Blog Every Day in May, Prompt 12.
What (or who) do you miss? (a person, a thing, a place, a time in your life)
May 12 was Mother’s Day, so a tribute to my mom is in order.
My mom, Ella Mason Carlton Kroelinger, was born in Saluda, Virginia on March 21, 1909. She passed away at the age of almost 92 in February, 2000, in Vineland, NJ. (Mom later changed her name to Ellen.)
Mom grew up on a plantation in Virginia, but because of family health issues, the family moved to Southern New Jersey (Vineland) where the weather was supposedly not as hot and humid as in Virginia. (Wrong!) She had a eight siblings: Richard, Bob, Louise, Pearl, Annie, Inez, Virginia, and Minnie.
Mom married Adam Emil Kroelinger, on November 7, 1928, and over the years, nine children joined the family (six girls, three boys): Joyce, Joan, Adam, Shirley, Beverley, Bill, Judith, Janice, and Robert. And since nine children made for an odd number, they added a foster child, Charles, making a round dozen in the family.
Times were tough economically in 1929, so the family lived with Daddy’s family on my grandfather’s farm for a while. In August of 1938, reportedly without telling my mother, my father bought a big, two-story, needs-a-lot-of-work house on Brewster Road, along with three acres of good farm land, for the whopping deposit of one dollar. The owner of the house, a widow named Martha Pennock, sold the property to my father for a total purchase price of $2301.00, a fortune in those days.
Over the years, the house grew to be a beautiful home, graced with forest-green shutters, a screened porch, and wide green-and-white striped awnings. Towering oaks and maple trees surrounded the house. Mom planted red and pink azaleas, lavender rhododendrons, cherry trees, and dogwood trees all around the yard. She loved her beautiful flowering yard and happily worked many hours in it, planting petunias, pansies, asters, and marigolds to keep the yard colorful. The kids, however, complained about how much grass had to be cut (a least an acre) and how hard it was to pull all those hoses and sprinklers out to water the lawn during the hot summer days.
Our huge vegetable garden out back supplied us with many a meal. I remember running out to the garden before dinner many times to gather lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and scallions for our really “Jersey-Fresh” evening salad. We all raved about Mom’s famous Italian dressing, but none of us can make it like she made it.
Mom kept busy during the summer canning and freezing crop after crop of tomatoes, green beans, lima beans, rhubarb, eggplant, corn, and peas. We all loved Mom’s southern fried zucchini, and we had this family favorite a lot during the summer. You know how prolific zucchini is!
Our neighbor, Mr. Cervini, had a peach orchard adjacent to our property, and out of self-defense and to keep us kids out of the orchard, he gave Mom a weekly basket of peaches in season. Summer desserts featured these delectable peaches sliced and sweetened with a dash of sugar, and on our lucky days, with a little vanilla ice cream. The strawberries in our own patch were excellent, too. We picked cherries off of Aunt Annie’s trees and plums off our own tree.
Our lives seemed to center around the long maple twelve-seater dining room table. With two pull-out leaf extensions, the table was always stretched to capacity. When company came, and they often did, the aunts and uncles commandeered the adult table, and the kids sat at a special kids’ table on one side of our huge dining room. These family get-togethers were the best. Aunts and uncles and cousins came from miles around. Mom cooked for days, and we always had a feast with food supplied from our garden and grandfather’s farm, as well as chicken or turkey from Uncle Bob’s farm.
I never saw my mother angry. When the kids acted up, she simply said, “Your father will be home soon.” And that was enough to straighten us out in a hurry.
Mom always called me “Nan,” and I never found out the story behind that nickname. I asked her once, and she couldn’t remember how that name came to be. Of course, my brothers had great fun with my nickname. “Nannygoat, Nannygoat” became the familiar taunt. But, haha, I got back at my brother Bill: “Billygoat, Billygoat.” We traded barbs until Mom made us stop with “Your father will be home soon” reminder.
Honestly, I don’t know how she managed to take care of all of us. It must have been like herding cats, each of us going full speed in a thousand different directions, all at the speed of light and at the highest decibel levels.
Family. Feasts. Fun. That’s how I remember Mom. She was a special lady, and we all miss her very much.