Metro-East Living

Picture yourself with Mom today

And early picture of Hilda Kuhl with one of her eight children — not me.
And early picture of Hilda Kuhl with one of her eight children — not me.

Sometime today, sneak up on your mom and give her a big squeeze.

Make sure to designate someone — a relative, the waitress or even the usher at the Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates game if you are there watching it together — to take a picture. Not the whole family. No fair posing. Just you and Mom.

Later, make a print, put it in a cheap frame and hang it where you will pass it evey day. It doesn’t matter if the photo is a little out of focus, you have the red-eye or the top of your head is cut off down to your eyebrows. It’s you and Mom.

Do it again next year on Mother’s Day. The year after that. And so on ... Trust me, those pictures will become treasures. Especially when Mom is no longer around.

I don’t have many photos of just Mom and me. (She died in 1981, 34 Mother’s Days ago.) On Mother’s Days past, there was always a crowd of happy kids and grandkids around as we sat in the backyard lawnchairs, waving at passersby, barbecuing and taking turns cranking the first homemade ice cream of the season in Mom’s honor.

Boy, what I wouldn’t give to have a photo of Mom and me sitting in the wooden backyard swing. Mom holding on for dear life when I kick it a little too high.

But I don’t. That picture is only in my head.

I have a few photos of Mom. Like the one of the whole family when I was 5 or 6, all dressed up to the eights. We couldn’t afford to dress to the nines, but I gotta tell you, we all looked pretty darn good. Pop in a suit (a rare occurrence), Mom in a fine blue dress she sewed herself, and the rest of us in our Sunday-go-to-meetin’ best. My oldest brother looked pretty spiffy in his Army uniform.

That’s me in the little white sportcoat, a white shirt that Mom had starched as stiff as cardboard and a bowtie, standing between Mom and Pop. My neck itched and I couldn’t move my arms in that stiff shirt. Now, the photo is a family treasure.

“You look just like your Dad,” people always say. Sure. Black hair. Rosy cheeks. Pop couldn’t move his arms either for all Mom’s starch. He couldn’t wait to get out of that “monkey suit” and into his overalls.

Nobody ever said, “You look just like your mom.” Or, “You have Hilda’s eyes.” I guess it was difficult to tell because of the cat-eye glasses Mom always wore. I have those glasses on a shelf in our living room bookcase.

I don’t have any pictures of Mom and me on wash day before I was old enough to go to school.

She sorted the clothes into darks and whites, then let me go through all the pockets. I got to keep all the pennies and count all the change. It was my first math class. Pop would always leave a piece of hard candy in the bib for me to find, too — or, I suspect, Mom would plant one there.

Mom washed the clothes in an old ringer washer while I washed the socks she had saved out for me to scrub on a kid-size washboard. Mom liked to sing to me while she worked. Hits like “Dance with the Dolly with the Hole in her Stockin, Her Knees Keep a-knockin’” and “She’ll be Comin’ ’round the Mountain When She Comes.” It was my first music class.

I don’t have any pictures of Mom sewing. Making her own dresses. Hemming and unhemming and re-hemming hand-me-down pants. Patching holes in jeans knees. Even sewing my sister’s wedding dress. With eight kids, she never could sit down to do much sewing at one time. Whenever she was interrupted, she just stuck the needle with the thread hanging down through the top of her dress with the thread hanging down and went about her business. Sometimes, there would be two or three needles and pins. I had to be careful when I crawled up in her lap for a hug, but it was worth it.

I don’t have any pictures of Mom in her floppy straw hat and me in the garden. I was in charge of pulling weeds, she said, because I was growing like one. Or her sitting on the back porch snapping snap beans and watching me and the neighbor kids play.

There’s no picture of Mom and the army of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids eating our Mother’s Day meal around the pool table.

I don’t have a picture of Mom and me at any of my graduations. Or of the time she and Pop took the bus to visit us in Corpus Christi, Texas. She was the one wearing the scarf on the beach at Padre Island to keep the wind from mussing her hair.

I should have had someone snap a picture of us walking around and around the hospital hallway weeks before she died. But I didn’t.

Sometimes, when no one is looking, I take Mom’s cat-eye glasses off the bookcase shelf and hold them up to my eyes (they’re too small to fit around my head) and try to picture all the things she saw through them.

If you’re lucky enough to be with your mom today, remember to have someone take that photo. Or, take a selfie.

Now, say “cheese.”