Remembering mom

Susan Manzke
Susan Manzke's parents, Chuck and Izzy when they moved out to the country in 1953.

It’s easy to remember my mother (Izzy) this time of the year. First her birthday was April 19th, only nine days after Dad’s (Chuck). They would have been 95 this year, but though gone, live on in my heart.

Mom was raised a city girl. Moving out from Chicago when I was three years old was a big change for Izzy. Still she went with stars in her eyes, going where my father wanted to live.

They moved from the big city to the ends of civilization — 30 miles from Chicago was a monumental change in the 1950s. Our road was gravel and the house they bought was only half finished. Everyone had to work.

Even though Dad was raised in the city, too, he knew a lot more about growing things, both plants and animals. Mom learned from him.

Dad worked up a little garden, just like his mother had taught him. Mom hoed and planted right next to him, learning about gardening. 

Chuck drove to Chicago’s Midway Airport every evening to work for United Airlines. He slept during the day. Mom, trying to be a helpful wife, went alone into the garden one afternoon to weed. (In the 50s, women wore dresses, even when working in the garden. I can’t imagine doing that today — I don’t even own a dress.)

Susan’s Mother Izzy, Susan, and little sister Karen.

While Chuck was sleeping, Izzy weeded. When he woke she proudly showed him all that she had done. Izzy expected a big smile, but that’s not what she got. Chuck stood in the garden shocked. You see, Mom hadn’t taken the weeds out. She had removed the tomatoes and had straight rows of rag weeds instead.

Chuck didn’t yell. He was too surprised to yell. After getting more tomato seedlings, Dad retold this story for years and years and he laughed as he told it — the very day of the weeding incident, Izzy learned the difference between a tomato and a ragweed plant. She never made that mistake again.

Both Mom and Dad wanted animals when they moved to the country. Rabbits were among the early animals on their two and a half acre farm. Chuck built hutches out of reclaimed lumber and Izzy fed and watered the bunnies — I especially loved the bunnies.

For weeks, maybe months, Mom walked back to the raised hutches and tended to their rabbits. It turned out that she was feeding more than rabbits. Izzy was shocked to find that a mother skunk and her litter were living under the hutches and happily mooching on the dropped bunny food.

Izzy refused to take care of the rabbits after that. “But the skunk never bothered you all this time,” reasoned Chuck. 

“She may now because I know she’s there and I’ll be afraid. Animals know fear.” Mom never went back by those hutches again. I know this because Dad retold this story too. I don’t know what ever happened to the skunks, but I think we ate the rabbits. 

Somehow my parents came into possession of a half-grown collie dog. Laddy was a very sick pup, that’s probably how he came to our home. He was skin and bones when he arrived and needed constant care.

Mom took on the job of tending to Laddy. She warmed milk and spoon fed him until he could eat. Regular dog food didn’t suit Laddy’s sensitive digestion. To give him strength and to get his pills down, Mom gave him liver sausage. Laddy grew into a wonderful family pet all because of the loving care my mother gave him. 

Oh, Mom wasn’t perfect. When she was angry, she could swear up a storm. But those outbursts left as fast as they came. Izzy would give you the shirt off her back, even after you ticked her off.

Reminiscing about Mom around Mother’s Day is easy, so is remembering her any other day of the year. Often, when I laugh, I hear my mother’s laugh coming out of my mouth and that’s not a bad thing.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com.