Mom used to say she was born in the “horse and buggy” days and lived to see a man step on the moon. She really thought that was special—to see so much progress, on so many levels—unfold in a single life span.
She never stopped studying, learning, growing, observing…...and marveling at the events that surrounded her time on this planet. And she carried three boys, sometimes kicking and screaming, along with her.
She was born in April of 1920. The purist among us would quickly point out by then the automobile had been around for more than two decades. Yeah, well guess how much that meant to a family living fourteen miles from the nearest town in rural Tennessee.
Steadman Ridge Road was just a trail. If Sugar Creek was “up” you couldn’t hardly get a horse and wagon across it. A brand new, best equipped automobile didn’t have a chance!
Plus, the mule pulling the wagon doubled as a plowing machine. You could buy, barter or raise one for little to no money. And there was way more grass than gasoline available in those backwoods of Lawrence County.
Mother didn’t hear the Twenties roar. As a young girl growing up on a hardscrabble farm in what must have seemed like the middle of nowhere, she WORKED her way through them!
She met Daddy at the one room grammar school “just down the road” a mile or so. They said their “I Do’s” in the middle of the greatest depression the world has ever known. Talk about an inauspicious beginning!
Instead of a honeymoon, they moved to Pulaski where Dad hauled cattle for Uncle John. Mom sewed pockets on shirts at the Slant and Slant Factory.
If either of them thought those times were hard, their worldly possessions meager, their future on rocky ground……they never mentioned a word of it to me.
World War II liked to have killed both of them; Daddy from horrendous Japanese gunfire on tiny Biak Island, and Mom, from worrying night and day over the only man she would ever love.
But I’ve come to understand that strength and resiliency was a way of life along the banks of Sugar Creek when men named Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Roosevelt lived in the White House.
Mom began reading to us before I was knee high to a grasshopper. At first, it was Aesop’s Fables. We graduated to the entire set of Child Craft Books. I still remember the poem about the “elephant who tried to use the telephant, No, I mean the elephone who tried to use the telephone…..”
She was reading the “Hardy Boys” books to me before I started to kindergarten. She told us stories about Roman emperors, Marco Polo, Queen Victoria, Paul Revere’s ride….
She would be waiting when we came in from school to ask about our day, “What new things did you learn?” Good grief, she would even want to know what Dick, Jane and Spot did in the Blue Bird Reading Class!
She never one time gave the “education is so important” talk. It was just her internal belief that life was about learning, knowledge, expanding…. Getting our eyes open!
You can see what I mean about the kicking and screaming part.
She bought a brand new set of the Encyclopedia Britannica that I’m pretty sure we couldn’t afford. If Thomas Jefferson came up in a conversation, she was pulling the “I-J” book off the shelf quick as a wink.
Mom did this in addition to all the usual mother things. She could kiss a busted knee and make it all better. She interceded on our behalf when Dad didn’t think we ought to go to the movies EVERY Saturday afternoon. If you acted like you were still hungry after supper, she’d give you her piece of apple pie….every time!
But I’m telling you, intelligent curiosity was the key for her. She wanted us to be aware….to know….to care about events, people, places, history, life and all matters big and small.
Mom went back to finish high school when my little brother started to the first grade. She graduated from Bethel College when she was 45 years old. She was 52 when she earned her Master’s Degree from Murray State. She was taking graduate courses at Union University well into her 70’s.
It was never a case of “do as I say.”
Mom would have turned one hundred years old two weeks before Mother’s Day. I couldn’t help but think of the things she would still be learning…..pondering on…..passing along…..
No. 2 Son