We are heartbroken over the loss of our mother, Pauline Harrell Tidman, who passed away August 2, 2022, three years after the loss of our father and Mom’s much beloved husband, Derek Albert Tidman.
Mom was a history, English literature and political junky, an information sponge with a sharp wit, and a character in all the positive ways that term could be interpreted. We used to say that Mom had a mind like a steal trap. She took in everything and forgot nothing. This was true until her old age.
Mom was born in 1933 in Norfolk, Virginia, to Katherine Dunavan Harrell (our Nanna) and Quinton Trotman Harrell (the grandfather we never knew). They named Mom after Nanna’s beloved sister, Pauline, who Nanna lost when she was just 21 and her sister Pauline was just 19, but Mom’s affectionate nickname that stuck through her whole life was Bootsie. Mom grew up an only child and as the apple of her parents’ eyes and undoubtedly a daddy’s girl. It was a modest middle class household (our grandfather was a US Customs inspector, and Nanna was a school teacher) filled with love. It was just a couple of blocks from a creek of the Chesapeake, and Mom would free-range the neighborhood with her childhood friends playing all kinds of games like tag and marbles, collecting fireflies in the summer and hoping for snow in the winter. She was something of a tomboy, and she loved to be outside until dinner time. She would be having so much fun that she would pretend not to hear her mother’s calls to come back inside for dinner. So her dad would come out of the house, break a small small willow tree branch, and swish her legs with it, sending Mom racing home kicking her legs up high and laughing all the way.
Frequent memories of her childhood with her parents included bedtime stories. As a small child, Mom particularly enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson poems. She also loved her mother‘s famous and decadent dark chocolate cookies and especially her mother’s whipped potatoes. Mom sat with her dad and listened regularly to Roosevelt‘s famous fireside chats during World War II. She was riveted and completely involved In what was going on in the world at the time. She spoke so often of this, we feel that it kicked off her interests in history.
Mom was outgoing, congenial and confident and was voted the most witty in middle school. Mom was also very studious, with a liberal arts sort of mind but also very creative mind.
Mom went to Randolph Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She was thrilled to meet one of her idols, Robert Frost, who had come to the college to lecture, and Mom had brought a book with his complete collection, which impressed him and which he signed. Just after her junior year, in June of 1954, Mom lost her dear father who had lived through war as a WWI veteran but could not beat cancer at just 57. Mom finished her senior year and then went on to the University of Chicago to pursue a Masters in English Literature. Randolph Macon was a wonderful experience, and a place she supported and returned to for alumni events throughout her life. But it was graduate school at the University of Chicago, where she studied English Literature, that her life changed forever.
Mom lived with Joan Bowie, who was from England and was earning her masters in social work. Out of being roommates and their graduate experience, Mom and Joan became dear, dear friends and remained so for the rest of their lives. Mom’s mother (our grandmother), having lost her husband, lived with the two students as well, making their dinner and cleaning the apartment. Joan nick -named her Wee Red because she was such a tiny woman with red hair.
One fateful evening, Joan brought our mom to a gathering of English students and faculty at International House on campus where Mom met Dad. Mom was flabbergasted that a professor at the University was interested in dating her. Mom was self- effacing, unassuming and innocent. Until her death, Mom would describe her experience meeting Dad, saying, “there he was sitting, on the faculty, and he looked like Gregory Peck, and he is interested in me, a masters candidate in English literature!”
But from our point of view, Mom was wonderful in her own field, so interesting to talk with, and had the most incredible dimples. Mom would tell of their first date in Chicago. They went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant and Mom had dropped some spaghetti down the front of her blouse. Out father, who then still had a very strong English accent said, “ oh! You’ve dropped spaghetti down your front, haven’t you? Charming”! For some reason, Mom dated him again anyway.
Our parents were married in the chapel on the University of Chicago campus in 1959, and for their honeymoon, they drove across the country with Nanna in tow. This was just part of what would be a lifetime of commitment to, and caretaking of, Mom’s mother after the loss of her father.
