They also serve who only stand and wait.
|They also serve who only stand and wait. – John Milton
Mom used to say that. She may even have known that it was a quote from Milton. She was pretty well read. I remember her sitting on the sofa reading Carl Sandburg's Lincoln by the light of the lamp that now sits on my night table. What a long book, I remember thinking. Mom must be really smart.
She may have gotten it from school. Mom went to Kensington High School when it was exclusively a distaff institution, and she was very proud of her Alma Mater. She venerated her mentors and, I think, was endowed with a sense of entitlement from them. Women, of course – but then, that was back in the day when most teachers were women, except for "shop," which wasn't even offered at Kensington then. Too bad: it would have helped Mom when she worked at Cram Ship, making battlestation toilets during the War, until they found out how smart she was and banished her to the office upstairs to type and file.
Mom had a great deal of self-respect. Deservedly so. She was industrious and creative. She was informed. She was a consummate nurturer, a great wife and a great mother. She was not idle or gossipy. She would rather read the newspaper or watch "Meet the Press" or even do the ironing than sit out on a lawn chair on the front patio in her bathrobe at eleven o'clock in the morning chatting, as did so many other wife/mothers in the two-story-brick-row house-blue-collar neighborhood.
Mom didn't smoke or swear, traits which further differentiated her from most of the mothers, even from many of her friends. She disliked having to call down the street for us from the screen door when it was time for dinner, or to come in for the evening. We were never allowed to wear sneakers except to play in, and certainly never allowed to do so without wearing socks. I never wore a dress without a crinoline petticoat: a straight slip would never do, else I would look like I was "from Hunger." And the straps must be pinned to the undershirt, lest they fall down my arms and be visible beneath the hem of the short sleeves, or, worse, so that I would be forced to wriggle my fingers down inside the collar of my dress in some public place and retrieve the errant strap, only to have it escape once more.
Things were Just So. But not so Just So that we weren't allowed to be children: we were allowed to sit on, but not to climb, the furniture in the living room, even to put our feet up on it if we took our shoes off. We were even allowed to have snacks while we watched our TV with the little round screen, so long as we took our plates and glasses back to the kitchen when we were through. We were Just So that we were a model Nuclear Family in the Kennedy era, sitting outside on the from steps – concrete, not marble – looking up at the sky, waiting for those missiles from Cuba that never came.