I have started to write this piece at least three times today — but always stumbled on how not to sound morose or sad or disheartening – or even boring – and I finally decided that I needed to write about what is important to me and what has shaped me over the years. My mother, A. Grace Hogan (see my post on what the ‘A’ stood for, if you haven’t already) had her many faults – as do I — but it doesn’t mean I didn’t love her and that she didn’t love me – or all of my sisters. Mom could be selfish, self-centered, stubborn and demanding – and guess what? So am I. I’m proud to be one of Gracie’s Girls as the people in Gunnison, Colorado used to call us. I have many memories of my Mom — but I just want to share a few of my favorites. If my sisters have others they want to share, they should add a comment to this post – I only ask that they be happy memories – not because I want to make our mother out to be a saint (because we all know that she wasn’t) – but because it is the happy memories we should incorporate into our lives and not waste what valuable time we have here on Earth dwelling on the sad ones.
1. I remember that Mom used to like to sit at the kitchen table, reading her paper, smoking a cigarette and drinking LOTS of coffee. She used to drink her coffee with cream and sugar in it – since her mother had told her that this was the proper way to drink coffee – but when I was getting ready for my First Communion, she decided that we would all give something up for Lent. She made it very clear that it had to be something important to us and to prove her point, she started drinking her coffee black. You will note that she didn’t give up her coffee completely and she didn’t give up her cigarettes — like I said, she wasn’t a saint — but after Lent, she never did go back to putting sugar and cream in her coffee!
2. She LOVED professional football – and especially her DENVER BRONCOS! One Super Bowl, she even painted her face orange and would only allow people to drink Orange Crush during the game. When I came to Omaha to attend Creighton University, I knew better than to call home during a football game – and if I forgot, Mom would remind me by hanging up on me and telling me to call back after the game was over!
3. She loved to play Bridge, Black Jack, Cribbage – any card game at all. She was a Master level Bridge player and took great joy in defeating people who played certain crazy conventions. I don’t think she actually had a convention — but she was definitely a card counter (a skill I think my son Tim has inherited!). She also used it to weed out boyfriends (see this post, if interested how that worked) We all had to learn how to play Cribbage because that is how it was decided who would wash the dishes. Well, that was what she told us — but in truth, we always had to do the dishes because if one of us girls won, we would then play best two of three and then 3 our of 5 and so on, until it was finally so late that we would have to wash the dishes the next day after school anyway.
4. She loved to bake Christmas cookies. Like myself, she would bake and bake and bake – and then hide and hide and hide the cookies. My children have become frustrated over the years because they said they see all these cookies being baked and then they never see the cookies again until Christmas Day! We would spend Christmas Eve putting plates of cookies together for her friends and delivering them for everyone’s enjoyment.
5. She loved Christmas but didn’t love surprises. Mom hated waiting to see what she got for Christmas, so one year she loaded all of the presents in the car and took them to the local doctor’s office where she worked. She dragged them all into the office, laid them out and x-rayed them to see what she was getting. Loaded them back into the car and then opened them on Christmas morning without anyone being the wiser!
6. Her favorite holiday was the Fourth of July. She was so proud to be an American and she used to this holiday to repay the kindnesses all of her neighbors had bestowed upon her during the year. We had a big barbecue in the backyard and enjoyed the day with all of our friends — while John Phillip Sousa blasted from the stereo!
7. She loved to laugh and she remembered jokes better than anyone else. Her favorite thing was tell dirty jokes to the local priests — again — never claimed that she was a saint!
8. She loved the mountains of Colorado. She got homesick for Telluride where she was raised. She loves visiting the Alta Mines above Telluride even though they had been closed since the 1950s. She was proud of her heritage as a ‘mining camp brat’ and especially of her father, George K. Bjorklund who ran the Alta Mines and worked for the Homestake Mines in Deadwood, South Dakota.
9. Her favorite movie was The Sound of Music. Mom couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but she loved music. She had over 700 record albums and there was always music in our house. She made sure all of her daughters were involved in music by playing an instrument. She always said she didn’t play any instrument, but she could play a mean stereo.
10. Probably my favorite memory of our mother was during our road trip to see my Grandmother Bjorklund in California. This was after my freshman year at college and I had been taking a lot of teasing from my sisters for hours. We had stopped in Reno, Nevada for the night and I had decided that I was going to go back to Gunnison on a bus the next morning because I had had enough. My mother told me to hang in there and took me downstairs to introduce me to the joy of gambling. Although I wasn’t old enough, I was 5’10” and looked like I was over 21 – so no one even questioned me. I decided to try my mother’s game of Black Jack (I figured I should do well since we had been playing since we were kids) and I was winning! However, my mother kept coming over and ‘stealing’ my winnings to put into the slot machines. By the end of the evening, I didn’t have enough money for a bus ticket home – so I had to finish the trip. Then, to add insult to injury, Mom won a jackpot at the slots – with my money – and she wouldn’t share!
I have lots more memories of Mom – some good, some bad and some sad. I’m sure my children will have the same type of memories about me. After all, I am one of Gracie’s Girls.