Birthday Remembrance and Celebration
My mother would have turned 104 today. Born in 1911, she grew up during World War I, the influenza calamity, smallpox rage, the roaring ’20s, and the depression. I know each of these influenced her deeply. Her father died from a weakened heart due to the aftereffects of rheumatic fever. My grandmother, lovingly called Peggy, returned home to Salt Lake City with her little daughter to be closer to family. But after just a short time, she longed for Spokane and the home that my grandfather had built for them and so she bundled Mama and her few possessions and left. This, to me, was a very courageous decision as it was not accepted at that time for women to live alone or to raise a child without a spouse. To further break these rules, Peggy also went to work, something pretty unheard other than school marms and boarding house owners.
Peggy and my mom’s home was a darling Craftsman located on a quiet, tree-lined street. Peggy walked a few blocks to catch the trolley to her job as a milliner at the Crescent while neighbors tended to Mom. Mama loved the neighbors just as she loved her trips to visit Peggy at work. As a young child she was well guarded but she also had much independence. Riding the trolley at 6, walking to school blocks from home, and preparing dinner for Peggy’s return were just a few of these.
Peggy valued education and instilled this in my mom and so one January, after high school graduation held in the winter as well as the spring, Mama boarded the train for Washington State University, where she studied English and journalism. She enjoyed her time there and all of the special friends she made, including my dad. He changed her career to wife, Mom, and homemaker, a job that she fulfilled with excellence for many years. When I was born, the last of five daughters, Mama continued her home duties but with the motto, “An education is never wasted”, she decided to pursue a degree in library science and as I entered the third grade she entered the work force.
I remember being very angry with her about this choice. After all, a girl needs her mom at home when she arrives after school, right? Because it was her first job and because Mama was so dedicated, she spent long hours before and after school whipping her library into excellence. I may have pouted, to no avail, however, as she had found a rewarding job that also offered her the chance to become independent and increase her own sense of self-worth. I only understand this in retrospect. I can barely imagine going back to college and then starting my first job at 50, but it gave her pleasure and thus pleasure to me, as well, and she set a standard for chasing dreams regardless of age.
Mama was smart, clever, and very gentle. She had vast wisdom about so many topics, being well read and delving into many in-depth. She didn’t argue about most things because her knowledge and background superseded almost any other angle. She also knew how to keep five sibling daughters from tearing each other’s hair out and in line, a very arduous task at times. Once she returned to college, she immersed herself in more classes and activities, always gaining in understanding and outlook. And she was so gentle. I was the baby by eleven years and so my circumstances were different than those of my sisters as I was sort of an only child, but she never yelled at me, spanked me, swore at me or in my presence, and never even raised her voice. She led by her tender example and I have tried (rather unsuccessfully) to emulate this.
I realize that not every person has a wonderful Mom such as I had and that saddens me. A good Mom is such a strong foundation for being a good child and a future good Mom, Dad, and role model. All those little details add up to a phenomenal individual, and that was my dear Mama.