A birthday salute to Jackie, “Bubby,” Houserman

A rerun ...

Warning: This salute to my charming mother was penned in 2012. Therefore, the dates are even more off than when originally printed. I strongly suggest that a calculator be used whilst perusing this piece. Also keep in mind that any events referred to in said column in terms of "last year," for example, will have to have additional years tacked on to compensate. I'm providing you with a math and reading assignment all in one piece. For that you should be truly grateful.


Anyone who reads this column, on a regular basis, knows that I often, how shall I say this...well, I have been known to poke fun at my mother. Not sure if you picked up on that, or not, but, it's totally true.

I might not be able to resist some of that in this particular piece. However, my actual intention is to pen something super nice about the woman who gave me life, much to her chagrin, I'm sure.

See, today, November 12, is her birthday, and I think she's 86. I always get totally confused and add an extra year, when I tell people her age, so that's why I'm not clear.

Heaven forbid would I simply seize a calculator, (there's even one on this computer), and figure it out, as that would be way too much work. She was born in 1926 so, you may ascertain the answer to this most difficult of mathematical equations.

(On a side note, it isn't really November 12, right now, because I have to actually type the piece, prior to publication. That was dumb. I'm sure you all realized that. Boy, I'm digressing and am having some sort of breakdown at the same time. I think it's due to the election.)

Moving along, in honor of her milestone, of reaching whatever age it is, I'm going to impart some delightfully charming words about my dear mommy.

My uttering kind statements about Mother could, very likely, lead to heart attacks across the reading area. Sorry about that, in advance.

This is already getting to be too much for radio, and not quite enough for television, since I've now raved for two weeks in a row. I'm not sure I can handle it. HOLD ME.

I would like to begin by thanking her for still living. I know she works hard at it and it has paid off, thus far. She, at age 94, rises every morning and works out on this piece of equipment that murders one's legs. I can perform about ten steps, on the apparatus, and she undertakes 300, yes, 300 steps, in about twenty minutes—quite something for a woman of 97.

In all seriousness, which, in itself, is a miracle, coming from your humble columnist, I am super blessed to have that chick around.

With all the deaths, in the last year to year and a half, it just really makes me think of Mother, and life without her. How will I function? How could I possibly go on without Mother living right next door and coming to my rescue? I don't know how you, who have lost your moms, get through the day, and my hat goes off to you. (I'm thinking of David Schaef, the chief, my boss, right now, actually.)

If you wish to accuse me of being morbid, I AM actually a touch on the eerie side. Therefore, no offense would be taken.

In terms of the morbid deal, Mother and I freely discuss her departure. Call our family weird—I didn't REALLY want you to do that, so thanks a lot—but we do talk about the above-mentioned.

We feel that it is a part of life—an unfortunate, hideous and dreadful part but, plans should be made, blah, blah, blah.

My dearest mom is so prepped for the “occasion,” that she even picked out pictures to use for the gathering. They are actually displayed on a poster-type board at this very moment. Can you dig it?

Her obit is saved, in this very word processing program, on my computer, as well. (I'm going to modify it, just a touch, in order to make it crystal clear to all that I was her favorite. She won't be the wiser, so why not? Oh, she's reading this column, oops.)

I started compiling Mother's life story, on tape, a while back. Now, I know there are many readers who don't know her, and many who do. I do feel that you all understand a bit about her, due to my columns.

However, I'm sorry, in advance, for possibly boring you with details about a woman you wouldn't know from a load of hay but, I must do this for her, and for me. (You WOULD actually know her from a load of hay, because hay is in total disarray, in the bale. This is in direct contrast to Mother, since she literally, I kid you not, LITERALLY, alphabetizes her canned goods, and some other household jazz.)

A bit about her life is in order at this time. She grew up very poor and lived through the depression. My father, on the other hand, did not want for anything, and was spoiled rotten, as an only child.

Mother was born IN Conneaut Lake Park. No, silly goose, Grandma did not push her out whilst aboard the Blue Streak, nor did she use one of those seats behind a horse on the merry-go-round as a birthing bed. She was born in a home within the park.

She had a brother, Uncle Jim, and two first cousins, with whom she was exceptionally close. The four ran around together, wreaking havoc, before Uncle Jim lied about his age and joined the Marines at age 16—I think it was 16.

Her real father died when she was in second grade. Grandma was pretty poor and felt it necessary to send Mother to live with some refined aunts, in New York State. That is where she learned social graces, manners galore, proper grammar, etc., for which she is known, throughout the land.

The aunts, (her dad's sisters), didn't want to give her back but, eventually, Grandma pried her loose and she returned home. Her mom had since remarried. For a time, they lived on a farm in Linesville and had total fun roaming the streets and smoking secretly.

