conflict. And, I think about all the ways we can show our love for one another.

Lesson Learned~Don’t judge. Be loving and generous with your love.

My mother and a 1968 Firebird

1968pontiacfirebird

It was 1968 and the Viet Nam war was going on. My mother was 45 years old; a pretty, blue-eyed blond.

My mother was hired to work at The Springfield Armory making guns, 2nd shift, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.. This would be her second time working at The Armory as she had worked there during World War II, as well. When she was offered a position during WWII, she said to the Supervisor “What about Sophie?” “Sophie?”, he replied. “Yes. You have to hire Sophie Dalto too because she has the car.” That’s how she, and Sophie, were hired.

The Armory paid well. The thing was she didn’t have a car of her own in 1968, either. So, she applied for a car loan at the credit union, was approved, and bought a brand new 1968 Pontiac Firebird. It was a hot-looking car. Of course, she didn’t tell my father because he would have had a fit. Exactly what set him off, I am not sure because she had worked most of her life, and she knew how to drive. Yet, it was a surprise and he certainly didn’t like credit or loans. He bought all of his cars brand new, cash.

As I said she worked 3-11 p.m.. When she came home from her shift, she drove her new car and parked it in front of the house.  Joe was at home, likely watching television or asleep. When he got up the next morning and opened the curtain and saw the bright new shiny car, all hell broke loose. That was my father~he raged for a short while and then it was all over. My mother said nothing and just went on with her own business.

I was 13 years old at the time, a freshman in high school. When I turned 16, I learned to drive on the Firebird, as well as a silver 1955 Rambler that my high school boyfriend gave to me to drive around town in, with my friends. He painted a big black star on the driver’s side door. I eventually got my drivers license when I was 16 1/2 years old. I sure had fun driving those two cars around town.

Lesson Learned~ When you want something, buy it.