When I think about my mother I picture a very strong woman who persevered when others might have failed. She was left with a young child to raise on her own. My father came home from the Army one day, but when he left that was the last we ever saw of him.
My mom had a job at a local dairy where she was a bookkeeper. It was not a high-paying job, but it was a job in a time when many people were out of work. My grandparents stepped in to help take care of me. Eventually, mom gave up her apartment in favor of a couple rooms in my grandparents' home. She paid room and board because she felt she owed her parents that for stepping up to help.
Grandma had an ulcer on her ankle that frequently opened and gave her trouble. I remember that she had some yucky green salve to use when the ulcer was open. Grandma had to keep her leg up when that happened. Everyone pitched in to do the work around the house. Wash days became wash nights. My mother did the wash when she got home from work. Doing the wash in those days was not a simple task. Grandma had a wringer washer and a set of wash tubs to rinse the clothes in. The clothes went through the wringer to dry them out before they were hung on the clothes line in the basement.
Grandma's convalescence was usually a long one. Someone also had to step in and make the meals, plus do the cleaning and ironing. I was too young at the time to be much help. It was my job to bring things to grandma that she needed. I was old enough to help with the chores, but not do them on my own.
I remember those nights in the basement as good times. Mom and I had time to visit while we worked. That was a special treat because we did not have a lot of time together. Grandpa was not good at household chores, but he did what he could. Under my mother's direction he ran the carpet sweeper, but he did not cook.
I remember that my mother did not really like to cook, either, but she did it. Our meals were different while grandma was sick. We had things that cooked quickly because mom made them after work. I could make soup and sandwiches so sometimes I surprised her and had that ready. Dessert was mostly some kind of fruit. I had that ready too.
My mother never complained. I had a wonderful childhood. I had all I needed, but not always all I hoped to have. The budget was tight. Mom could afford the necessities, but not much else. When Grandma was feeling good she sewed clothes for me. I only remember two store-bought dresses that I had.
My mother was also the nurse. When I did not feel well she took care of me. If I woke up in the middle of the night she was always there.
She ran the car pool when I belonged to Brownies and Girl Scouts. She also helped me deliver those Girl Scout cookies each year. She could not volunteer to chaperone any scouting events because she worked, but she helped in any way she could.
Too often we do not give credit where credit is due. All children are the same. They take their parents for granted. Oh, I made Mother's Day cards and bought a small token of my appreciation, but what is that compared to the amount of time mom invested in me.
When I became a mother I was delighted. I learned a lot just by being a mother. I did not really have Mother's Day in those days. I was busy seeing that my mother and mother-in-law enjoyed their day. Frequently I made dinner for all of us. I did not feel bad; I knew that eventually my day would come.
As a mother it was my turn to play nurse, to drive the car pools and go to PTA. It was my turn to teach Sunday school, direct the youth choir, and with the help of other mothers, keep the youth group at church going.
At home I was the laundress, the cook, the cleaning lady, the yard cleaning crew and whatever else that needed to be done. My days were busy. There was not even time to sit down and watch television. Of course, I never had time to read a book. I was always tending to someone's needs. Those were the days. I relished each and every one of them. I loved being a wife and mother. I loved helping my husband with farm chores. It was not work, it was just what I did.
Now, I am the grandmother. I am treated to meals made by my children or a day at a restaurant. I do not need gifts. I buy what I need. I need the time that my family spends with me. I love the fact that they include me in family events. A pick up meal at someone's house is a treat. I never say no when I am invited to eat at one of their homes.
If you are fortunate enough to have your mother still around, spend time with her. That means more than all of the gifts you could produce.
The Bible says, "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20: 12 (NIV)
Happy Mother's Day to all - enjoy a time of family togetherness.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.