Now, I realize most of you think you had the best mom in the world, but you are mistaken (unless you, the reader, happen to be my brother). Mine was definitely at the top of the pyramid.
Mom was raised in a time where girls were expected to get married and raise children. Period. Her father had only gone as far as (if I remember right) fourth grade before quitting school to help the family on their farm. Her mother went a little further--sixth grade.
Mom wanted to go to college, but Grandpa said no. She did the next best thing. She had finished school a year early (and graduated valedictorian), but she went back for another year of high school and took all the courses she hadn't yet: stenography, bookkeeping, typing, and I don't know what else. Maybe an extra course in math or literature--especially literature, I imagine, because she loved it so much.
Mom and Dad married when Dad was twenty-one and mom was nineteen; in fact, they married on her nineteenth birthday. I have her wedding dress, a beautiful dark blue velvet, hanging in my closet. It still looks new.
Their first baby, Gail Evelyn Baxter, died when she was only two months old. Infant deaths were more common then, but no less painful. When my brother Gene was born a year later, they were afraid to let him cry, and every bump seemed a cause for panic. By the time I arrived in another two years, they had settled into parenting like pros.
I couldn't have wished or prayed for better parents. They were proud of us. Praise was common. Paddlings were rare. I don't think we were exceptional children now, but back then our folks ranked us right up there with Einstein. They expected the best from us, and both of us tried to live up to that.
I know there had to be times they were disappointed in us--but they never showed it. Mom especially had a talent I stove for but never achieved. She could take the offending kid aside and explain why what we did was wrong. Even at very early ages, we understood and never wanted to do that whatever again.
If we had heartaches or difficulties, we could always go to Mom, no matter what. She understood, sympathised, reasoned, advised--and loved. Her affection for and faith in us never wavered.
I remember when my high school sweetheart invited someone else to the prom. I held my head high and shrugged off the taunts from others, but when I got home, Mom was there and understood my broken heart.
Mom never slept until we got home at night. From a date, from a ball game, from a night out with friends, it didn't matter. She greeted us at the door with a hug and kiss goodnight, and stayed awake to talk if we wanted. If my boyfriend kept me talking out in front of the house a little long before I came in, the porch light would blink a few times, and I knew. Okay, Mom, I'm coming in.
One time when I came home late from a date, Mom sat me down and let me know she knew what I felt and how to deal with it. And what she expected from me.
After I grew up and left home, Mom and Dad were there for special occasions--like when my brother and his wife were in a square dance competition and like when I played a staring roll in a local theater production. And there waiting for me with welcoming arms when heartaches or injuries put me in need of home. And there watching from the kitchen window for car lights coming down the slope into town when they expected us for Thanksgiving or Christmas or some such occasion.
About ten years before she passed away, Mom and I went on a Carribean cruise with Aunt Helen, Aunt Wilma, and Uncle Bill. I don't know of any time when I've had more fun, and I think Mom would say the same thing. The picture above was taken on that cruise, and I think it's the most natural-looking smile she ever had in any picture.
Later in life, Mom lost touch with reality, except that she always remembered she loved us. I think maybe she remembered us sometimes as still being children--because she would be looking for us and worrying that she couldn't find us.
The last time I saw her, I felt momentarily hurt that she introduced me to her table mates as her sister. All she remembered for sure was that I was someone she loved and was so thrilled to see. Come to think of it, I looked a little like her sister.
For some time after she passed away, there were innumerable times I wished I could call and talk to her or go see her. Sometimes because I wanted to talk about a problem, sometimes because there was something I wanted to know that I knew she would know.
I miss her still. This is 2012--she left us in 1999--but I miss her still . I miss her laughter. I miss her hugs. I miss those Christmases.
I have the joy of knowing she's with God, but oh how I miss her being here.