We’ve just returned from a trip. That sort of thing throws my world out of kilter. I supposed the people who thrive on deadlines and challenges have all their blog posts ready ahead of time and scheduled to post while they’re gone.
It’s my first day back from where the landscape is shades of brown, the trees are short and scrubby, but the hair is manageable – the Desert Southwest. We’ve come home to our spot in the Midwest where the grass is green, the trees are tall and plentiful and the hair is – well – natty.
Vacations help you thrive! I like the Mark Twain quote that Joseph Rosendo always says at the end of his show, Travelscope – “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” It does us all good to experience people, customs and attitudes that are different from our daily grind.
I would’ve let the blog slide for another day, but it’s April 10th and I wanted to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to my mom in Heaven. She would have been ninety-nine years old today if we still had her with us. She passed away in 2013.
Mom’s family affectionately combined her first and middle names, calling her Emmabelle. No one who knew her ever called her anything else. When I was at “that age” (you know the one), I thought hers was a funny, old-fashioned name. Later, I came to think it the most beautiful name in the world.
Other than a vast difference in height, Mom and I looked a lot alike. Here we are side by side. Isn’t she lovely? Now that she has shed the effects of her ninety-four years on earth, I’m sure she must look like this once again.
Mom thrived amongst great adversity. She loved her seven children and did her best to raise them, though life for her was no picnic. It was hard, folks. Difficult. Emmabelle, however, made the best of every single day. Though shy and reserved, she had a quiet, ready wit and a great sense of humor. Overflowing with creativity, Mom always seemed to whip up something to make life easier or to brighten up the atmosphere.
And the holidays? Mom loved all of them, especially Christmas! I can’t even describe how she put the joy into it in her own calm and quiet way.
When I was a kid, Mom, latched onto an old typewriter and a touch-typing manual and decided to teach herself to type. She sat it up back in the utility room next to the old, wringer washing machine and worked at it every day. At a loss as to what to write, she made notes on what she did every day. I never gave it much thought. After all, your mom’s life is pretty much a drag, right? I thought it was really neat that she was learning something new “at her age”. Yeah, I was pathetic.
One day when I was a teenager, I went to the utility room to grab some clean clothes. I looked down at Mom’s typewriter. The sheet wrapped around the roller was still at the place where she’d left off. It said:
“What a day! The old cow had a calf. The old cat had kittens. The old man had a fit!”
I decided to read Mom’s diary more often.
I have her birthday doubly on my mind this year because during this vacation, we visited my cousin who is facing the task of going through the belongings of her recently deceased parents. Her mother, Martha, my mom’s older sister, was quite a lady. Much alike, we grew to have a strong bond over the last eight years of her life. She died at age ninety-eight and I miss her terribly. After Mom left us, I’d call Martha often. We’d talk for an hour or two, howling our heads off at all the old family stories. Through those talks, I felt I got to know Mom better than ever.
Some people don’t like to look back, but I find that my family stories and my heritage help me thrive. Mom loved to work on the family tree and I’ve taken her research back further. I can’t help but wonder how she’d react to knowing that she is directly descended from kings and queens.
I’m encouraged by Mom’s example. If ever a woman took her lemons and made lemonade – Emmabelle made a sweet batch! Most people may not have thought of her as a strong woman, but as the years go by I’ve come to think of her as the strongest woman I know. And those seven children? They all, as the Scripture says, “rise up and call her blessed”.
Don’t let the “old timers” in your family go without hearing their story. You’ll be surprised and even amazed at what they’ve been through. It’ll help you thrive!
More stories from Emmabelle and Martha coming soon!
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Questions? Comments? Who do you need to hear stories from before it’s too late?!