I am an easy cry. Like, I’m super tender. So when my brother and then my father asked if I would be speaking at my mother’s memorial service at the end of July, that was easy. More than a few times did I say "no." But my father really wanted me to speak. I had trouble talking about her without crying. Then my husband said the magic words, “Tell funny stories about her.” Ding ding ding. We have a winner. That I could do. Sherry Gibson was one colorful human being.
This is what I shared. Though I’ve been a public speaker since high school, this was the time I needed notes. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time sitting in the pews at the Dermott Presbyterian Church in southeast Arkansas. I didn’t want to “um” and stammer. I needed to deliver the message succinctly. So I wrote this down. I did okay until the end.
SHERRY GIBSON'S MEMORIAL NOTES
“No one had a mama like Chuck and Dan and I did. No one had a mama who wore fork earrings and would tell the waiter to go ‘fork himself.’
You didn’t have a mama who treated shopping like an Olympic sport. She was the first to have the latest technology including iPhones and computers. She was more like a Millenial with her phone in her hand at all times.
No one had a mama who shopped at Forever 21 in the mall, or as she called it ‘Forever 65.’ They had animal print and those neon green tanks she would wear. And leggings. Good lord, the woman loved leggings.
No one had a mama who quit smoking in the 70s but picked it back up in the 90s.. She called it the ‘Marlboro Diet’ to lose weight.
You probably didn’t have a mama who loved to cook. For her dogs. She hadn’t turned on a burner or oven for her family since I was in the 8th grade, and that’s when Chuck began his culinary quest, but she loved to fix her dogs gluten free, grain free meals. And grocery shop for them.
Your mama didn’t turn your room into a dog room when you drove away to your freshman year in college, did she? Mine did. As I pulled out of the driveway with my roommate in the tiny Chevette with tears in my eyes, the carpenter was pulling in to make my room into a dog room complete with fans and a waist-high bathtub. Again, your mama didn’t do that.
Your mama didn’t wear orange fingernail polish. In fact, friend Lillie Wren wanted to dress as Sherry at her school’s grandparents’ day where kids dress as senior citizens. Most wear silver wigs and use walkers. Lillie thought she’d wear orange nail polish, animal print leggings and those famous fork earrings.
Speaking of nail polish, I bet your mama didn’t think to paint her nails as she awaited the birth of her first grandchild. As Gina labored, Sherry looked for nailpolish so that newborn Kristen didn’t, as a minute old newborn, see Sherry without nail polish.
Your mama probably didn’t write a screenplay about the town midwife (who ended up going to medical school and is a physician now) and pitch the idea to Jane Fonda either on the ski lift in Aspen as legend has it or on the phone to her production company. Either way, your mama didn’t do that.
Your mama didn’t get so gung ho over dogs that her entire existence in the 90s was golden retrievers. She loved her “dog show pals,” as she called them, and they designed a website for her. It was sherrylikethewine.com and has since gone dark, but it was hysterical.
Your mama didn’t attract attention everywhere she went and confuse the lines between friend and mother and grandmother. Gibson once asked, 'You mean Mimi and Poppie are my grandparents?' We said, 'Yes, what did you think they were?' He shrugged his shoulders and said, 'nice people?'
Well those nice people changed the course of this Jew from New Jersey’s life in 1975. They were the most entertaining parents a girl could ask for.”
I lost it at the end. Saying how the “nice people” changed my life. And it’s true. I wouldn’t be where I am now without Sherry Gibson’s plea to adopt me when my real mother died when I was 12. As my first cousin, Sherry raised me as her only daughter. And the least I could do was speak at her memorial service.