This woman, who is my mother, was born in 1931. She began working when she was 8 years old picking beans on a local farm. At the age of 15, she quit school to work in the fields full time in order to support her family. She married at the age of 17 and went on to give birth to 8 children.
This woman, my mother, along with my father raised the children in the most modest of means. They only had one car. To make ends meet, my father worked during the day and my mother worked as a waitress at night. This woman didn’t sleep many hours each night because she would arrive at home around 3 am and have to be up at 6 am to prepare lunches and get children off to school.
This woman lived in a rural setting. The food store was 4 and a half miles away. She gathered her small children and they walked to the grocery store because she could only afford a taxi one way. That is how the groceries made their way into our home.
This woman’s life was very hard but she was always a devoted wife and mother. She was our plumber, painter, window washer, landscaper, fixer-upper, maid and cook all rolled into one.
This woman had to stretch the budget so she became very creative in the kitchen. When there wasn’t enough money to buy meat she would create a fanciful dish out of mashed potatoes and vegetables. She placed the mashed potatoes in the center of the plate. She then placed a piece of toast cut into four triangles into the potatoes to create sections. In each section was a different vegetable. She dipped the tops of the toast into red beet juice to make it look pretty. She made homemade bread, starting with the flour and water and yeast, she kneaded the dough out on our kitchen table. She punched the dough and rolled it and got a full workout while doing so. Then the dough would rise for about an hour and she would continue the kneading process two more times. After the third rise of the dough, she would knead it out, form it into the baking pan and put it in the oven. The aura of fresh bread could be detected as we rounded the corner on our way home from school. Using the same method of rising dough, she also made homemade pizza using seven cookie sheets. There weren’t any leftovers.
This woman continued to raise her children who were still living at home through the heartache of losing my father when he was only 48 years old. She was 45 at the time. Still, a young woman left on her own to continue the life that she and my father had created.
This woman is now 87 years old. She is full of life even though her body moves just a tad bit slower. She still creates beautiful gardens that she lovingly tends to each day. If she is not gardening, she is inside the house crocheting beautifully handmade afghans. Her mind is complete and sharp as a tack. Her sense of humor and ability to not get offended makes her the best of company.
This woman, my mother, is my best friend. I admire her strength and courage to move forward no matter how hard her life became. She’s tiny now, white-haired and looking fragile. But looks can be deceiving. She’s got the spirit of a 17-year-old girl and the strength of a lion.