Then yesterday I was on the phone with Natalie Ninow who said essentially the same thing, “The past was so much fun. Your parents were wonderful. They taught us in Mutual, but it was more than that. There was so much socializing for us in your home. The church isn’t like that anymore.”
She may be right. At least the church isn’t like that for us seventy year olds anymore. Some of us can barely make it to a one hour meeting a week. But Natalie made me reflect on the happy past, especially in connection with my mother.
Oh my dad? He was fun – more than that -- charismatic. When he was in the room there was always a story that would make people laugh, a game that would could be played by everyone, conversation that was inclusive and thought-provoking – perhaps unsettling at the moment and then food for thought for weeks to come. That was Doral.
Wyora was not those things. I have been trying to figure out what would make her a legend. I think ... it was she that organized the parties, she that sent out the invitations, and she that saw everyone had rides. She welcomed her guests at the door of her home with open arms and a warm heart. She made sure that every dinner plate was full, that there were seconds of food for all and leftovers for the lucky ones to take home.
From her there was unconditional love ... oh Doral gave that also, but in a different way. His was a love that challenged people to rise a little higher, to think a little deeper. Her love was different – meant just for you, no holds barred, no judgements about any part of your life.
I was in my mid-teens when the people my parents were teaching would come to our house. I watched the groups of 18 to 24 year olds gather in the evenings, saw them fall in love, have wedding showers, get married, and then I watched other singles replace them in the group. There were immigrants from far away: Australia, Ireland, Scotland, and South Africa – all of them knew this was a home away from home. There were kids from hamlets of Alberta who had come to the big city and who also loved to gather at the Pilling's as well.
I can’t remember what was served for food, but it must have been moose and elk for that is how we ate the rest of the week. Oh I do remember one buffet when the food was on the table and soon gone. Finally someone asked what had been in one casserole. “Oh that was brains,” said my dad. “I cooked them myself. Wyona doesn’t like to do that kind of meat.”Oh, that was him.
But I cannot let my attention shift to Doral, who is easy to describe. Harder now for me to stay thinking about my mom who was quiet,who was never in the spotlight, who listened more than asked questions, and who was the one who baked the homemade bread, latticed the tops of the apple pies, wrapped the cinnamon buns in sugar and butter, cooked and squeezed the ruby red rhubarb into punch; she is the one who mixed up the root-beer syrup with dry ice, who cleaned the house, and who dealt with the kitchen clean- up when the party was over.
Instead of skirting around the issue, let me try to come clean about Wyora on Mother’s Day. She was small, only 5 foot 4 inches. Small but it was on her shoulders that he stood to make the party shine and the guests enjoy each other. Not just one party but an event every week, week after week, and year after year.
Some of those parties are still remembered fifty years later.
Thank you Brooke and Natalie for making me think about this again.