In loving memory of my mother, Marta Anne Auchmuty Harrington
May 18, 1946 - January 28, 2005
She was born in
Philadelphia, Pa on May 18, 1946 to John H. and Monya D. Auchmuty, who predeceased her in Dec.1958. She was raised by a loving aunt and uncle, Jeanne and Cletus Phillips who saw her through her education and into her marriage.
I am adding here, at my father's request, a little more about her passing. She had lost a lot of weight and had become very healthy and had even become an exercise instructor. So her heart attack was a complete shock to us all. And yet, even as awful as it was, Someone was watching over her--and him too. They had promised each other many years before that whoever went first would go in the arms of the other. So my mother did not have her heart attack while sleeping, driving, or at school. Instead, it happened when both my parents were home, and my dad had time to hold her as she left this world.
Additionally, because she loved to read she was a frequent visitor to the
Blue Hill library, where she combed through the sci-fi/fantasy, mystery,
chick lit and general fiction stacks. She often called me to rave over books
she had discovered, especially when they seemed like a perfect fit for my
book review website.
I can't really put in words yet what she meant to me, so I will instead compile some memories I have of her here, as well as some thoughts on her life and how she left it. (I am also including this link to a beautiful site that has so much wisdom on it, a lot of which my parents have tried to pass on to me. I think that my mother, particularly in the last few years after the accident we could have lost her in, really took so many of its points and applied them in her own life.)
Mom was actually turning into a pretty good cook, especially in the last few years as she devised recipes that would work for her Weight Watcher's eating plan. But certain moments from when I lived at home stick out:
The attempt to make a giant blueberry pancake during Girl Scout Camp. The batter had turned lavender from not draining the canned berries before adding them, and the fool thing was too big to flip over so it was burned on one side and raw on the other. (Note, it was at that same camp in another year that we discovered that brown trout will practically throw themselves on the shore if you dump a bit of Aunt Jemima batter at the edge of the water.)
That same trip we invented "Salad Soup". The veggies we'd added to the hamburger stew were raw as could be.
And then there was the time we made a birthday cake for my dad and she misread the recipe and told me to add 3 TABLEspoons of baking soda. Yes, the cake exploded in the oven.
Finally, through no fault of her own, there was the year we had a vegetarian Christmas dinner because the turkey had apparently been frozen and thawed twice over, the result being a rubbery inedible main course.
On the same trip that we discovered that pancakes are great fish bait, I found out why we are supposed to roll up our sleeping bags when they are not in use. I'd left mine open and went bouncing through the flap of the old canvas tent that was set up just a stone's throw from the pond. I turned to say something to my mother who was following close behind, and there, staring me in the face, was a water spider that was larger than her hand. I'd walked right under it. If we proceeded to try and shake it off the flap, it would surely drop into my open sleeping bag below. But mother, who was never very fond of arachnids, was brave enough to try and pull the flap away from the platform and give it a good poke with a stick. The annoyed spider plunked on the ground and raced back to the water.
I really can't complain about my mother's driving, because, as she put it just the week before she died, until I get a license of my own I have no right to do so. (I did have a permit in high school, during which time I nearly slammed my mother into a telephone pole and a 1968 Chrysler. Hence the reason why I don't drive now.) But really, she was a scary driver now and then. At times, I thought that she felt that red lights and stop signs were suggestions rather than laws. But now I suspect the more likely scenario was that she was too busy talking to notice them.
When I was very young, she started the car outside of the local Laundromat and it lurched forward into the side of the building. I don't recall this part, but my father said that she drove home and parked so that the front of the car was actually inside the old carriage house (a building with a wooden floor that could never have supported the weight of a modern automobile.) Of course, he had to go see what that was all about, and sure enough, lodged in the fender was a windowsill from the Laundromat.
And then, of course, there was the time she flipped her car off the causeway. She hadn't been going very fast at all, but there was black ice on the road she hadn't accounted for. Her car flipped off the rocks and landed upside down in the half-tide of the ocean. Had it been low tide, she might have been crushed by the weight of the car. Had it been high tide, she might have drowned. As it was she had to duck her head under the water to unhook her seat belt before clambering out of what was left of the car. She walked away from that accident with just a scratch and a bruise.
