I have said in several blogs that my mom loved holidays. Memorial Day was another one of her favorites. She was always respectful to the true meaning behind the day, but about fifteen years ago, she and her Kiwanis Club began the Annual Memorial Day Rubber Duck Races. The races have become a HUGE part of our community and the organization raises over $20,000 each year that is distributed to local programs that benefit children.
My mom worked so hard to make this day better and better every year. She sat outside of their store in town and sold tickets every weekend. She walked the streets, (when she was physically able), and solicited prizes from other merchants. Every year the races have gotten bigger and better. With prizes ranging from televisions and iPods, to pizzas and gift certificates, there is a huge array of things to win.
This was mom’s event. She was known around town as “The Duck Lady”. She didn’t care how silly she looked wearing her feathery duck hat and necklaces as she sat outside and sold tickets. People looked forward to the day when tickets would go on sale because it meant the beginning of summer was coming! They would stop by her table and mom would talk it up! Especially to the kids! A person could not help but get caught up in her excitement and want to be a part of the thrill of the races.
My mom, this totally “average” woman, (as she’d describe herself), was so not “average” when it came to this day. She was the queen of the race! Over the last few weeks, so many people have walked down the street and passed “her” table and have all thought the same thing, “it just won’t be the same”. I have gotten more hugs and gentle smiles from people who are all thinking the same thing and just missing her.
Obviously today was her day and it was bittersweet. All of the tickets had a tribute to her and the races were dedicated to her and Francine, (who also did a lot to help with it each year). A roar and applause went out from the crowd when it was announced. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Happiness, sadness, a little bit of each perhaps but it touched my heart to know how much she meant to this community.
Next year, there will be a bench in her memory at the site of the races. My Kindergarten Class, and The South Orange/Maplewood Kiwanis Club are purchasing it in her memory. I know that it will be a place where others can go to feel her presence, in one of her happiest places. They can read the plaque that will be dedicated to her, and feel the love and kindness she shared with her community.
I know that she was there today – watching over all of us. The weather has been terrible for the last few days and today, the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze and a yellow butterfly flew over us. I hope that was her sign to me, letting us know that she was pleased with the way everything went today and how proud she was that the races will continue to go on!!