I know this woman. I wish you could know her, too. This woman is amazing.
This woman grew up in a very poor household with 11 kids. She was exactly the middle child.
This woman worked harder and did more chores in her first 18 years of life than her future children would probably EVER do in their lifetimes.
This woman was the daughter of a mother that never told her she loved her. She was the daughter of a father who was an alcoholic.
This woman LITERALLY walked several miles to get to school through many fields and farms smelling like cow dung and chicken coups from the morning chores she had to finish before school started.
This woman had to sneak to go to high school dances and basketball games in high school when her dad didn’t notice because he didn’t want them going out to that school. It was in a county he didn’t like. Never mind that where he lived dictated his children attended that school.
This woman shared an upstairs bedroom without heat and air conditioning in Missouri with several sisters. They sometimes slept three to a bed. Sometimes just for fun. Sometimes to keep warm.
When she was 19, she discovered she was pregnant. Her mother’s encouraging words to her were, “you made your bed, now lie in it.” And with that, she had to figure out what to do. Her boyfriend proposed, and they married in February. It snowed. They had their first baby in July.
This woman and her new husband moved away from the only state and town she had ever really known to Texas. She was homesick. She was lonely. She was scared. They made it work. Because that is what you did in the 60s and early 70s. You worked at things and made them succeed. She would teach this to her children.
After 10 years of marriage, three kids and three states, they moved back to Missouri to her husband’s company’s headquarters.
This woman worked part time when it worked out with kids and school. She was a “lunch lady” for a few years at some local public schools. She eventually went on to become a shipping clerk working hard filling orders, taking care of salespeople, and slipping in care packages to her kids in college.
This woman mourned the days when school started in September. She loved summers home with the kids. She enjoyed the sound of laughter and the mere presence of her children despite the constant sibling rivalry and ensuing feuds between them.
This woman demanded respect and responsibility and consequences from her children. They had chores. They were to help. She frequently reminded them of how good they had it and despite their constant eye rolls and condescending looks, they were listening. They would remember and one day appreciate what she was doing in them. The thankless job she was performing would pay off. I like to think it would anyway.
This woman and her husband bought some property in the town where the both grew up. A town in the middle of rural Southeast Missouri. Her husband would gradually convince her they should retire here in rural Southeast Missouri a bit against her will. She learned to love the country again – the open space, the animals, the fishing, the peace.
This woman and her husband lived on an Engineer’s salary for many years with her meager supplement from her part time employment. They put their kids in private Catholic school for all 12 years. They put three kids through college with their hard earned money. They did all of this and STILL retired when her husband was 51 and she was 48. They did is through various means: She bought one of her daughters ONE pair of Guess jeans and ONE pair of Jordache jeans despite her constant pleading. She bought her son slightly irregular IZOD shirts in hideous colors from the outlet store and normal colored off brand shirts from K-Mart. She tried to remove the IZOD symbol and reattach it to the off-brand shirt. This attempt failed miserably as she had to cut the fabric and all from the IZOD shirt placing the IZOD symbol with teal fabric hanging out on top of the blue off brand shirt. Perhaps this is a bad example of her frugality since I believe BOTH SETS of shirts were not worn. For the most part, they simply lived below their means. They were working towards a goal. Regardless, all this would give their children a financially responsible example. An invaluable lesson.
This woman struggled a bit with her identity as her children grew. Having no higher education and watching her primary responsibility for the last 26 years slowly leave her proved to be one of the most difficult tasks of her life.
This woman found her peace. She took joy in her new role as friend to her now-grown children. She was there constantly for support – such as when her 19-year-old son and girlfriend unexpectedly found themselves pregnant. Having lived through that with little support herself, she and her husband knew the support and love necessary to make that work. She once gave up a month of her own work and life to come to a foreign country while one daughter and her very sick husband embarked on a medical journey they knew little about. She came to that foreign country to watch her grandkids, ensuring they felt safe and loved when their parents painfully had to be elsewhere. She gave those kids the security and routine they needed in a very uncertain time and she did it all out of her comfort zone.
In the present day, this woman would amaze you. She has a gift – it’s called hospitality. She can whip up a meal for 20 in minutes and I do not exaggerate.
She makes fantastic pies. She can arrange sleeping provisions for 22 people in her 4-bedroom house and everyone would have a bed or a mattress.
She hosts many a weekend gathering and party in the most organized fashion preparing days in advance and making all guests feel welcome and pampered. She has always worked very hard. She can stand on her feet for hours on end working non-stop only for short water breaks doing very difficult and very dirty physical labor. Hard, dirty work is not beneath her and she has never shied away from it.
She STILL works hard at her age of FIFTY-NINE today.
I know this woman intimately.
I am honored to call her friend. I am privileged to call her MOM.