Tag Archives: Mom


EJH November 1978My Mom died 30 years ago today. She has been dead more than half of my lifetime. I’m at a loss for a word to describe this. It’s not inconceivable, not really unbelievable, no longer unfair or unjust. It’s just un-Mom. It’s grief — interminable, but suppressible.

Ernestine Hinton loved all kinds of fabric. She frequented fabric stores, buying yards of cloth she liked, which she piled in an out-of-the-way corner solely to paw through, no specific project in mind. She loved sensual materials like satin, silk and velour. She loved color and was happy to put colors next to each other that some might call daring. When she remodeled the house — transformed it, really — she brought together golds, yellows, reds, greens, sage and Chinese lacquer, all unified by a carpet that might have pleased Jackson Pollack, a studiously patternless palette of color blotches that gave every first-time viewer pause.

Ernestine was a natural hostess, welcoming everyone with such genuine charm. She wanted you to be comfortable but never complacent and she trusted you to know the difference.

Out and about, she spoke to people most others ignore, extending courtesy to everyone equally. She worked to improve the lives of many and was outraged by those who did the opposite. She did not suffer fools. She would be appalled by the churlishness and pettiness of modern politics. And she would be overjoyed to see Obama as president.

Mom 1980 She preferred to be called Teen, but I could only call her Mom, or in occasional shock, Mother! And shock me, she did. She was her own woman and expected to be accepted as such. In conversation, she was alive and witty. She could turn a deft phrase to knock you off your feet and then pick you up and dust you off and make sure you were still OK. She was brilliant.

Although Teen was a feminist role model before that concept emerged, she loved being a mother and loved children without reserve. There was nothing more important or valuable than nurturing children. We make our future by teaching our children and by loving them.

Mom taught me to love quick wit, language and laughter. She taught me to despise ignorance, the root of hatred and most of the ugly things we do to each other. She taught me empathy and compassion and patience. She taught me to speak out when I see the emperor has no clothes. She believed everyone’s life would be improved by a little more gentle affection, even between strangers. She was kinder and more gracious than I’ll ever be. Many people and events have shaped me; she did it first and gave the world what there is to work with.

Before she died, Mom told Mer she knew I’d be angry about her death for a long time. I’ll never stop being angry about that — she deserved a long life as much as anyone else — though I do better understand the burden of anger after all these years. Anger is a poor memorial. She deserves better. peace, mjh

Ernestine 1966

Teen 1973

Click for more photos of my Mom

Cue Dave Carter’s “When I Go.” (He’s dead, too.)

[originally posted Sun 01/14/07 at 6:27 pm]

mjh’s Blog: Cut (2004)


mjh0030 My Mom hated having pictures taken of her. Despite that, she gave cameras to people who would inevitably train them on her from time to time.

I don’t believe in an immortal soul – when you’re dead, you’re dead. (If I’m wrong, I owe you a coke.) Still, I marvel at the immortality in photographs. Yes, she lives in my memory, her voice in my head and, sometimes, coming out of my mouth, but here she is caught once so lively.

A remembrance on the 25th anniversary of her death.

My Mom
12 photos

The poems of childhood linger long after

A poem popped into my RSS reader and lead me down memory lane to revisit the three poems I most vividly remember my Mom reading to me, time and again. [Some may recall I loved to quote this first one years after I learned it.]

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat by Edward Lear : The Poetry Foundation

"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love, 
   What a beautiful Pussy you are, 
         You are, 
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat by Edward Lear : The Poetry Foundation

I still have the giant book from which my Mom first read this to me. The book has lush illustrations we both loved. (I still remember the smell of its slick pages.)

CatStuff: The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat

The Duel
by Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat; …

CatStuff: The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat

I think this was my Mom’s favorite.

The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson

Remembering My Dad

mjh0018My Dad died 40 years ago, 5/28/71. I had just turned 16 and we had just moved into a new house, a quirky fixer-upper that would become Pine Street in many memories.

Dad came home early that day in a cab, not feeling well. He went upstairs while I threw a ball against the back of the house for Barnabus, our St Bernard, to catch. The ball got slobberier and muddier with each iteration and a Pollack of brown spots broadened on the white stucco between windows on the second story. Those blotches stayed there for years. I heard a thunderous crash and ran inside to find my Dad prone on the landing where the stairs turned. He was unconscious but breathing. I tried to rouse him, then ran for the phone. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my sister, Elizabeth. (This was before 911.) She called emergency rescue. I sat on the steps near my Dad, listening to his last breaths. Rescue arrived too late to save him.

I remember when my friend Dave Stilwell came over the next day I said, in effect, if things seem weird around here today, it’s cuz my Dad just died. My first obituary.

My Dad was a farmboy who grew up to be an engineer and work for a series of communications companies, ending with Comsat. Mom loved to say it was his job to figure out the cost of the phone call between the President and the astronauts who first landed on the moon. By hobby, he was an excellent carpenter. Just this weekend, I saw a bench around a tree whose hexagonal design reminded me of a far-sturdier version he build for Mom years earlier. To this day, when I concentrate on certain chores, I whistle tunelessly just like he did.

Dad was a military man, proud of his service in Asia as part of the Army Corps of Engineers. He was a Colonel in the Army Reserves at death. Military service played a huge role in his largely-self-destruction. I have no affection for the War Machine. We need to outgrow the waste and destruction we celebrate too often.

I don’t remember crying when Dad died. We were unhappy with each other then. However, many years later, I wrote a letter to Dad, imagining he had outlived Mom and lived in Montana with dogs and a pickup truck. Then, I cried.