~My last memories of my mother~
I am so very glad that she spent the night at my house the weekend before she passed away. My boys had that one last visit with her, and she and I enjoyed each other's company at a cheerleading competition, one of our favorite things to do together. (No fair! The stadium cushions I ordered for the two of us so that we could sit more comfortably at the next one arrived today, Feb. 2nd.) I did speak to her on the phone a few times after that visit, although I can hardly tell you what about. Probably I was complaining about this or that minor nuisance in my life. The last call, the night before we lost her, I wish I had told her that I loved her. I have done so many times before, but I don't think I did that night.
Ian's memories of his 'Amma: (Actually, some of these took place when the kids were too young to remember them, so I will remember for them.) When he was still a tot in a high chair, his 'Amma made him a milk sippy cup. She misaligned the threads on the top and the cup though, so that when Ian picked it up to drink the milk rushed right out and down his front. He was screaming mad and difficult to get out of the chair, especially since his diaper was huge and heavier than he was (or so it seemed.) 'Amma felt bad about that but of course we all couldn't help but laugh, because it was kinda funny. (Sorry buddy, but it's true!)
Branny's memories of his 'Amma: One time I had set Brandon into his high chair while I was talking away on the phone with mother. He started screaming and before I even had a chance to see what was wrong my mother said that he was in pain, and asked if I strapped him in wrong? Sure enough, I had trapped a bit of his forearm in the tray clip. (No, he was not permanently damaged.)
My brother Trevor has mostly private memories about Mom. She helped him through so many difficult times in his life. But he would like to share that he loved the costumes that she made for him. Two that really stand out are Sesame Street's Count von Count and the papier mache Yoda mask.
Some of my father's memories of my mother: I
wanted to tell of the first night we were really together, at the graduation
dance after moving up from ninth grade. We kind of just reached for each
other's hand, without a word, and I guess we just kinda sorta (one of your
Mom's old expressions) never let go. A few minutes before the hand
hold, I had been taking a bit of a ribbing because I wouldn't ask another
girl out to the soda shop after the big dance. Your Mom came bouncing up and
asked what was up. I wouldn't tell her, but one of the other guys did. She
said to wait a minute and went off to check in with the other girl. Came
bouncing back with that awesome grin of hers and said, nope, she has other
plans, you are going home with me.
Our first Valentine's Day-We had seen the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and we wanted to go to the store. So we went into NYC for the day, visiting the museum to see the Mona Lisa, and then to Tiffany's. I told your Mom I would buy her something, but all I had money enough for was a tiny silver salt cellar spoon. It is still in her jewelry box. Later, about 15 years ago, I had to have surgery and originally scheduled it for Feb 14. My surgeon, a lovely woman of great sensitivity, told me she wouldn't perform the operation on Valentine's Day, that I needed to spend it with my wife. She was so right.
Friends Nancy and Gil recall the time they visited the Harbor while it was snowing and wound up having to stay over night. (Note: I am adding that I recall my mother and Nancy sewing together, especially a very pretty white dress with tiny brown flowers on it.)
From friend Alice: Marta was teaching me to use the computer at school and we were both operating the mouse at the same time, me hesitantly and her rapidly, so that it kept glancing over random icons and opening things up, until finally the screen was a clogged mess and were both breathless with laughter. We were quite a pair when we shared a room, as I'm a neat freak and she liked a "creative clutter"!
From friends Steve and Lorraine: We knew her for over 20 years, so the memories are many. I remember what a great help she was to us when we were planning Jessie's bridal shower and wedding and a couple years later a baby shower for her. The big castle that she made for the wedding reception was great and a real conversation piece among our family and friends that day. You and your Mom came up with some wonderful games for the showers that Jessie will always remember. Marta was a real party person when it came to planning the murder mysteries, and the costumes that she put together were great! I also remember helping with your wedding Jen, I put together at least one of the girls' dresses. Marta was a wonderful person. I am going to miss her a lot both in and out of school.
I will be adding more pictures of my mother's childhood, as well as examples of her artwork.
Hover your mouse over the thumbnails for notes about some of the pictures. Click on them to see larger images.
editing, editor, edit, critique, service, novel,
fiction, romance, women's, inexpensive, reliable, cheap, manuscripts,
evaluation, evaluations, coach, coaching, mentor, mentoring, revise,
revision, rewrite, submit, free, query, submission, publish, publisher,
word, ghost, writing,