On February 3, 1973, my mother brought me into this world, and my life journey began. As I believe is generally the case, I didn’t have a full appreciation not only for what that meant to me, but of the sacrifice and pain she went through so that I could exist today.
Of course it didn’t end there.
She taught me home school through the 7th grade, she taught me how to cook, she taught me how to sew, and a million other things that I won’t take the time to mention here. But above all she taught me how to love and how to serve others.
As children we take a lot for granted. Sometimes our perception of things isn’t accurate. Our opinions and thoughts are greatly fueled by our emotions and our own selfish natures, and we don’t really have a deep understanding of life around us – our view is pretty superficial. At least I know mine was.
When I was growing up our family was very poor. For a time my father was unemployed and trying to make a livelihood from his basement wood shop. These were very tight times money-wise. We had a garden (that we would turn by hand with shovels – but some of my best memories are working in the cool soil with my family.) We also got food out of the neighborhood Smith’s dumpster. I spent a lot of time dumpster diving – I was at the perfect age for it – my older sister, four years my senior, was mortified to be seen in a dumpster; my next younger sister, three years my junior, was too small to be as effective in climbing in and out of these tall metal boxes. For whatever reason I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed. It was exciting for me as I’d find the food that would help fill our tummies, and I’d hold it up triumphantly to show the family – who was sitting in the car – what treasure I had found. (This is when I learned to LOVE artichokes!)
For years my mother didn’t even have a driver’s license. We only had one car, and we didn’t really have friends. It was her and us at home, sometimes not leaving the house for long stretches of time. I remember her being emotional and stressed, but I didn’t understand.
Mother would sit down and spread out the bills on the kitchen table and stress over which one to pay when and how much – there usually wasn’t enough money to pay all the bills and it was a delicate balancing act to keep the utilities on and not lose the house. She was very well aware of what our money situation was, and she had to try to squeeze all she could out of every penny. I remember mother writing out a grocery list and how we’d add “candy” to it. When we needed some groceries we all had to pile into our station wagon and my father would drive us over to Harmons. When mother did the shopping and father sat in the car with us, she would carefully choose just the essentials and try to make the money stretch. When father went to the store he would always come home with candy or ice cream. We, as kids, always wanted father to do the shopping. We saw father as the “fun” parent.
As I grew older my perspective and relationship with each of my parents underwent a shift. The relationship between my father and me became more strained as he persisted in making baseless accusations against me, and essentially condemned me as a “hopeless” sinner. I knew my heart. During this time my mother confided in me a couple of times and I began to see her through a different lens. Though I was naive in the things of marriage and relationships her pain and fear came through loud and clear, and I began to feel a closeness and bond with her.
After I was married, and especially after the birth of my first baby, I saw my mother in a whole new light. I stood in humble awe of what she had endured for her family, and my love and respect for her reached a different plane. She had given birth to ten children, in spite of many miscarriages and terrible morning sickness.
As I traveled on the rewarding – yet shockingly difficult – path of mothering my own little people I would have memories come flooding back to me. When I hadn’t left the house for days on end, and the children were tired and cranky, I’d go into the bathroom to collect myself and regroup. Some times through tears I would look at my own face in the mirror and see my mother looking back at me. Now I understood that expression, I felt her emotions. And I was sorry. So sorry that I had been so ignorant as to think less of her when she was struggling. I now understood, at least to some degree, the great weight and responsibility that came with motherhood, along with the powerful love that kept us going. I only had a few children. She had many more. I had her and my sisters and friends around me still that I could call up on the phone and take a break from the craziness – get a sympathetic ear and good advice. My mother had none of this when I as a child.
I began to wonder how she had remained sane all those years, and I hoped I could do as well.
I’d like to think that I told her how I felt about her after these new revelations to me, but I honestly can’t remember for sure. I hope that I told her how sorry I was for being such a brat and not appreciating her as much as I should have. I wish I could sit down with her and tell her all of it now. Though I am happy that I can say that I did try to make her life better. She became my closest friend, someone who I felt truly understood my heart, my dreams and my fears. I miss that. More than words can ever express.
Several years before I left the church I started a new “tradition.” I would write her a letter and give my mother a gift for my birthday, thanking her for bringing me into the world and helping to make me who and what I am. Then I realized that she never had any nice dresses, especially not that fit her properly or were very flattering. So one year I sewed up a storm for Zion’s Designs (a store in Short Creek that sold fabric and ready made dresses. I would sew some of the dresses they sold and exchange for fabric to clothe my family.) I bought five pieces of fabric, made a pattern that fit my mother, and gave her five new dresses – this was probably the most dresses she had ever owned at once, and for sure that were new. Each year I would make her a few more dresses so that she could always have something nice to wear. Her birthday is February 19th, so I would usually try to get dresses done somewhere between our birthdays. I will always treasure my memory of hearing her voice on the phone thanking me for them, emotion choking up her words. For all the years that she made our clothes, I was happy to be able to return the favor in some small measure.
All in all, my mother is the strongest woman I know. In some ways I’m afraid that she’s too strong for her own good though. As long as she knows that there are others who are in need, she will sacrifice herself for them. I honestly believe that is what keeps her a prisoner inside a cult that never treated her with the dignity and respect that she so deserves.
She has endured more ill-treatment and hardship than anyone should have to endure, and she did it with a smile, sacrificing her own needs for everyone around her.
I could practically write a book just centered around memories I have of her – her struggles, her sacrifices, her love and her joy. I treasure these memories of her. For now it’s all that I have. Although we are far apart when measured by distance, I still believe that we are close at heart. She has been forced to cut me out of her life, by evil, controlling men, but I have to believe that she couldn’t, and wouldn’t, cut me out of her heart.
I hope that today she thinks of me, even half as much as I am thinking of her. I hope she can feel my love, my respect and my concern for her, and that some day I can hold her in my arms again and say all the thank yous I should have said through the years.
Wherever you are, mother, I hope you are safe and happy. I want to remind you that I will always have a place for you. Thank you for playing such a monumental part in making me who and what I am today.