There is a reason that I remember my mother every year at this time, even though she died more than 34 years ago, a few days before Christmas in 1978. That is not to say that she is not in my thoughts at other times as well.
She was the oldest of five children living in Ironton, Ohio. Her father died when she was 14 and she had to quit school after the eighth grade to both work and to help raise her four younger siblings.
Her mother worked in a bakery necessitating being there to do the baking before the store opened for business in the early morning so my mother was in charge of the family and getting her siblings off to school while she did the housework and the cooking. Eventually all of her siblings finished high school and the next oldest to my mother even went off to college.
My grandmother eventually moved to Dayton, Ohio, and remarried, but by that time, it was a bit late for my mother to return to school, so she began work in Dayton, working at the National Cash Register Company and also working as a maid for some wealthy Daytonians.
Through all of this, my mother apparently maintained a pleasant outlook on life and certainly the heart to help those who were not as well off as she. She was essentially the steadfast person of the family and the leader of her siblings. When my grandmother died, my mother became the closest to my step-grandfather of her siblings. As it happened, my grandmother died and my step-grandfather later married my grandmother's sister, but he outlived the second wife, too.
To go back a bit, in Dayton my mother met and married my father who also had to quit school (ninth grade at the same high school from which I was graduated) to help his parents. So both my parents were self-sufficient, independent, steadfast citizens.
Despite their lack of formal education, my parents believed in the value of education from which my brother, sister and I all benefited.
My mother's love for family was expansive including not just her three children, but all of her family. She had a phenomenal memory for birthdates and other important anniversaries and remembered every niece and nephew (about 25) on birthdays and Christmas with both a card and usually some small gift appropriate to their age.
My mother had gone into a coma in early December, but in her effects after her death there was a U.S. Savings Bond for my wife and me as well as for her other children. More astonishing and showing her great foresight was the knock on our front door here in Marshall a day or two before Valentine's Day, about two months after my mother had died and been buried. UPS delivered a package that contained a large heart of cheese covered with a red paraffin coating, like Gouda cheese. A wonderful Valentine's Day gift. Thank you, Mother.
Both of my parents seemed to have a wide range of advice that was delivered in a very concise manner, but delivered often enough that at least some of the advice became second nature. "A word to the wise is sufficient," was used in keeping discipline if we kids were getting out-of-line in hi-jinks or other situations. Of course there was the implied thought that if it weren't sufficient there might be other consequences. Both of my parents could present a most stern expression at any misbehaving.
With their upbringing it was only natural that my parents quoted sayings that stresses frugality. Benjamin Franklin's (Poor Richard's Almanac) "A penny saved is a penny earned," was a favorite to be quoted if one of us kids wanted an extra penny for a piece of candy at the store.
"Waste not, want not," probably has led me to be a bit of a saver. Even these days when playing cards, some have commented on how I keep score on scraps of paper writing very small so that I can fill up all the space on that scrap of paper. "Waste not, want not," was also applied to eating. One result is that to this day, I do not object to leftovers.
We seldom went to restaurants and I can't remember going to a buffet in my early years. We did, however, go to a number of family picnics and reunions that were much like buffets. The caution was always given not to waste food, sometimes with the added caution that if you put it on your plate then you were to finish it off.
When we brought home school-work to show to my parents we often heard the rhyme:
Good, Better, Best
Never let it rest
'til the Good is Better
and the Better, Best.
Unless our scores were perfect, the point of that rhyme was that you could always strive to improve and were not expected to stop improving until you reached perfection. I never lived up to that in so many ways, but it also left me with the understanding that I should try! Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad!
Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!