Thursday, April 4, 2013

IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER, MARTHA LAVERNE CURTIS HOLLAND, SEPTEMBER 5, 1924 TO NOVEMBER 11, 2007


My mother was a wonderful woman, loved and admired by so many people.  She always had a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone.  She rarely spoke a word in anger and never raised her voice.  Yes she was always loved:  as a daughter, a teacher, a wife and a mother.  Her students (first and second graders) absolutely adored her.  As a child, I remember a cupboard full of drawings her students had made for her to wish her Happy Birthday.  They were full of loving messages.

I am so glad I was able to travel to Hawaii with her the year before she died.  It had been a dream of hers and she was so excited!  Just like a child... She would tell everyone she saw:  the postmistress, the hairdresser, the grocery store check out clerk.

It was the first time she had ever flown and she was 81 years old.  The flight attendant found this out and during the course of the flight the pilot made an announcement welcoming my mother on board and congratulating her on her first flight.  She also received her "wings" to pin on.  She kept every little memento from that trip:  the sugar packets from the flight, napkins, soaps from Hawaii and even a water bottle from Hawaii!  I still have them in a box.  (Writing this is proving even more difficult for me than I had thought it might).

We covered three of the islands from stem to stern.  She was fascinated and loved every minute of it.  But her favorite part of all was each evening when she was sitting out on the lanai of the beach house and the big cruise ship went by.  It was a regular ritual with her.

We attended the 60th commemoration of Pearl Harbor and toured the area.  This had also been something she had always wanted to do, as my dad had been briefly in Hawaii on his way out to the Marshall Islands stationed on an aircraft carrier during World War II.  She told me she wanted to meet a Pearl Harbor survivor, so I went up to one and introduced them to each other and took their photo together.

My mother was just adorable; everyone said so.  Everyone loved her.  She was born at home in an old Victorian house on a ranch in the very small town of Brooks, California; located in the Capay Valley.  At the time of her birth in 1924, the town still retained its old name of Tancred.  She lived at that ranch up until two months before her death, when she had to be hospitalized.  There were years spent away, such as when she and her family moved to Nevada City, California when she was young; when she went away to college in San Jose, California; when she and her newly wed husband lived in the Oakland highlands having just built a two story home right next to Dave Brubeck (they camped in a trailer while they built the home and had an out house and the rather distinguished neighborhood was none too impressed with this young couple "roughing it"); and a couple of other ventures in Sacramento and Davis.  But by her 30's she was settled back on the farm, where she belonged and remained until the end of her life.  She did not like to be away from the farm and most of all, she wanted to be looking out her big living room window at the little orchard outside with the deer and the birds, and particularly the hummingbirds at her hummingbird feeder.

As a little old lady, she was dainty, petite and frail and still quite adorable.  One of the most astonishing things about her was that she drove (it was more like herded) a huge vehicle (now in my possession) down the highway practically daily:  into town to get her hair done, or get groceries  or to go to the post office or the doctor's office.  This is a monster of an SUV, a 4 wheel drive 2002 Ford Excursion, which she was very proud of.  It is hard for me to get in and out of the vehicle, it is so high up.  But she would hoist herself up and swing herself in, using a little leverage bar in the vehicle and clamber down the same way, leaving people staring at her with a shocked expression on their face.  That made her laugh and made her feel very proud of herself.  By this time she must have shrunk down to about 5' 2" and 110 pounds and her bones were very fragile.  She was doing this until the age of 82, and her final illness.  This is a very rough driving vehicle, that drives very much like a truck (and I don't mean pick up truck).

I last saw my mother on Halloween 2007.  She was very ill with lymphoma.  A few days later I left on a trip to South America.  On November 11, I was enjoying festivities at a party with the Captain on board a Norwegian line cruise ship unaware of any events back home; unaware that my mother had died that day.  On November 13,  I went on a tour on a ferry going through the Straits of Magellan to Magdalena Island to see the penguins nesting there.  It was the most wonderful trip I have ever gone on; the penguins my all time favorite thing.  There was also a tour of the local museum on the way back to port.  Upon coming back to the ship and entering the cabin, there was a white envelope on the floor that had been slipped under the door.

