She was born in Kansas, the oldest of four siblings. She grew up on a farm, surrounded by crops, cows, horses, chickens, lightening bugs, and acres of land to roam. Many women from her generation chose not to pursue a professional career, but mom had other ideas. With my grandfather’s support, she completed a three-year nursing program. That's her graduation picture on the left.
She fell in love with a fellow Kansan who had his own ambitions. Mom and Dad relocated to southern California during World War Two where he landed a job as a machinist at McDonnell-Douglas. She obtained her California license, and began a long, distinguished career as a registered nurse. My parents bought a home in Bellflower, settled down, raised three children, and never looked back.
A couple of months before Mom died, I caught her looking at a reflection of herself in the bathroom mirror. She glanced at me, but didn’t say anything right away. Concerned about her forlorn expression, I inquired about her thoughts.
She took a minute before revealing, “When I close my eyes, I become a young girl again, riding my horse across the Kansas prairie. I have wavy brown hair, few worries, and my whole life ahead of me.” She stared into the mirror and sighed. “Who is this wrinkly old lady staring back at me? I hardly know her; it’s not how I feel inside.
Her comments triggered an emotional conversation about life and aging; a moment of insight from one woman to another. She pointed to her reflection and said to me, “This will be you one day, Roberta. It happens sooner than you think. Live each day in ways that make you happy.”
After mom passed away, I had little time to think about anything else except raising my daughters, treasuring my husband, nurturing friendships, and carving out a satisfying professional career. Even though she’s been gone for a long time, that image of her looking into the mirror has always stayed with me.
Many factors influence my work as a writer, but mom’s spirit is at the heart of The Bennett Women. It’s a tender yet unflinching story that examines what moves us from daughter, mother, and grandmother to something much deeper. I wish I could have another day with my mom to thank her for guiding me with her quiet wisdom; to let her know about the positive influence she has had on three generations.
And one last thing. I'd tell her she was right about the mirror. I miss you, Mom.