In 2001, Plains Song Review published my contribution entitled, “Star of the New Moon.” I’d like to share some of what I wrote about Mom.
LaVera Reikofski, looked like a movie star. More than that, she was beautiful inside and out. Classy and sophisticated in small town Nebraska, heads turned when she entered a room. She modeled her clothing, hair, and makeup after the movie stars of the 1940s, and later as a glamorous Avon Lady who also sold Sarah Coventry jewelry. Her green eyes and memorable personality drew others to her.
Mom didn’t say much about her family, but she told some of her life before marrying Dad. One of her brothers was killed on a sled not far from their home. The youngest brother saw it happen. My grandfather hated the color red from that day forward. Another brother, an uncle I remember, was killed in Washington state. My grandmother traumatically found my great-grandfather hanging in a barn, and saved him. He resented her for it the rest of his life.
[Why did Mom, and I, recall the scars and not the blessings? Generations lived hard lives of survival from homesteading in the late 1800s to enduring the first world war, the depression, and another world war.]
As a teenager, Mom worked at the New Moon Theatre in Neligh, where she studied those stars of the silver screen to her heart’s content, viewing the movies over and over again. She was the star my father fell for when he took a date to a movie in 1947, so I think of her as the star of the New Moon.
Mom was 15 when World War II ended. She supported the cause by writing letters to soldiers, starting at age 13. She also wore Missing-in-Action bracelets.
My favorite family photograph from childhood is one of me sitting on Mom’s lap while she read to me. In the photo, taken at Grandpa Mosel’s, we sit on an oak dining room chair in front of the buffet. We are both engrossed in the book, and another, closed book waits its turn to be read. Mom’s lower lip protrudes with whatever she’s speaking. My brows are knit and my mouth works in concentration (probably wondering why I couldn’t see the words Mom was saying). Her love of reading and her pleasure in passing that love on, are obvious.
I also see her talent as a seamstress evident in my photo dress. I’m wearing taffeta (red, I’m sure) with a white lace collar, white socks, and leather sandals. Mom’s eyebrows are arched and penciled, her lips painted, and her hair rolled up and away from her face. Her jeans have turned up cuffs, “pedal-pusher” length.
Other pictures of Mom show her frowning into the sun as a child; saucy, secretive, and sensual as a teen. She smiled with her mouth closed because she hated her crooked teeth, which I’m sure no one noticed but her.
She finger-waved my uncles’ hair when she still lived at home and made pin curls in her own and her sisters’ hair. Mom taught me how to make pin curls and I was so proud of the curly-do that I learned to fix for myself.
Men prefer blondes, or so I’ve heard most of my young life, and Mom gave in to Dad’s desire for a blonde about the time she was employed as a waitress in 1960. Until Dad died in 1975, she wore her hair in a bouffant, teased-and-sprayed waitress-style up-do. A weekly appointment at the beauty shop kept it that way for those fifteen years. After Dad’s death, she got her hair cut and let it go salt and pepper.
Mom did not speak baby talk to us and corrected improper use of grammar. Mom kept her own feelings inside and didn’t talk about her family problems any more than she would gossip about the neighbors up the road. She only spoke of other people in a positive way. When I was a teen talking with a friend on the phone, she cautioned me about gossip. “What you say today will come back to haunt you tomorrow.”
She touched me once in anger. I mouthed off about who-knows-what at age thirteen. We were standing in front of the kitchen sink. Mom slapped me and I never spoke disrespectfully to her again. The disgusted expression stayed on her face for a while, so I felt low and guilty. After that incident, no words of censure needed to be spoken, I saw the disappointment on her face.
Most of the time, we didn’t talk about boys or sex. She said she trusted me. That statement placed responsibility on my teen shoulders.
This is a longer post than normal, but it’s been good to revisit my mother’s life, and I hope you haven’t been bored.
We recently sang, “What a Friend We have in Jesus” during Sunday worship. This hymn was my mother’s favorite. One thing I don’t remember is Mom singing around the house. She may have when I was the only child. Her sister told me as an adult that their mother often sang hymns.
My hope is awakened when I think about seeing her again. I know she’s in heaven. Once Jesus saves us, He never lets us go, no matter how we choose to live our lives. Mom was greeted by her loved ones when she met Jesus. She’s welcomed many relatives over the years, along with the baby I miscarried, and my twelve-year-old nephew. Someday, probably soon, she will greet me.