Posts Tagged ‘mom’

Celebrate Living

I am combining two efforts of late in this writing: to continue writing 50 stories of our 50 years of wedded life and love together and: to share some of the images I’ve been busy with for the 50 days of Resurrection Prayer/Creative Art project through Christine and John Valters Paintner’s Abbey of the Arts and Dancing Monks community. I am having so much fun with the various art images and techniques and word reflections they are offering, that my writing activity has lessened and I’ve just fallen into the fun of color and creation.  So here is the word for today!

LIFE…...”I just want to celebrate another day of living!”

My life is total gift, given by God and a mother who died shortly after my birth. Completely unknown by me for many years, I was raised by a second loving mother, whose God qualities were order, discipline and cleanliness. I loved her too but I yearned for the “hugginess” I knew my birth mother would have given me. All is gift and as I searched and discovered the realness of my birth mother, outside my family, I was given a great gift….from her best friend….who erased doubt and guiltiness from my soul over my birth, her death. She told me my mother rushed to her when she discovered she was pregnant with me and in great excitement told her, “NOW I KNOW the purpose of my LIFE.” Such a great unknown and mystery, erased from my life forever. Mom wanted to give me birth. I celebrate the LIFE and LOVE I have in my family life of husband, children and grandchildren. My mother’s life and love and purpose carries on through them.


Even though this story begins before our marriage, indeed at my very birth, the story carried on well into our marriage and Tom supported me deeply as I put the pieces of my known and unknown heritage together.  Nothing much was said during my growing up years of my birth and my birth mother’s death immediately following.

Aunt Resh2Diane Tanberg, cousin (far right)…..My birth TANBERG side

After the birth of our first daughter, Laura, my mother’s presence to me was unmistakeable, and I set about finding out the details of my birth history, mostly through my cousin Diane on my mother’s side. Also through my mother’s nursing student companion and best friend and maid of honor at her wedding.  The pieces came together over time and through deep seated pain.  It was important to me to add name and photo of Doris into my daughters’ and grandchildren’s baby books.


And this has been done. She is in our family through three more generations. Mom LIVES.

As a writer, I’ve been told by my much admired mentor that the FIRST story you must write is your mother story. Mine comes in so many layers that it seems it is a kalaidascope of reoccuring glimpses, each one emitting, celebrating or grieving one glimpse of the total.
As for the creative word of the day from Valters Paintner…..LIFE…..I am deeply grateful for mine. I am also aware of the “thin thread” upon which I came into this world and in surviving a difficult birth, that grace was given to me to continue the lineage of Tanberg-Heffron through the very fine, abundant and happy lives of the Hajecs, Warriners, and Mitchells.

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Just about any time I am in my kitchen, mom is present. Usually with the memories of the life that swirled around my mom in her queen-space.  Mom was the efficient baker, sweeper, and goodies maker of our household. I remember that sometimes she and dad even tussled a bit when he got in her space with his own gas range meal making talents which he used to show off at county fairs to sell his propane and gas stove products.

Mom was the baker though! The Christmas bread above is just one small part of baked goods that began to fill the house from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

Today, after Mass I lit a candle and said a prayer of Thanksgiving for all three of my moms my birth mother, Doris, Tom’s mother Frances and Marion.

Marion was the mom who, as she married dad, also became mother to me, a two year old toddler and my brother, Dave. He was adopted by my mom Doris and dad. She named Dave as hers and brought him home with dad from the Catholic orphanage. She told my dad that no one could love him as well as she could.  Within three years, Marion gave birth to my second brother John and that completed our family of five.





I do not have too many things from our early family life. Mostly photographs, because I began taking them with my first camera, a box Kodak Brownie, and I never stopped taking them. I recorded family and school life though the lens.

The two things I have that make my mom present today on a daily basis are a few of her dishes and some of her recipes in her own handwriting.  Mom set a spectacular table at holiday times and special occasions. Simple, elegant and I can still feel the feelings of the nurturing that came with these dining room dinners.




When this table was set up as the centerpiece in our square dining room on LaSalle Blvd in Lansing, you knew “good eatin’ ” was about to happen. Then the sides were dropped and it was returned to the side wall and became my study and writing desk for the eight years I lived there through high school and college.

I do not have mom’s china but here are some of her favorite glass salad bowls. I love to use them when our daughters’ families come for dinner.





