“When I found out that I was pregnant again, I was overwhelmed, I got depressed. I just didn’t think I could go through it all again - I didn’t want to go through it all again.” She looked at me sincerely. “But I’m so glad God was with me and that you’re here now.”
I looked over at the little lady in the passenger seat of my car; her work-worn hands clutching her hand bag, and I felt only love and compassion for her.
“We already had your two sisters,” she continued, “And I thought we were done. Two children were enough for me to take care of.”
I tried to lighten the moment. “What a change of plans - you must have been shocked to end up with the eight of us!” I touched her hand. “And nobody could have done a better job.”
She looked over at me, bowing her head humbly. “Thank you, Patty. That’s very kind of you, especially after I told you that.”
Many times I’ve remembered that conversation with my mom and each time I respond differently. I can’t say I was surprised, at the time, to learn that she hadn’t wanted a third child, or a fourth, or a fifth...
I wonder why I wasn’t surprised by her statement? Maybe because by the time I heard it I was a healthy adult and we had a good strong relationship. I don’t think she would have told me if we hadn’t been so close.
I respect my mom and was blessed to have her. So many of my memories of her reveal how she gave, she shared, she taught, she sacrificed and she loved all of us.
I remember walking to the little store in our town. My brother and I walked beside our mom as she pushed the twins in the stroller. The store was about four blocks away, but somehow she managed to get us there and back and not lose us or the groceries. I remember the delicious smell of the kosher pickles and the barrel they were kept in and the sheer sense of adventure (I was but a preschooler), when she let my brother or me help to get the pickles out.
I remember how she hung laundry on the clothesline every season of the year. Sometimes the jeans would freeze and she’d show us how funny they looked standing with no one in them. There was nothing funny though about her red, chapped hands, but she never mentioned them.
There was nothing funny about her shoes, either. I wondered why a person would wear such an ugly, worn out pair as she did. After all, we kids had new shoes whenever we needed them.
I wondered also why she seemed to prefer sewing at her machine to watching television in the evenings, but I never minded the pretty new Christmas or Easter dresses she produced. I do recall as a teenager complaining, “Mom, you can’t put the patch on the inside of the jeans. That’s ‘weird’. Please remember to put the patch on the outside!” (Why didn’t she ‘get it’?)
As I got older I became a little more perceptive. I worried about her health. She had terrible varicose veins that became aggravated and ulcerated from long hours on her feet. I noticed that while other moms had sleek legs and thin ankles, my mom’s legs were discolored and her ankles were bandaged. There was no medical insurance and there were no days off, yet she rarely complained.
As the eight of us grew toward adulthood, she was strongly encouraged (by her pastor) to be the teacher in the toddler classes at her church. She respected that pastor so much that she immediately said ‘yes’ and never stopped until twenty years later when she became sick for the last time. She taught kids during Sunday School, Wednesday evening Family events, Ladies’ prayer groups and during ‘M.O.P.S’. I find a bit of irony in that last one as she herself could have benefitted so much from a similar group, had there been one, but there was not.
She always put offering in the plate at church. She always knitted mittens for the mitten tree. One bitter winter she gave away a coat (where did she get an extra coat?) to a single-parent mom at her church because the woman ‘had it hard’.
That was my mother, a blessing to all who knew her and especially to me.
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