My mother’s gifts were her legacy

Rural road.

My mother was a very talented woman. If she were still living, Mom would likely deny the obvious. She was modest, too.

My siblings and I would have plenty of evidence to support our case. Our mother was multi-talented. She had to be to raise five children while Dad was off working or fishing or hunting or going to meetings.

Many others would also affirm Mom’s gifts, especially her artistic talents. Mom would likely shake her head in dismay about all of the fuss about her beautiful paintings.

Our father was an outdoorsman. Mom, on the other hand, brought the outdoors indoors through her lovely creations. She painted most often in watercolors and preferred doing landscapes. She created hundreds of them.

Mom seldom seemed happy with the results, however. She sold many paintings in her life, much too cheaply in my biased opinion. Mom even won several awards in local art shows around northeast Ohio.

Marian Stambaugh.
It wasn’t that Mom was a perfectionist. She lacked self-confidence even though encouraged by our doting father and her artist friends and mentors.

If Mom wasn’t satisfied with a painting, she at times painted another scene on the reverse side of the watercolor paper. If such a painting sold, the buyer got a two for one deal.

I suppose other artists derogated their own works, too, whether painters, sculptors, or even writers for that matter. Mom wasn’t overt about her discouragement. She would just toss a nearly finished painting in what she called “the junk pile” and began again.

After Mom died seven years ago, my brothers and sisters and our spouses discovered the treasure trove of incomplete watercolors. As we sorted through them, we agreed that “junk pile” definitely was a misnomer.

We pulled some real gems from that stockpile of rejected paintings. We made sure grandchildren and other relatives and friends could choose the pieces they liked for posterity.

As we delved deeper into her things, we discovered drawings and etchings and paintings from her high school years. Mom showed much promise even as a teenager.

One of Mom’s many watercolors.
After high school, Mom wanted to attend art school. But in those days, that seemed an extravagance to her parents. They insisted business school a better fit for a young woman who eventually would marry and have children.

That’s pretty much what happened, too. However, with our father’s encouragement, Mom began art lessons with some noted local professional artists. Our mother blossomed as an accomplished artist.

Those classes taught her a lot and created lifetime friendships. Mom and Dad even attended weeklong workshops out of state. Mom would paint while Dad scoured local farm fields for Indian artifacts with the farmers’ permission of course.

Though they had their moments, our parents made a good team. Dad passed on to us the love of all things nature, and Mom imprinted that love in colorful works of art.

Our mother was a very gifted woman far beyond being an artist. Marian Stambaugh was a devoted wife to a fault, a fair, loving mother, a proud grandmother, and a friend to many.

Her legacy, however, will be her inspiring paintings. Landscapes, still life, and renderings of old barns and vehicles adorn the walls of family, friends, and her art connoisseur customers.

Our mother captured life as she saw it, and she saw it well. The rest of us are the beneficiaries of her most ardent talent. Her many paintings will display her skills, and proclaim the glory of nature for decades to come.

Old truck, one of Mom’s unfinished gems.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Remembering the goodness of my mother

mother and children
This photo of my our mother and my siblings and me was taken at Christmas 2011.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My four siblings and I were spoiled. We were very fortunate to have a loving, devoted mother. Unfortunately, not everyone can say that.

Growing up, Mom cared for us in every way imaginable. She fed us, clothed us, nurtured us, played with us, corrected us, loved us, and so much more. Those were the roles and expectations of a post-World War II wife and mother.

In those days, careers for females were pretty much limited to secretary, nurse, or teacher. Mothers were expected to be at home to care for their children. It’s just the way it was.

Marion Stambaugh
Marian Stambaugh.
My brothers and sisters and I were the beneficiaries of Mom’s time, effort, skills, and wisdom. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Life couldn’t have been easy for her. We weren’t wealthy by anyone’s standards, but we weren’t poor either. We grew up in the suburbs of a blue-collar town in northeast Ohio’s mid-20th-century industrialization.

Mom reassured us when we were scared, nursed us when we were sick, and encouraged us in our schoolwork. How she did all that and kept her sanity, I have no idea. We were five active kids, all with different needs, wants, and interests.

Somehow Mom made time for each one of us, though I remember plenty of times when we wore her patience thin. “Wait until your father gets home” was a familiar tune in our household. Usually, that comment was directed at one of my siblings, not me.

Children of every age filled our close-knit neighborhood. Many times the number of youngsters in our household doubled in number as friends came and went. If we got too loud or rowdy, however, Mom lowered the boom. She not only modeled justice, but she also instilled it in us.

Most likely I am romanticizing those fond memories. Not everything always went smoothly of course. We had personal, relational problems just like every other family.