I keep mom’s glass butter dish out all the time.  Seeing it first thing in the morning brings her quickly to mind.  We don’t use much sugar anymore, but I keep her glass sugar bowl in a common cupboard space, again a frequent reminder of mom. I cannot see that bowl without a thought of her floating through my heart.

The rutabaga is awaiting peeling to go with our chicken dinner tonight. Mom, a Wisconsin born and bred girl, always served rutabaga on festive occasions. I bought this vegetable with her in mind for Mother’s Day.

Now about those recipes.




Even ones that are not in her own handwriting, you can see there has been great use of them by me from the kitchen stains on the page. Mom was famous for her pumpkin pie and this recipe today gains me great acclaim. Mom is with us every Thanksgiving as we enjoy this treat.




Chow Mein — sometimes a “left-over” type of meal for others — was a high delight for us. Mom made it with fresh asparagus on the side, a jello salad of some type and a relish and veggie dish and usually her Lemon Angel Pie. Oh, yum! The smaller glass dishes with the salad bowls above were decked out with olives, pickles of all types and carrot and celery sticks.




I think these bowls may have become a classic. But in the “olden days”, these may have been awarded at Kroger grocery stores for certain dollar amounts of purchases. Mom not only mixed things in these, but she filled them with the hottest of water while awaiting the mashed potatoes and rutabagas. I have never been able to achieve her success at keeping food hot and getting it to the table that way like she did.




That is mom’s 1945 wedding suit. This photo is in the mid 1950s in the front yard of our Sycamore Illinois home. The pale blue is memorized into my head and heart. Mom kept her clothes immaculate and expertly cared for.

When we moved to Lansing, their bedroom had the tiniest little closet for two people (mine was also) I have ever seen. They had space left over in theirs!  Mom did not believe in “putting everything the husband made in salary on her own back” and said so many times. She would be appalled at even the idea of a walk-in closet, seeing no need for that at all.



She taught us to take care of our own clothes, as well. There was no place for clothes left on the floor. We were a neatly “trimmed up trio.”



ThirteenMom and dad at our back-yard wedding reception

I married Tom a week after I graduated Michigan State University with a degree in Education and a move to Lexington Kentucky right ahead of me.  Tom already had his first job out of school with IBM Corporation and a third grade classroom at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary school awaited me as its teacher.

Mom pretty much planned how the wedding would go and how I would look as a bride. Since I was a little girl, I had been drawing  Southern Belle pencil pictures of a heart-shaped bodice and a big petticoat floating skirt.  That was my fantasy of my wedding dress.

Mom engaged a Vietnamese seamstress from our church to make my dress, her dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses. I remember picking out the fabric with mom, but that is where my input stopped. I was about to get a narrow sheath wedding dress with a long, but simple train attached at the waist.




No swirly skirts here, but a perfect wedding.




Mom and dad’s annual vacation trip was driving up to Chapleau Ontario, renting a cottage at Dee and Harvey’s campground and spending a week fishing together in a dinghy boat.  Dave, John and I did that with them for many years.




After our marriage in 1965, Tom and I made our home for the next eleven years in Lexington. We brought their first granddaughter, Laura  back to Lansing in 1966.  By the time Kathleen was born in August 1968, mom and dad had left the cold winters of Michigan and moved to St. Thomas Virgin Island, where they made their home together until dad’s death in 1977.

They were in a perfect partnership there in the new climates, living and working together. It was Nirvana for them but I do not think either of them would like that word.

Tom and I had moved back to the west side of Michigan in 1977 to own and operate a country golf course outside of Gobles Michigan. We came in June. Mom and dad returned that month from the Virgin Islands for a week up north in Chapleau to fish.  Mom was with dad when he suffered a very sudden and fatal heart attack, shocking us all, and depriving me of the visit I would enjoy in one week’s time when they returned.

The joy in mom’s life was snuffed out. They were “Tony and Marion” and mom never did find the “whole” again in her life.  Existing with her grief, mom still gave to others her generosity of spirit, her helping hand always. The closest to joy she had was the times she shared with our daughters, her granddaughters. She was so proud and happy for them and my own perogative of mother-discipline was greatly diminished as she created great leaway and influence for what they wanted.

Funny, my daughters Laura and Kathleen now accuse me of the same thing with my grandchildren.



Seventeen - Final

Double the recipe is noted on this card because she always gave a lot away. It was just in her human personality to do so. Now  I have a couple of recipes and mom’s Norwegian love awaiting me in the kitchen baking department this Christmas.



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