When Dad got a full professorship at the University of Maryland, Mom and Dad moved to Maryland, eventually landing at our childhood home in Silver Spring. Mom and dad had two children, us, whose names are Katherine (Kay) Tidman Blee and Mark Harrell Tidman , but our given names didn’t last long because we soon became Pearl Lu and Bogga Lu, and Dad was Tiddy Lu, short for Tiddy Lu Brown.
Mom could recite really any passage or poem from her English Literature education, and we always thought it was amazing that she could pull up long passages of Shakespeare, like Marc Antony’s speech, “Friends, romans, countrymen, lend me your ears . . . . “ She would make us memorize poems too, favorites always being Robert Frost. To this day, we can recite Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening . . . “Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though. He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.” Mom loved that one. Or The Pasture – I’m going out to clean the pasture spring; I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away, and wait to watch the water clear, I may; I sha’n’t be gone long - you come too. I’m going out to fetch the little calf that’s standing by the mother. It’s so young; it totters when she licks it with her tongue. I sha’n’t be gone long – you come too.” Mom loved the simple imagery and genius of Frost.
Mom whisked us around to piano lessons and various activities and was always a fantastic support. She initially accommodated a cat, Alfie, and quickly became attached. He, of course, became Alfie Lu, and eventually just Lu, which then became LuLu. Frankly, when she just said Lu, it was sometimes a little confusing who she was addressing. Later, we would take in a stray, Grey, who mostly was a wandering cat and never merited the “Lu” nickname, and later Fred, a very loved and wonderful cat. Throughout, Mom (and Dad) was devoted to her mother, and we would have many months of Nanna in the house every year. Mom enjoyed her work and her politics. Mom taught English as a second language, would substitute teach in the public schools from time-to-time, and threw herself into politics. We remember her marching around the kitchen chanting “go, go-go, go and get ‘em Hubert,” of course in support of Hubert Humphry in 1968. We stuffed envelopes for McGovern, and she took us downtown to Common Cause to help with mailings in the early 1970’s. Mom participated in lots of local political races, and we recall putting materials in mailboxes and handing out material at polls many times. Mom took Mark to an election night party for Idamae Garrett in her race for Congress, and he made every attempt to get in front of the tv camera when they interviewed Idamae. And Mom worked many years for Maryland Senator Ida Ruben as a speech writer and general advisor and confidante.
Mom would read everything and consumed news obsessively. And the discussion around the dinner table every night was always a fascinating mix of Dad’s science and Mom’s wealth of political and historical information. We were the kids who grew up watching the Vietnam war on a 12” black and white television, Walter Cronkite and Roger Mudd, and hearing our parents’ perspectives on all of it. Mom was also something of a hoarder, and if she found an article interesting or unique, she would cut it out and save it to revisit later. Thus, our dining room table was a mass of cut out articles and papers, and a place we could stop and pick something out randomly for a quick read. The table spent 363 days of the year like that, with the exceptions being Christmas and Thanksgiving. For those two days, the papers would be cleared for what was truly, truly, truly the best turkey dinner anyone ever made. We loved that dinner, and it was always exactly the same – Turkey with gravy of course, little roasted white potatoes cut small with simple salt and pepper, candied sweet potatoes, peas, the world’s best homemade stuffing, squash with garlic and onions, a lime jello mold with pears, sweet pickles, and olives. It was unbeatable and has never been surpassed.
Mom was always a wealth of information which we found more and more interesting as we became young adults. And we found ourselves really enjoying long conversations with Mom through college as we became more and more interested in the world and academically inclined. We would spend many years craving those conversations with Mom, and even after hours, wanting more.
We loved our mother very much. We treasured the many decades that we had her. Mom lives on in all of the fun and funny remembrances we have of her. And we have so many! We will miss Mom for the rest of our lives.