How on earth did this post about the Lincoln Memorial turn into one about dinner parties with Flo?

May 30, 2015 • Posted in Flo, travel, Uncategorized by

When my talking computer read today’s Writer’s Almanac out loud to me this morning, I discovered that the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on this day in 1922. My mother, Flo, was born before the Lincoln Memorial? Whoa. I thought the Lincoln Memorial had been around since, well, since the Emancipation Proclamation or something. The Writer’s Almanac says that the monument was first proposed in 1867, but construction didn’t begin until 1914. Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator, but the almanac reports that the audience at the 1922 dedication — more than 50,000 people — was segregated. From the almanac:

Keynote speaker Robert Moton, president of the Tuskegee Institute and an African-American, was not permitted to sit on the speakers’ platform. just over 40 years later, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. would give his “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of an audience of 200,000.

It’s nearly a year since Flo died, but I still find myself forgetting and picking up the phone to call her to tell her something. More often, to ask her a question. She was born in 1916, which makes her six years old when the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. On today’s phone call –or during a visit — I’d tell her all I’d learned from the Writer’s Almanac about the Lincoln Memorial, and then start in with my questions:

  • Do you remember them dedicating the Lincoln memorial?
  • When you were in school, did they teach you about the memorials in Washington, D.C.?
  • I guess there really weren’t a whole lot of memorials on the mall back then, did they talk much about them at all in school?
  • If the Lincoln Memorial wasn’t built yet, what was on the back of the five dollar bill when you were born?

I’ll never know the answers. For one, Flo would have just laughed at that last question, and if you wanna know the truth, I probably wouldn’t know the answers to the other questions even if she was still here to pick up the phone. Flo was never one to talk about her own experiences much. I’d ask a question, she’d shrug (and yes, you can hear a shrug over the telephone) and say no, she really doesn’t remember much about that historical event. From there, she’d veer off on a related story, nearly always about someone other than herself. Today’s call might have evolved into a recollection of a trip Mike and I took with her once to see Pick and Hank in Washington, D.C. “ohhhh, their place is so beautiful,” she’d exclaim. “That kitchen — it was like Hollywood!” She’d wax poetic over the magnificent dinner Hank put together for us and the piano tunes Pick played afterward. “That was really something.” Calls with Flo were like that. She appreciated her childhood and her upbringing, but rather than dwell on details of the past, she focused on other people, what was going on now, in the present. Are pick and Hank still in that place? Are they coming out for a visit? Have you seen them lately? How are they doing? She’d want us to say hello to them, of course, and she always phoned when a holiday card came in the mail from them, or from anyone else I knew, for that matter. Cards in the mail were truly red-letter days for Flo. Hearing her gush about those cards? I may not have realized it then, but now I know. Those were red-letter days for me. And that’s what I Miss about our visits and the random phone calls with Flo. They were simple reminders to enjoy the people around us, appreciate the time we have with them, and let them know they’re loved. Most important: share great meals with friends when you can, and never miss an opportunity to gather around a piano to belt out an old tune. And if you can throw a dance in with the meal and piano tunes, by all means…

Emily Clott On May 30, 2015 at 1:50 pm

What a lovely remembrance, Beth! I wish I could have known Flo. She sounds like a great lady.

bethfinke On May 31, 2015 at 9:58 am

Good to hear you enjoyed reading this one — it really did start as a piece about the Lincoln Memorial. Funny where our writing takes us sometimes, or should I say it’s *telling* where our writing takes us sometimes.

Laura Gale On May 30, 2015 at 2:29 pm

I love this post, and what a great message at the end of it. I understand your urge to pick up the phone. Time flies and it’s hard to believe it’s going on one year since Flo passed away. It’s almost 25 years since my mom died, and I still miss those phone calls with her, too (pre-cell phones of course)!

bethfinke On May 31, 2015 at 10:05 am

25 years already? That is unbelievable. Looking back at it now makes me realize just how young you and Melissa were when Chris died. I wonder why we thought we had to act so grown-up then, we really all were just kids. Your family is still a strong one, and to me that is the legacy of your strong, independent and very witty mother.


Charlene On May 30, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Your wonderful memories of Your mom will keep her in your heart forever! Your favorite fan.

bethfinke On May 31, 2015 at 10:09 am

Thank you, Charlene. I need her in my heart, Flo always gave me confidence.

sharon Kramer On May 31, 2015 at 5:42 am

I love your memories of your mom. I still think of telling my mom about something that happened to me that day. She has been gone almost 3 years.

bethfinke On May 31, 2015 at 10:11 am

Sure can be odd, can’t it?

Pick On May 31, 2015 at 6:02 am

What a loving tribute and memory. Flo was special.

bethfinke On May 31, 2015 at 10:12 am

…and so are you, Pick. She talked far more about her visit to your apartment then about any of the memorials she saw in D.C.

Janet On May 31, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Was trying to comment on this over the weekend, but had some technical difficulties. The part where she would just laugh at some of the questions people would ask her got me. She had the best laugh and giggles, and did that all the time! I really miss hearing her laugh, but it’s still very fresh, so thanks for letting me here her giggle again, in my head. Love you!

WandaB On June 1, 2015 at 6:13 am

Hi Beth

I wasn’t old enough to know when the memorial was built but I was born before it was dedicated. I was a freshman in high school
Easter Sunday, 1935 (my freshman year at DuSable High School) Marion Anderson, famous African-American stood on the front of the Lincoln Memorial and sang the concert the D A R refused her to perform in their hall. Mrs. Roosevelt resigned from the group in protest.
I still get goose bumps remembering the sound of her beautiful voice. Sorrow fills me when such stupidity is exhibited and to think many still cling to the idea that blacks and other dark races are inferior.

IN the 1960’s Jr. and I visited the memorial. It is a magnificent structure.

Remember, Flo and I are contemporaries..
Enough!!! Hugs all around, Wanda b.

glivingston On June 1, 2015 at 10:58 am

What a nice recollection. I read this right after doing some work cleaning out all the stuff in my house, when I came across the remarks I made at my mom’s memorial service so this fits right in with the theme of the morning. Good memories.

Judith Spock On June 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm

I HAVE, and AM, a great old piano, out of tune! And it gives me great joy to have, and be, one! Even our new neighbors in this ‘retirement community’ we now call Œhome are grateful (not scornful!) to hear me in conversation with the keys and strings, pedals and pagesŠ.however halting or melancholyŠI think we all remember something essential about ourselves and others, when music struggles to be heard, and is celebrated, even in a small way. And when others are truly brilliantŠthere is no stopping its good effect on usŠ!!

Marilee On June 7, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Beautiful and so insightful. Flo enjoyed and was present in the moment. Loved that!

bethfinke On June 13, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Yes. Continuing to learn from her example. : Safe & Sound blog [] Sent: Sunday, June 07, 2015 12:44 PM To: Subject: [Safe & Sound blog] Comment: “How on earth did this post about the Lincoln Memorial turn into one about dinner parties with Flo?”

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