I knew what that note said and didn't even pick it up at the time.  I just laid on the bed and cried.  Later I did make the only ship to shore phone call I have ever made--to my sister who told me the news.  She had lived just two months from the time they diagnosed her illness, and every day of that time was spent in extreme agony and misery.  It was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with; both the horrific nature of her illness and her death.

But she was well loved and is terribly missed.

Rest in peace, Mother...


Close up of my mom as Almond Queen with part of her court.  Inset of the previous post of the photo.Close up of my mom as Almond Queen with part of her court. Inset of the previous post of the photo.
My mom, Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland) and her mom, Hazel Florence Browne (Curtis) at the Oakland flower show, Oakland, California, in May 1947.My mom, Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland) and her mom, Hazel Florence Browne (Curtis) at the Oakland flower show, Oakland, California, in May 1947.
From l-r, my sister, Nancy Lou Holland, my mother Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland)  holding me on her lap and my brother, Stanley Edward.  About 1965.From l-r, my sister, Nancy Lou Holland, my mother Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland) holding me on her lap and my brother, Stanley Edward. About 1965.
My parents 30th wedding anniversary; from left to right: my grandma, Hazel Florence Browne (Curtis), my brother Stanley Edward Holland, my sister, Nancy Lou, my mom, Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland) and my dad, Thomas James Holland.  I was outside playing with my friends and so missed the opportunity to be in what would have been like our only entire family photo.  My Dad and Mom are getting ready to cut their cake.  You can see the countryside on the farm outside the window:  Brooks, California.My parents 30th wedding anniversary; from left to right: my grandma, Hazel Florence Browne (Curtis), my brother Stanley Edward Holland, my sister, Nancy Lou, my mom, Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland) and my dad, Thomas James Holland. I was outside playing with my friends and so missed the opportunity to be in what would have been like our only entire family photo. My Dad and Mom are getting ready to cut their cake. You can see the countryside on the farm outside the window: Brooks, California.
My mother (Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland)) at the age of about three, dressed up with choice selections from the rag bag.  My grandma's 1921 Model T Ford in background.  At this time they lived in Chicago Park, California (in the Sierra Nevada foothills).My mother (Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland)) at the age of about three, dressed up with choice selections from the rag bag. My grandma's 1921 Model T Ford in background. At this time they lived in Chicago Park, California (in the Sierra Nevada foothills).
My mother, Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland), as a very proud 11 month old having her first steps captured by her father, Vera D. Curtis, who ran to grab the Kodak.  Circa 1925.  Location:  Brooks, California.My mother, Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland), as a very proud 11 month old having her first steps captured by her father, Vera D. Curtis, who ran to grab the Kodak. Circa 1925. Location: Brooks, California.
My mother (Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland)) when she was two; sitting on her mother's 1921 Model T Ford ready to go with her "pootcase", as she called it, because she couldn't pronounce the letter "s".My mother (Martha LaVerne Curtis (Holland)) when she was two; sitting on her mother's 1921 Model T Ford ready to go with her "pootcase", as she called it, because she couldn't pronounce the letter "s".
My son, Clarence Finis Keeton IV, at about age 3 (apx. 1991) on his grandma's lap (Martha LaVerne Holland).My son, Clarence Finis Keeton IV, at about age 3 (apx. 1991) on his grandma's lap (Martha LaVerne Holland).
Mom with her dog in her mom's 1921 Model T.Mom with her dog in her mom's 1921 Model T.
Mom and my brother, Stanley Holland at Casey Flat--up above the valley I was born and raised in in California; 3 1/2 years ago, 1 year before she diedMom and my brother, Stanley Holland at Casey Flat--up above the valley I was born and raised in in California; 3 1/2 years ago, 1 year before she died
My parents wedding picture--Thomas Holland and LaVerne (Curtis); June 23, 1946My parents wedding picture--Thomas Holland and LaVerne (Curtis); June 23, 1946
Myself and my husband with my mom on her first trip to Hawaii, 2006.Myself and my husband with my mom on her first trip to Hawaii, 2006.
My mother in Hawaii.My mother in Hawaii.
Me and my mom, at the Mauna Loa macademia nut factory on the Big Island, south of Hilo.Me and my mom, at the Mauna Loa macademia nut factory on the Big Island, south of Hilo.
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