As much as we admired our father, he wasn’t the most helpful or responsible husband when it came to household chores or repairs. Later in her life, I told my mother that she had raised six children, not five. With no explanation needed, her hardy laugh affirmed my comment.

Mom was a string bean of a woman. She cooked us nourishing meals but seldom ate much herself.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 1942.
Mom could speak her mind, however. She let Dad have it in no uncertain terms when he arrived home from a fishing trip without my older brother, a cousin, and me. Having been left in a raging thunderstorm frightened us. Dad had to weather a storm of his own with Mom.

Mom was a multi-talented person. Besides her homemaking skills, she was an accomplished artist, loved to play cards, bowl, and shop for antiques. In their retirement years, she and Dad relaxed at the cottage they had built on a fishing lake in southeast Ohio.

Not only was our mother talented, but she was also a looker. Some folks actually wondered what Mom saw in Dad. Their 68 years of marriage answered that question.

I don’t mean to paint her as a saint. Mom wouldn’t want that, and she would be the first to say that she made mistakes in her motherhood. I just remember feeling really safe around her. That was no small matter.

In my youthful naiveté, I thought everyone had a mother like the late Marian Stambaugh. My lifetime experiences unfortunately proved otherwise. I wished for their sake that they had. Now, I am forever grateful for my loving mother.

One of Mom’s many watercolors.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Grateful for a creative mother

Rural road.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late mother was very creative. She expressed it so many ways in the long life that she led. She did so through her versatility as a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, and an artist.

When Mom died five years ago, Alzheimer’s disease had removed her far from the woman I remember as a youngster and as an adult son. Her eyes no longer had that sparkle of awareness of the beauty she had seen in everyday life, the joy she recreated in her vibrant landscape and still life paintings.

Marian Stambaugh, Mother's Day
Mom.
Those paintings reflected her very being and the beauty she brought to life. Mom painted hundreds, perhaps thousands of renderings, mostly watercolors. But many of those paintings were left unfinished.

Mom was a perfectionist when it came to her paintings. If she felt she couldn’t get it right, she left the picture partially finished, hidden away. Going through her things, the family found stacks of incomplete paintings. To others, the paintings looked fine. Mom only saw the flaws.

Mom was too self-critical when it came to her paintings. She felt they just didn’t measure up to the works of her peers. The attitude of Mom’s dominating father perhaps influenced that lack of confidence at a young age. Mom wanted to go to art school. Instead, she was sent to business school to help her prepare for a job should one be needed.

In those pre-World War II days, women were to work until they married and then raise any and all children that came along. That’s just the way it was, and in many respects, still is in today’s global society.

Our father, himself a controlling man in his own right, saw both Mom’s physical comeliness and the beauty within. He loved almost to a fault this kind, generous, creative woman who was our mother. And he saw her talent in recreating the beauty all around her through her early drawings and paintings.

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Dad must have also sensed Mom’s lack of confidence in revealing this creative side. So Dad encouraged Mom to take private painting lessons given by established, prominent artists, and at the Canton Art Institute.

Thanks to her cohorts and mentors, Mom painted prolifically. Using mostly the medium of watercolor, her still life and landscape scenes were usually vivid, real, inspiring, eye-catching.

Again prodded by Dad, Mom entered art contests. She did so reluctantly, but also successfully. Mom won several awards, including the Peoples’ Choice Award on more than one occasion. Mom modestly accepted the accolades.

Mom’s creativity extended beyond brush and easel. She dressed splendidly but not opulently. She couldn’t afford to do that if she had wanted. Mom simply made do with the wardrobe she had.

wedding photo
Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Stylish wouldn’t begin to describe my mother. Even late in her battle with Alzheimer’s, Mom continued to dress herself, always in a color-coordinated outfit. Residents and staff at the retirement community where she lived her last days often complimented Mom on her stunning look. In her typical modesty, Mom just smiled or returned a pleasant “thank you.”

Mom’s creativity remains alive through her realistic paintings and in our pleasant memories of her loving motherhood. More than that, the artistic genes of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will continue to contribute to life’s magnificence in various means, manner, and places.

Mom’s passion for painting taught us all to appreciate our surroundings, look for the beauty in everything, and generously share that splendor. That is Marian Stambaugh’s legacy of creativity.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

A mother who still watches over me

By Bruce Stambaugh

Though she’s been gone now for four years, my mother still watches over me. I just never know when she will appear.

This isn’t a ghost story. It’s a love story.

