Mother of Mine

Today is my Mother's Birthday.
My Mother is on a mission right now in New Jersey.
That is a long way from the tiny town in New Mexico where she grew up.
She was the third of six children. There are three boys and three girls.
She is the middle girl.
She grew up to be a cheerleader and Homecoming Queen...this was in a graduating class of five.
(I told you the town was tiny!) My Mother married young and started her family right away. I was born soon after she turned twenty and I was the second in our family after my brother Jon. My earliest memories of her are of her dressed up. I remember the swish of her nylon stockings when she walked and the click, click, click of her high heels. I knew it was Sunday and we would be going to church. She would lean down to help me with my shoes and I could smell the hairspray and perfume. I remember playing with her pretty necklaces and admiring her earrings. My Mother was pretty and looking at pictures of her back in that era, she reminds me of Jackie Kennedy--the fashion icon of that time. I got my Mother's dark hair, but not her beautiful blue eyes.
My Mother was very enterprising and creative. She made the matching Easter dresses you see on my sister Julienne and me. Mine had two little pockets. She embroidered flowers along the edge of each pocket. She made dresses for me out of old women's dresses. She could cut out a child's dress from the good fabric and use the buttons and zipper and any other usable parts to make a beautiful child's dress or skirt. When I was in the second grade, she got a little carried away and made me a plaid skirt with suspenders and used the extra fabric to make a little beret and fringed scarf. All from a woman's pleated skirt she got from Goodwill. She dressed me all up for school and sent me off. As soon as I was out of sight of the house, I stuffed the hat and scarf into my pockets. It was Blanding, Utah for goodness sake, not Paris, France!

Another early memory of mine is the smell of fresh baked bread on a Saturday night. She would make all the bread for the family on Saturday and by the time I went to bed she had it in the oven. I remember pretending like I had been woken from a sound sleep, wandering into the kitchen just as she was setting it out on the counter to cool. If I played it just right, I would get the heel of a warm loaf with a little butter before being sent back to bed. Yum!

I also remember her doing the laundry out on our porch in an old wringer washer. I was fascinated by the whole process. But now I look back and know what a lot of work that was. It was all done by hand and then hung on the clothesline to dry. I loved to play house and copy her domestic chores with my toy dishes and doll clothes. She would let me have a little bit of sugar to put in my plastic sugar jar. She would pull off a bit of dough when she was making bread and let me knead and roll it.

I was lucky to have a Mother who always had a great love of learning. She passed it on to us, first by reading to us. I have a vivid memory of laying on her bed while she read "Treasure Island" to me and my brother. I remember her reading "Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum! Fifteen men on a dead man's chest..." I pictured a pirate laying on his back with fifteen men piled on top of him--crushing his chest. It wasn't until I saw the Disney movie of Treasure Island that I realized it was a TREASURE chest.
My Mother's aunt Afton was a World Book Encyclopedia representative and her kids were all smart. My Mother wanted us to have the same chance at intelligence so she made payments on a set of World Book Encyclopedias that included a children's set of books.

She was fascinated with nature and loved to share that with us. If she found an unusual bug or spider, she would get it into a jar to show us. One day, she decided to make an aunt (oops, I mean ANT farm--I only had the two aunts and neither of them would have fit in a gallon milk jar!) ANT farm. She got the idea from the encyclopedia. She got a big, gallon milk jar and filled it with sand. The next step was to capture a queen ant so the colony would follow her to the "farm". We were all out digging up ant hills looking for the queen. We knew we were close when we dug down to the ant eggs. We got the queen into our jar and sure enough, the colony followed! We kept a sugar-water soaked sponge in a jar lid on top of the jar of sand and the ants lived happily for a long time.

That's me, my brother Jon and our parents. I'm probably looking for ants.

My Mother was her children's biggest fan. She signed us up for dancing lessons and made sure we were involved in any singing group at school or church. She made any creative arrangement she could to make sure we could pay for dancing lessons as well as the costumes and shoes involved. She was in the audience for all of my theatrical performances and any orchestra concerts. She would brag at any opportunity to others but never allowed us to get "too big for our britches".

My Mother taught me to pray and she showed me what faith is. She was very sick with hepatitis which affected her for many years. I remember waking up with nightmares--my Mother was exhausted, I'm sure from her illness and me waking her up because I was scared. She always reassured me and told me to say my prayers and that I was safe. Also, my little sister was born small and weak, and got pneumonia. The doctor didn't think she would make it. My Mother thought otherwise. I was only five but I remember the seriousness of the time and my Mother made sure we knew that it was faith and prayer that saved our baby sister.

She also showed me how to serve. Over the years, she took in foster children. One was so sick, anything he ate went right through him. His clothing and bedding were constantly messy. Imagine the laundry involved in keeping him clean and sanitary. She had compassion on the mother of two of our foster sisters. She was an alcoholic and desperately wanted to get her children back. If she came to the door and was sober, my mother would have her come in and see her girls. I remember her rocking and singing in Navajo in our living room.

When I was older, my Mother visit taught an elderly woman who lived alone. She would take me along on weekly visits and I would clean her house and wash the dishes while my Mother visited with her. Around that same time, she was the Laurel Advisor. I saw how she served faithfully in that calling and the girls loved her. She was fully enthused about everything to do with Young Women and Girls Camp and Road Show and Temple Trips. She was a dedicated and loving leader.

My Mother had her 10th child about eleven months before I had my first.
(Yes, we are Mormon)
There is no doubt that she loves her children every one.
She gets a little competitive with her siblings when it comes to numbers of grandkids and she had a hard time not nagging when she thought it was time for a great-grandchild.
She may be only 5 foot 2, but she's tough--I'm not worried about her holding her own in Jersey and New York City. She was only in the MTC for two weeks. I suppose that was long enough for her to learn the language: "Fugeddaboudit" and "Whachoolookinat?"


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