Oct 7, 2013

APPLE.....TREE. OH, HOW I WISH IT WERE TRUE

Today would have been my mom's 80th birthday.  This fact is, in its very self, hard to fathom, since she died when she was 54 years old.  To imagine her at 80 is hard, especially when you consider the fact that she didn't look a day over 35 when she died.

Vaceila Helen Loukos Rich.  Born in Lima, Ohio and raised there with her brothers and sisters until she met and married my dad.  Pictures and notes from her school days show a girl who was popular....probably always the life of the party....and most definitely smart.   She was pretty, too, and always dressed in something lovely.  She had, as my dad used to say "a great set of legs" and wore a 9 AAAA shoe.

When she was 17, she went to work as a secretary to the President of the City Loan.  She always said that she lied on the application to make them think she was already 18, and this caused her to screw up her birth year for the rest of her life.  She was born in 1933, NOT 1932, thankyouverymuch.

She was Sig to everybody who knew her.  Not Vaceila.  Not Miss Loukos.  Not Mrs. Rich.  She was Sig.  I didn't know the origin of that name until a few years ago when my Uncle Connie explained that he couldn't pronounce Vaceila when he was a kid, and what came out was "Sig", so "Sig" it was.   I always thought it was a name given to her by a neighbor lady who saw her as a tomboy that liked to hang upside down in the apple trees munching a snack.

Mom was beautiful, it's true, but what was even more remarkable about her was that she connected with people the moment she met them.  She could walk into a room and make everybody in it feel like it was exactly where they were supposed to be at that moment and that they were the most interesting and perfectly realized version of themselves...all because this nice lady named Sig took a minute to look them in the eye and then ask them about their life.  It didn't matter if they were a CEO or the kid putting the butter pat on the dish....they meant something and she wasn't going to let a second pass without them knowing that.

She was an artist and a needlewoman....loved needlepoint, and used to stitch the most beautiful canvases on Penelope canvas...all in tent stitch...starting from the bottom of a column and working up using the sewing method...and all while holding the canvas rolled up in her hand.  Technically, we've been told that her pieces should have been warped so badly that they would have required serious blocking, but not one thing that she stitched was ever out of kilter.  Don't ask me how she did that.

Funny..witty..smart..elegant...kind....generous...ornery...no matter how hard I try I can't come up with anything that adequately explains her.  She was our everything and we were hers.  Fr. Hesburgh said that the greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.  Well, that worked in spades in our family....especially when it came to love that Dad had for her and she for him.  If I learn nothing else, at least I know what a perfect union looks like thanks to the example that she set.

I tried to describe my mom to my Jersey boy once, and all I could come up with was "She was a killer combination....1950's style housewife who could hit a golf ball 250 yards off the tee...who knew how to keep a gorgeous home and how to tell a joke, and who had the ability to tell somebody to go to Hell and they'd look forward to the trip."  Boy...was that ever inadequate.

All I know is that Aunt Chrissy and I hope that we might find something within ourselves that reminds us of mom.  Will it be our love of stitching?  Maybe a hope that we'll be remembered as kind or generous?  I'd settle for funny or smart, but would be thrilled if the only thing people knew or thought of was.....she's Sig's daughter.


20 comments:

  1. What a lovely tribute to your mother, Coni. I'm so sorry she isn't with you anymore. My father died when he was 47; he would be 80 in January next year. He's been gone for 32 years now, and there isn't a day that passes that I don't think of him.

    "I'd settle for funny or smart, but would be thrilled if the only thing people knew or thought of was.....she's Sig's daughter." Best.line.ever.

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  2. What a nice tribute to your mom.....to a life well lived. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories.
    Carolyn

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  3. Lovely tribute. Would love to see pictures of your parents!

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  4. Such a lovely post, Coni. You've done Sig proud. :)

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  5. What a beautiful post to your Mom.

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  6. I am smiling, with tears in my eyes. Thank You.

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  7. I wish I could have known your mother. How lucky you were to have had her as your mom and how tragic to have lost her so soon. Happy Birthday, Sig.

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  8. What a nice post about your Mom. I'm sure if she were here to say it, she would be proud of you.

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  9. What a great tribute to your mom!

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  10. Hi Coni! This was very moving and touching and absolutely lovely!
    It's funny but, even though we've never met your mom, we can see her in you - and through your eyes. This post proves it. :)

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  11. Happy Birthday, Sig...you would be so proud of your daughter, Connie!

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  12. Love the tribute to your mother it so closely matches how I feel about my mother and I was lucky enough to have her for 91 years. That was not long enough. Must remember the line about sending them to HELL and enjoying the trip she could do that also.

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  13. Coni, a lovely write up about your Mom. Thanks for sharing with us. MartyG

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  14. Beautiful, made me smile and aspire to be the mom that your mom was......leaving an indelible mark on their lives....one of love and admiration.
    Thanks for sharing

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  15. What a genuinely wonderful way to honor your mom, your words were perfect and paint a picture of a dynamic soul full of LOVE for life and those around her - everyone was important to her. From what you write about yourself and your sister, I think that you have her love within you and obviously a talent for the turn of a phrase as well as her artistic talent. You are a treasure. I so enjoy reading your blog.

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  16. A very beautiful tribute to your mom.

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  17. Missing you Coni...and Stewey too!

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  18. I'm sure your mom loves you and Aunt Chrissy and misses you every bit as much as you miss her! Thanks for letting us meet a woman that each of us would be proud to aspire to be like. :)

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  19. Oh Coni, I hope this is not the end of your story here??

    We miss you.

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