Marian Stambaugh, Mother's Day
Mom.
Every now and then, a photo I took of my mother years ago spontaneously pops up on my computer. I never know when it’s going to happen. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to her appearance. Mom’s photo just inexpliciably shows up, and I couldn’t be happier.

I might be surfing the Internet or working on a photo project. I click my laptop’s mouse pad and boom; Mom is smiling away at me from the left side of my computer screen. She looks as elegant as ever, satisfied, happy, her wavy silver hair complimenting her rosy cheeks and her radiant smile.

At first, this sudden appearance spooked me. I can’t explain why her photo appears. But I’m ever so glad that it does. This lovely profile is the way I want to remember her.

There’s a lot of good to recall about Mom. My brothers, sisters and I were fortunate. We had a loving, lovely mother. Not everyone can say that.

Mom was everything a mother should be to her children. That wasn’t always easy either given the different personalities and demands of her five cherubs.

Our catalog of behaviors and misbehaviors revealed the alpha and omega of our mother’s temperament. She was no pushover. But she could be gentle and tender, too.

Even in the midst of the busyness of running an active household, Mom made time for each of us. She once interrupted lunch to dig up a bright red tulip for me to take to my fourth-grade teacher.

Mom knew how to discipline, too. She was firm but fair. But if we went too far, we’d hear the dreaded words, “Wait until you father gets home from work!”

wedding photo
Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Besides her skills as a domestic engineer, Mom was an accomplished artist, an excellent listener, a sports enthusiast, and a much better driver than Dad. She got her license when she was 40.

When I was a senior in high school, I only attended school in the morning due to classroom overcrowding. That meant I was home alone with Mom every school day afternoon. Mom and I had some amazing talks together.

Mom related personal stories I had never heard before, and I doubt she ever told anyone else. That conveyed all I needed to know about her love and trust. She set a high standard for being a parent.

Later in her long life, things changed for Mom. She began to show signs of dementia. The Alzheimer’s prevented Mom from expressing herself they way she wanted.

We could see her frustration in that, and would just sit with her peacefully as she gazed out a window. Nevertheless, Mom still looked sharp in her color-coordinated outfits that she had picked out to wear. Mom never lost her artist’s eye.

smiling mother
Big smile.
That’s why I enjoy it when that photo of her suddenly appears on my computer screen. I pause and remember just how much I miss her, and what a beautiful mother, wife, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, and neighbor she was to so many.

When that picture of Mom appears, I can hear her reassuring voice say, “It’s all right, Bruce. I’m at peace in my new life.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thanks for still watching over me.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Mother and Daughter

family fun, mother and daughter
Mother and daughter.

When our daughter attempted to take a selfie with her daughter, the six-year-old wouldn’t cooperate. She kept bugging out her eyes. So her mother decided to do something about it. As you can see on the smartphone screen, Carrie pretended to bite Maren in the head. We all had a good laugh.

I remember our daughter causing similar photographic mischief about the same age. I was fortunate to capture this precious moment of family fun.

I thought this photograph of family fun most appropriate for Mother’s Day. “Mother and Daughter” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

A beautiful mother in every way

Miller farm by Bruce Stambaugh
One of my mother’s many watercolors. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late mother was a beautiful woman in so many ways.

Her physical features spoke for themselves at every stage of her long life. Reviewing old black and white photos, it was clear Mom was a looker in her early youth, as a young wife and beyond.

Dad used to tell a story about the time his co-workers first saw Mom at a company picnic. They asked Dad, who was lanky with big ears and a protruding nose, if Mom was mad at herself on the day she married him. Dad took that as a compliment.

wedding photo
Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Mom looked especially stunning in the many hats she wore throughout her life. Folks in the retirement community where she and Dad spent their final years always commented favorably on how grand Mom looked in her matching outfits.

Mom’s real beauty was in her heart and soul. Though never an openly affectionate woman, Mom expressed her splendor in the way she lived her life.

Mom generously shared her gifts of kindness, patience, and creativity whenever and wherever she could. If a neighbor was sick, she was at their door with food for the family.

If one of us kids needed something, Mom would often stop what she was doing and helped us. Once I admired a glossy red tulip growing in our flower garden. Mom left the kitchen and carefully dug and potted the flower for me to take to school for my teacher.

When Mom was hospitalized for a few days, the house seemed dark and still. Though we were well cared for, we missed her light and life.

Mom at the retirement home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Mom at the retirement home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
I’m sure my four siblings each have their own stories to share as well. It took a talented woman to balance her skills of parenting, cleaning, cooking, patching scrapes and dabbing tears.

Mom wasn’t a staid woman either. She couldn’t be with five ornery cherubs tearing around the house.

