By John Matonich
I have written a fair amount about my dad and I think it’s appropriate to tell a few stories about my mom. “Becky” was a great lady who always lived life to the fullest. She was very gregarious and not afraid to be unconventional in any way she could. When she was in high school she wanted to take mechanical drawing. She loved art and was a pretty good painter in her own right. Well, no girl had ever taken mechanical drawing and the principal wasn’t sure he wanted to be the first to allow it. My mother wasn’t going to take no for an answer, so she just showed up the first day of class and sat down at one of the drafting tables. The teacher wasn’t sure what to do but eventually decided it wasn’t worth a scene so he began to teach.
That was one of many victories for my mother. She played as many sports as they would allow her to and I believe still holds a couple of U.P. records in woman’s diving. I also remember her mentioning she was a cheerleader and that doesn’t surprise me in the least. What I remember most about my mother was her love of music. She not only loved to listen to music, but she was always singing and usually at quite a high decibel count. Cable TV came to our area in the late ’60s, so I grew up watching WKBD Channel 50 out of Detroit. My mother adored Bill Kennedy and his show “Bill Kennedy at the Movies” on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. She especially loved when he had a musical selected for that day’s program as she would know all the songs and join in whenever she could. I have seen most of the musicals a dozen times each and still remember most of the songs as well.
There are four siblings in my family. I am the oldest and I have a sister a little over a year younger. Next is my brother who is six years younger than me and the youngest is another brother a little over a year younger than No. 3. My mother always said that my dad didn’t want her to go back to work when my sister and I reached school age. I don’t know how true that was, but that was her story and she stuck to it.
The two younger ones were a little more adventurous than my sister and I and they kept the place pretty lively. I remember one afternoon my mother was upstairs taking a bath. I was watching TV in the living room and my two younger brothers were whispering something to each other in the dining room. True to form, my mother was heading down the stairs in her robe with a towel on her head and bare feet singing “Oklahoma” at the top of her lungs. I could hear giggling coming out of the closet near the bottom of the stairs and I wasn’t sure why until my mother reached the landing at the bottom of the stairs. Her song voice quickly turned to cries of pain as she was walking down the hall way. It seems my two brothers decided to flip over the plastic runner that ran from the front door to the dining room. After flipping it over the results were the pointy plastic studs that held it in place were now trying to puncture my mother’s feet. “Ooow, ooo, ooh, ouch was all I heard instead of the words to “Oklahoma.” I also still head a few more giggles coming from the closet.
It took my mother about a tenth of a second to figure out who the culprits were and she reached in the closet and grabbed them both by the back of the neck and dragged them into the dining room. What happened next made me smile for a long time. She sat both the boys down and had them remove their shoes and socks. Their giggles turned to sobs as they realized what they were in for. My mother then made them walk back and forth across the upside down plastic mat three times. Each time the cries were louder than the last. After they were through they ran upstairs to recover from their death march. My mother went about her business of getting ready to go somewhere and me, I just turned to “Bill Kennedy at the Movies” to see if the show that day was “It’s a Wonderful Life” because for me that day and many more afterward, it sure was.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.