Mother is a self-made woman. Some readers may recall her store, for ladies clothing, called, “The Jacqueline Shoppe.” She owned the main store in Conneaut Lake, one in Linesville, in the front portion of the Linesville Herald building, (Pat Powers, of Linesville fame, would step out from the Herald to wait on customers, if need be), and, for a while, even had a little boutique located in the lobby region of the Holiday Inn, now the Days Inn, near Meadville.

This all began as a venture in one little section of Houserman's Variety Store, in Conneaut Lake. Needless to say, it was owned by my grandparents. Even though Grandma Houserman couldn't stand my mother, (no one was good enough for her little angel, my father), they allowed her to utilize a portion of the store in which to sell her wares.

When Houserman's Variety went out, Mother remained, and the rest is history. Wake up now please!!! Have some respect for that woman. She totally deserves it for enduring years of insults, in print, for all to see. (Now, what kind of monster would do that to such a lovely woman? Hmm...)

There are so many tidbits about Jackie H that are not widely known. For instance, she dabbled in clothing design, for a while, along with her friend, Karen Philips, who passed away several years ago.

Karen worked for Hallmark, yes, THE Hallmark Card Company and television channel. Her artwork graced the front of many cards, back in the day.

Mother is also, or was, quite an artist, way back when. I would say that she still could get in touch with that side but, the last art she unveiled, during one of her pool house gallery soirees, would have been “Trucks Unlimited.”

See, when my child was about three, he was obsessed with trucks. Every chance he got, he'd ask “Bubby,” (he named her this and we still call her by the nickname), to draw him a “cuck” and another cuck and another, wash, rinse and repeat. Mother was so sick of the whole cuck deal that I think it left a bad taste in her mouth, concerning sketching.

Moving beyond her artistic prowess, I guess you could say that my mother was one of the region's original feminists, yet, she isn't really one to jump aboard that train altogether.

She wants the man to open the door, pull her chair out from under her—I mean move it back from the table, in order for her to land her dainty, and quite boney, caboose upon the seat and, she likes to be treated like a lady—deservedly so, I might add.

She might even bristle over the feminism term but, she was a major bread winner, for which dad was teased mercilessly, and didn't mind one bit. He dabbled in real estate, and other ventures, including working for WMGW, for many years, but being a musician was his true calling.

Because of dad being, how shall I say this delicately....well rounded, in terms of employment, Mother was the one who took care of the checkbook and all things bill related.

Not that my father didn't supply funds, for crying in a bucket, he wasn't a deadbeat but, it was his opinion that the more job experience in life, the merrier, since it made a person knowledgeable in many subjects. Good one dad.

Mother's store went out of business when I was in high school. The malls really put the screws to her and it was clearly time for her to quit.

Not one for sitting around with her thumb up her nose, (she generally uses the forefinger), she went into the catering business and was considered to be magnificent. I can remember loading her large vehicle, from stem to stern, with catering jazz galore.

Everything was handled with perfection, of course, and she was quite well known in catering circles for her stunning presentations and fierce attention to detail.

I have to start winding down because I'm using too much space. I would be remiss if I did not say that, even though I was daddy's girl to the max, Mother and I have grown to be best friends.

I feel for her because she has now outlived her family, well, not us but, her cousins, of whom I spoke earlier, her brother, mother and my father. Not only but, she buried two other men, Chuck and Dutch, with whom she had wonderful relationships.

My mother, Jackie Houserman, of Conneaut Lake, is one tough cookie. She claims that, as she gets older, she now tells it like it is, with no worries. She is not fooling anyone, with whom she has come in contact, as everyone knows that she has always been extremely opinionated, to say the least.

I so wish my father were alive to have a relationship with my kid. However, Mother is so very close with him and is such a confidant, that he tells her EVERYTHING. Eventually, he tells me, as well, but Bubby is always the first to know.

On top of being the most classy, gorgeous, charming, witty and delightful woman, to grace this earth, she is also super, duper trustworthy.

I swear, I could tell her that I murdered someone in the late 1970s, and she would clam up tighter than a professional gymnast's hindquarters.

I must end abruptly now so, I shall say this in closing. Mother: I love you more than more and don't know how to function without you. You are my rock. You are my true world and I adore you with every fiber of my being. Happy Birthday to my beautiful mommy.

See, even I can be sincere, every now and again. However, this must end now. Next week, I am going to rant my brains out, if it's the last thing I do. All this lovey dovey (spelling?) stuff is just way over-the-top and it's causing massive arguments between the devil on my left shoulder, and the angel on my right.

As Mother would say, “That's it, Fort Pitt,” or “I'm as CALM as a cucumber.” She never could get those cliches right.