Believe me, we knew when one of us had crossed the line. The stress we caused her likely contributed to her wavy dark hair prematurely turning snow white. That made her all the more attractive.

Mom helped us with schoolwork, gave us blankets to make tents over the clothesline, and provided cool drinks on hot summer days. She laughed even if our jokes were lame, and cried when things seemed to just unravel.

Her devotion to Dad further evidenced her inner beauty. As controlling and contrary as Dad could be, Mom stood her ground in expressing her opinions. Her love for him, however, never wavered.

Dick Stambaugh, Marian Stambaugh, Bruce Stambaugh, parents
My late parents, Dick and Marian Stambaugh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
I don’t recall him ever saying it, but I think Dad clearly understood that he was one fortunate man in marrying this lovely woman. He always gave her cards, flowers, candy and other gifts on holidays and her birthday.

With Dad’s encouragement, Mom got her driver’s license at age 40. He also coaxed her into taking art lessons, knowing her natural ability to draw and paint.

Mom’s beauty radiated from her mind’s eye into her vibrant watercolor paintings. She won many awards for her still life and landscape representations.

Mom was as humble and classy as Dad was brash and bold. She never boasted about her awards nor charged enough for the paintings she sold. She was happy just to have others enjoy her artwork.

If that isn’t beauty personified, I don’t know what is.

This will be the fourth Mother’s Day without Mom. I can still see her gorgeous smile, and sense her generous love. I hope your mother was just as beautiful as mine.

landscape painting, rural road
Rural road. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

A loving mother’s love lasts forever

familybybrucestambaugh
My brothers and sisters and I, along with other family members, gathered to celebrate Mom’s 90th birthday.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My brothers, sisters and I were extremely fortunate. Our mother cloaked her love in grace and mercy. I wish everyone could say that.

Our late mother loved in so many ways. Compassion was a gift she abundantly shared.

Mom’s calm demeanor didn’t keep her from taking care of business when she had to, however. With five active cherubs on the loose, her hand of justice reached out and touched someone whenever needed. Mom fairly disciplined simply to teach right from wrong.

As was the norm in the post-World War II era, Dad was the family breadwinner. He was an engineer by trade. Mom was an engineer, too, a domestic one, though the proper term back then was housewife. Mom masterfully coordinated all the cooking, cleaning, washing, planning, nursing, and entertaining.

mombybrucestambaugh
Our mother, three months before she died at age 90, always had a smile.
Mom had an uncanny, almost instinctive ability to adapt to many situations. With her five ornery children and one needy husband, it must have been her survival mechanism. Our hyperactive, always on the go father likely had something to do with that.

Dad was the prototypical Type-A personality, joining sporting, civic and church activities that often took him away from home right after he had finished the supper Mom had prepared. Mom seemed to take it in stride.

However, I remember some rather heated discussions occasionally punctuated the night air when us kids were supposed to be fast asleep. Speaking the truth in love was the thread that stitched Mom’s compassionate mantle.

I always admired that spunkiness. It perfectly balanced her more tender side, which was the one she wore so beautifully most often.

I have fond, vivid memories of us kids exploring boxes full of black and white photos that documented our parents’ early years together. I always chuckled at the one with Mom holding a shotgun. Dad claimed he and Mom did go hunting together, and Mom never denied it. But it was just so unlike the mother I remember. She disliked cooking the game Dad brought home.

Mom was always there for us, especially if we were sick. News of the latest mumps outbreak brought back vivid memories for me. I was miserable lying on the couch, covered in a homemade afghan, Mom trying her best to get me to drink and eat something, anything, instinctively knowing my painful discomfort.

And yet, she soldiered on with the rest of her household chores, making sure supper was ready, and everyone had clean clothes for the next day’s activities.

Despite all she had going on, Mom wouldn’t hesitate to stop what she was doing and play catch with us or dig a flower for a teacher or visit a sick neighbor. Mom lived her love.

landscapebyBruceStambaugh
One of the many watercolor landscapes done by Marian Stambaugh
Mom was very artistic, and blossomed into an award-winning watercolor painter. She and Dad even went on annual weeklong art junkets to the mountains of the Carolinas.

When Mom accompanied Dad on special archeology digs, she painted while he dug or hunted for artifacts. One of her landscapes graced the cover of a book. Mom was that good.

Mom’s paintings now adorn the walls of friends, family, and extended family members all across the country. They are beautiful testimonies to her artistic abilities and to the passion that she invested into all her efforts.

Mom lived 90 remarkable years. This is the third Mother’s Day without her. We greatly miss her. Mom’s gracious love lasts not only in our memories and her lovely paintings, but also in our hearts.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.