I’ve reached an age when I realize just how lucky I am to still have my mother with me. She turned 102 years old in February, and it boggles the mind to think about how much the world has changed since she was born in 1911. The house she grew up in was probably a little better than average for the time and the place (a small town in rural Tennessee). Still, it had no indoor plumbing and no electricity. Her family drew water from a well (inside a well house) and used an outhouse that was a bit on the fancy side: it was “a two seater.” Toilet paper consisted of old Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs.Medicine was still on the primitive side when Mom was young. The sister closest to her in age, Marian, died when she was eight years old. In retrospect, they think Marian died of appendicitis.
When Mom was nine years old, her parents decided to move to Muncie, Indiana, but the move didn’t work well for them, so they moved back to Tennessee the following year. Mom remembers that they shipped their furniture back and then the family—six kids, the parents, and all the luggage—traveled in a T Model Ford. On two occasions during the trip back to Tennessee, they had to ask strangers along the route to let them sleep on their property. One night they slept in a garage on a dirt floor, and one night they slept in a “beach house” near a river. It rained that night and the roof leaked. When they finally got back to Tennessee, they had to live in a sawmill shed for about six months until they could get a house.
Mom married my father in 1926 when she was about fifteen and a half years old. She had three children by the time she was twenty-one, and a few years later, a fourth child—namely me—came along.Mom, like almost everyone in her generation, worked hard and often lived hard. The Great Depression made a lasting impression on her, and she was never comfortable with spending money freely. She recalls that during the Depression years, she could buy enough material to make a dress for a nickel but she couldn’t get her hands on a nickel.
Then there were the years of World War Two and the shortages and rationing. For a housewife who tried to can enough food to carry her family through the winter months, having to make do without enough sugar for making jams and jellies was a hardship, along with many others.
Thinking of the challenges Mom faced and overcame, I am amazed that she not only survived but that she thrived, managing to raise four children, take an active role in her church, and become a valued and beloved member of the local senior center. Although she’s physically too weak to go to the center now, she was still attending up until she was around a hundred years old.
So here’s to you, Mom. For your courage, your many kindnesses, your loyalty, and your love. A million thanks on Mother’s Day and every other day of the year.