|Carolyn and Mildred "Big Mama"|
First, I've got to share this. One of my funny memories of Big Mama, after I married into this awesome family, was sitting next to her in a car. I was in my late 20's. She was grandma. We were both wearing shorts due to summertime and I noticed that her legs didn't look a whole lot different than mine! WOW! Well thank God for good genes, because I realized everyone in this family looks amazing and doesn't really age much...yikes!! But their quality is much more than skin deep for SURE.
Growing up in Detroit, my family was blessed with great opportunities offered back then in the big city after World War II: a good job in an auto factory for my Dad and a secretarial position with the US Government for my Mom. They were determined that we would “have things better than they had”, growing up in the Depression. As I look back to my growing up years, I am so grateful.
Mom’s days were spent somewhat like a Proverbs 31 woman. Her job was almost an hour away so she left home while it was still dark and got home when it was close to dark. When she got home from work she fed us, then prepared breakfast, lunch boxes and dinner for the next day. (Hmmm-no microwave-how did we do it?) She laid out our clothes for school, braided our hair, wrapped it up for sleeping. My Dad (who worked evenings) put hair ribbons on the next morning and got us off to school. I often remembered hearing the washing machine running and also smelling the next day’s dinner as I went to sleep. She often even hung out clothes in the dark before she went to work! That task alone put her in “the best Mom” category for me.
Because she didn’t drive until later in life, in order to give us some of the “better” things, for years she faithfully took my sister and me to piano lessons, clear across town on the bus and streetcar system. This was in the snow, rain and often darkness. If we didn’t become musical, it was not going to be her fault! She was also a great reader, always with a book in her hands. So we became readers-through Mom’s frequent trips with us to the public libraries-yes, once again on the bus.
It was important to Mom that my sister and I grew up to be “nice” girls and ladies, not “fast” girls who talked back, “acted ugly” and got into trouble. However, my best recollection of “the talk” was while she was ironing clothes in the basement (no permanent press back then). I was sitting on the steps and she started talking to me about boys. I’m sure there must have been some preliminary talk but what I remember most is that I’d better not ever become a “fast” teen-aged girl and hang out with boys by myself and that I should never, ever, ever kiss a boy. That would make me become a “fast” girl and I would get into a lot of trouble! Somehow, that “trouble” word stuck with me- I don’t think I ever became a “fast” girl because it was a very, very, very long time (years) before I ever kissed a boy. When I finally did, it wasn’t a boy at all, it was a young man. Funny how some things just stick!
In her effort to raise nice girls, and probably also based on her very conservative church background, we had to wait until we were 16 to wear lipstick. Even then it couldn’t be red, it had to be natural. Funny, but to this day I don’t wear red lipstick. And heaven forbid- red nail polish! I’m still just a “natural girl” and I think it’s my Mom’s fault.
As with all of us, we have those things our parents did to us that we vowed never to do with our children. My sister and I have pictures of us wearing huge “blue jeans” with suspenders to keep them up, rolled up pant legs, coats that were way too long and sleeves that covered our hands. It was the curse of buying things big enough “so you can grow into them”. I truly believe all of those big clothes wore out before we ever grew into them! She meant well and was a great manager of money. Shopping was part of her life. We would dress up to go shopping in the big department stores in downtown Detroit, always stopping to have lunch in the department store cafeteria. We loved those shopping days before every big holiday, first day of school and before out of town trips. Having grown up wearing Goodwill and Salvation Army clothes, Mom wanted her girls to have what she never had.
There was never any question but that my sister and I would go to college. Because of my parent’s hard work, the encouragement to do our best in school, we both are college grads. Mom was a master typist and typed many late-night school papers for us even in college. She wanted us to succeed and she did everything she could to be sure we did.
Such an organized lady, when she went home to be with the Lord about seven years ago, she had all of her personal affairs in order, down to a letter in her safety deposit box. The letter started “My dear Carolyn and Pat- if you are reading this letter it means I have already gone to heaven so here are some things you probably will need to know….” A treasure of a Mom- making things right for us way ahead of time. So grateful for the gift she was to us!!
As I come to a close, to stick with the 5 Things format, this is what I'm grateful for:
1. I am grateful for her constant sacrifices, care and nurture in ways that came from a heart full of overwhelming love. I know now that it was unconditional love, birthed by the precious love of God.
2. I am grateful that she taught us the value of becoming virtuous women –with a little Proverbs 31 thrown in for good measure.
3. I am grateful through her unfailing influence that she put us in good stead for God’s destiny to be worked out in our lives.
4. I am grateful for her distinctive Mom-isms (how she did things) that to this day remind me of her –it seems “I’m becoming my Mom.”
5. I am grateful for her guidance in every area of our lives. It can never be repaid but hopefully some of it can be passed on.
It has definitely been passed on....
Happy Mother's Day.