Virginia, Ginny, Mom
As she sits down at our “rustic” looking kitchen table, my mother comments on the wobbly nature of our old chairs. Nagging- something she only does when she is nervous. I know because she is seldom nervous or on edge. I begin the interview by asking about her childhood. She laughs and shakes her head as she cracks a joke about how traumatic it was. “I was one of 11 children, and we only had one bathroom.” She was born in Philly in 1962 to Edith and Joe Bloh, who named her Virginia. She lived in the city for the first few years of her life. Then her family picked up and moved to South Jersey, where she spent the most memorable days of her youth. Growing up in the Atlantic City area shaped her life in many ways. In addition to developing her obsession with ice cream while working on the boardwalk, she also developed her sassy resilience. “One day a man came into the shop with his hand wrapped in a towel, claiming to have a gun. Like, yeah right dip sh*t. Anyway, I told him I wasn’t in the mood to get robbed, and he just left.”
When it comes to what she was like in her teens and early twenties, it isn’t easy to believe the “perfect honors student” picture she paints. Always an extremely smart one, she sticks to her story that she got all A’s in high school- and gives me a look that says “and you could have too.” Her sister, my aunt Mickey, also described her as “a total honors kid” and told me stories of how she would spend most saturdays studying; her outings with friends were often to the library. Even with her scholarly nature, she brings a party wherever she goes, a trait I highly admire in her. Her current and old friends have all described her as “hilarious and always a good time.”
I have always known her to be witty, sharp, and always up for a good time. I am not sure where she got that from exactly, other than the necessity of making fun of her questionable conditions. She lived with so many people, one would go insane without a good laugh. It wasn’t easy growing up fat, especially in the 70’s. As she recalls, there were far fewer brands carrying plus-sized clothing as there are now. She would have to suffer through wearing the most atrocious clothing, so laughter is how she dealt with it.
To get a deeper understanding of her past and her present, I asked her about her mother, Edith Bloh. Unfortunately, Edith passed away in February of 2015, but her legacy is long lived. Being the second youngest (and youngest girl) of 11, my mom had a special bond with her. They did everything together, and my mom became a little daughter/sidekick. “Edie”, as her loved ones would call her, was a teacher, and had the special experience of educating many of her children, lastly her little Virginia. So obviously she had a huge influence on my mom, and when she died, it hit her the hardest. My mother learned things from her mother that she carries with her today. Her religious beliefs, her “money saving tricks”, and her genuine love for others all came from the way she was raised and what an amazing job my grandmother, or “Meme” did. Just like Meme, she puts stews and sauces in empty cream cheese containers. Like Meme, she uses a bobby pin to clean her ears. “It’s weird but it works!”, she says. And, just like Meme, she would sing me to sleep with the story of a mouse and black eyed peas. She told me “my mother is the reason I wanted to be yours.”
My mom has, however, picked up some special parenting styles of her own. .Yes, she bases her methods off of her own childhood experience, but I don’t think that one of her mother’s golden rules was “Don’t buy the expensive iced tea if you’re just going to mix it with booze.” She has always trumpeted her most important lessons she wanted to teach her children, and they will never leave me. “Number one, Mommy always loves you. Number two, never rely on a man for money. Number three, never waste your calories on a beverage.” She really has taught me these things ever since I can remember. Another one of her phrases is “I love you to the moon and back infinity times.” Things like that are inherently my mother, as are designer, red leather hand bags and fancy looking nails. She has always been strict but firm with me, and the foundation of our relationship is trust- something she is very clear about.
My mom has been just as big if an influence on me as her mom was on her. I consider her to be my very best friend. We have this cute thing where I say, “Mom how long are we besties for?” and she says “five-ever.” She was my very first comedic influence, and that has been invaluable. A big part of who I am is my sense of humor and quick wit, which could not have been cultivated without my mother’s company. She also nurtured in me a deep and genuine love for my family and friends as well as my belief in God and Christian values. As I mature and eventually become a mother, I want to be as much like my mother as possible. I want to inspire in my daughter the same spark she inspired in me. I want to be able to teach my children to be as strong and as independent as she has taught my sister and me to be. Good mothers try their best to be the best they can for their children. My mother tries her best and is successful everyday. I will try my best, as I do for her now, for my own children.