My Mother’s Birthday

My mother, Eleanor Stevens Skinner, was born on November 26, 1917.

Through the years her birthday came on Thanksgiving Day every once in a while.

This is one such day.

My first memory is a political one.  (Surprised, right?)

She started crying while I was playing in the kitchen.

I asked her why and was told that the President had died.

That President was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

At that point the Skinners were registered Democrats.

My mother’s father even served on the Queen Anne County Board.

I thought it was neat because for some reason he got a pass to the local movie theater which us grandkids made good use of.

Standing next to the washing machine on the back porch, I also remember asking my mother in 1948 when she and Dad weren’t for the President.

That President was Harry S Truman.

Somehow at age 6 I had gathered they were supporting Thomas Dewey for President.

By then, I had a competitor in the house–my sister Janet.  She was born two years after me.

Apparently I didn’t treat my little sister appropriately, because I remember my mother saying that she would really love me if I would treat her better.

In 1951, our mother came into the room where we were playing next to my father’s printing press and asked if we would like a little brother or sister.

Of course, we said we would.

And, then came Ellen.

We moved to Salt Lake City in 1953.

After we said our good-byes to both sets of grandparents, we were crying so much that Dad had to stop the car.

My sister Jan and I still needed separating, so Ellen was put in the back seat between us.

My father had used chicken wire to build her a little cage.

From there we went to Middletown, New York and, finally, to Crystal Lake.

While I was in college she and I went to the old Courthouse Annex (where the Woodstock City Council now meets) to listen to the Illinois Crime Commission hearings.

To say we were surprised to learn that a bookie joint was operating out of our Republican Precinct Committeeman’s place of business is an understatement.

Mom was interested in politics.  She would attend meetings that neither I or my father could, take copious notes, and download them when she got home.

We convinced her that the Health Systems Agencies would be the precursors of nationalize health care and badgered her to stay on its board well after she was tired of serving.

Reading what my sister Jan has written below reminded me of one of my mother’s characteristics.

She would take the train to Chicago once in a while and come home with two new friends–one who sat beside her on the way Downtown and one on the way back.

But, if my father or I were attacked, you wouldn’t want to be the person who did the attacking.

My sister Jan came up with the following memories:

Gratefulness for a Wise Mother

Jan Skinner with parents Cal and Eleanor Skinner in 1965, the year they went to Europe.

Jan Skinner with parents Cal and Eleanor Skinner in 1965, the year they went to Europe.

As I have passed the age at which my mother died, I have done some reflecting on what a good parent she was.

I have also thought about whether or not I would choose her as a friend if she were not my mother.

The answer to that is a resounding “yes.”

I remember as a teenager that some of my friends said that I had a great mother.

I don’t know exactly what they meant by that, but I do know that Mom was always welcoming, friendly, and tolerant of my friends.

I am “nicely bananas,” as my husband Sudhir says, and I think that I got that from my mother.

I remember one time the family was camping in Wisconsin.

My brother and I were on a lake in a paddle boat, and it turned over in front of the glassed in eating area of the restaurant where we rented the boat.

Mom thought that we should go pass a hat for donations for being the “entertainment of the evening”.

We didn’t do it because Dad wasn’t as adventurous as Mom was.

If Mom were alive, she would have made good use of the internet to work on the family’s genealogy.

We would have had fun doing that—connected by the internet over the miles.

A cousin Lois Cockey said that the Stevens family never met someone they didn’t like.

That’s pretty much Mom and me.

We’re open, friendly people who expect to find something to like in other people.

We aren’t usually disappointed.

We moved a lot as I was growing up.

Mom followed Dad to Salt Lake City, Middletown, NY, and Crystal Lake, Illinois.

We kids never whined about it.

I’ve heard that if parents are happy about a move, the kids will be too.

We looked at each move as an adventure.

I continued this path in life when I married a Navy man.

I guess moving seemed normal thanks to Mom and Dad.

My admiration for Mom and Dad grows as I become a more mature Christian.

As a young believer, I often voiced what I felt to be God’s leading in my life in very assertive ways.

Mom once said, “When you say that God is leading you to do something, you don’t leave me much room for input.”

I thought about that and ratcheted down my comments by saying, in the future, “I think that God may be leading me to do so and so.”

I’m glad she had the boldness to correct me.

I’m sure she went over and over what she might say to me so that I would get the message without being offended.

Living at their home for two summers while I worked on my Masters at Northern Illinois was very special to me.

I reverted to dependency, and was fed, had my clothes washed and dried, and had my kids looked after so I could concentrate on classwork.

She sometimes even looked over my papers as she had in high school, and put a dot at the end of a line that could be improved.

Mom was always thinking about all of us kids and the grandkids.

She would send letters full of articles she clipped regarding any area of interest that we had.

I’m sure my email box would be full several days a week if she were alive.

Only a mother is interested in every minute detail of your life.

I miss that.

When my first husband, Mike Peters, was dying of cancer, she would write that she was “thinking about us.”

By the time she was killed in the car crash, (which occurred while she was getting verification in Woodstock of my marriage license for Paralyzed Veterans) she was writing that she was “praying for us.”

The change was small, but it meant the world to me.

Memories from the Baby of the Family

My little sister Ellen Desmond sends the following thoughts:

First of all, I cannot believe it has been 28 years since Mom died so suddenly.

I remember that I felt I could not survive another day without her.

I did not want one more experience in life to happen, that she would not be a part of.

I was sad that my children might not remember her and that she would not see them grow into amazing women and meet her wonderful great-grandchildren (finally some boys in our family).

As the days and weeks and months and years passed, I was amazed that I was actually able to continue my life without her.

The best part about Mom (and Dad’s) parenting is that. my brother and sister and I, each feel that we were their favorite.

It was obviously me.

= = = = =
Me thinks my little sister watched to many episodes of the Smothers Brothers Show.
= = = = =

Ellen’s husband, Denny Desmond adds the following:

Obviously when one looks back on memories of an individual, their thoughts are probably a little different today ; especially after 28 years, so here are mine (I will leave the sentimental to her children):

Eleanor’s ability to keep a conversation with anyone “on-going” with her many questions after ones’ answers.

This really meant that Eleanor was very interested in what you had to say and wanted further details!

In retrospect Eleanor reminded me of Aunt Bee from “Andy Griffin Show “, with her loving and easy going “apple pie” attitude.

Very loving son-in- law of Eleanor and Cal, Sr


My Mother’s Birthday — 2 Comments

  1. I remember her well, many discussions on the back porch!

    Happy Thanksgiving

  2. Cal, your parents were special people.

    I know from both my mom, and others in the community that the involvement and sincere concern that your parents had for our community and for good government inspired many and that legacy has continued today.

    I think it is wonderful that you share your thoughts and memories about your mom and dad.

    We are very lucky that they decided to come to Crystal Lake and stay!

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