Memories of My Mother on This Mother’s Day

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One of the many lessons that God has taught me since my parents passed away is that I can continue to honor them, even though they are not with me on Earth any longer. On this Friday before Mother’s Day, I’d like to share some photos of my mother and tell you a bit about the way she served my Daddy, my brother, others, and me.

When I was a small child, my mother purchased a black featherweight Singer sewing machine. Though Mother had excelled at home economics while she was in high school and was already making her own clothes, she took the sewing class offered to women who bought that kind of Singer sewing machine.

My cousins on my mother’s side had our first cousin reunion recently with the added blessing of Mother’s only living sibling, my Aunt Lavon, being able to come, too. My cousin Tina brought each of us a wonderful gift of dozens of photographs that were in her family’s collection. What a blessing, especially since Tina’s daddy, my Uncle Jerry, was a prolific photographer. Among those pictures were several that I had not seen before. These two are of Mother with Nannie Lou “Nan” who was Mother’s sister and Tina’s mother.

Mother and Nan

Nan and Mother

I like this one of Mother by herself.

I especially love this one where mother was striking a jaunty pose.

I don’t know that Mother had made those dresses, but she probably had.

When I was about four years old, Mother began taking in sewing at home. She was working when I got up and often worked until 9 or 10 at night. Since Mother worked at home, I could sit in the scratchy black swivel chair a few feet from her sewing machine and talk to her about anything–and I did.

In addition to her many individual customers, Mother hemmed pants and altered suits for a local men’s clothing store. I saw Mother receive pay from her individual customers during the week, and each Saturday night, she, Steve, and I walked to Reeks’ so she could “collect.” That’s what she always called getting her weekly pay. Though I watched Mother get paid, she taught me that the paycheck was not the most important thing about a job. I remember her verbalizing that she could have made more money in a factory, but that she wanted to be at home with Steve and me.

Mother was always ready to make my Daddy’s dreams come true. Daddy loved to go! Mother was willing to sacrifice to satisfy his wanderlust. They weren’t going to let the smallness of Daddy’s paycheck keep us at home.

Since Daddy worked until 9:00 p.m. on Saturday nights and went back to work on Monday morning at seven, weekend trips were pretty much out of the question. However, we took lots of three-hours-there and three-hours-back day trips, plus a yearly family vacation.

Sometimes we stayed in inexpensive hotels. Once we rented a cabin at a state park. At other times we camped in a tent. Some of my favorite times were mornings when my parents put our Coleman stove on a picnic table and Mother cooked us a hot breakfast.

Here are Mother, Steve, and me at Hillbilly Village in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, one of the only attractions in Pigeon Forge in 1963. If you have been to Pigeon Forge, you know it is not that way now!

We moved up in the world after Mother and Daddy bought our burgundy and cream Volkswagen bus. I remember well when Mother and Daddy transformed it into a “camper.” It was a four-step process.

  1. Mother made curtains out of white cotton.
  2. She used screws to attach screen door springs above the VW bus windows to use as curtain rods.
  3. Mother and Daddy removed the center seat from the VW bus.
  4. They put a twin mattress on the floor.

Project completed, we took off on our first VW adventure. I don’t remember where we went on that first VW camping trip, but it was probably to the Cumberland Mountains or to the Smokies, since they were our most common overnight excursions.

Mother and Daddy slept on the twin mattress. My brother Steve slept in the cargo area in the back. I slept across the two seats in the front of the bus along with the steering wheel and the four-in-the-floor gear shift.

As Joe Gargery often said to Pip in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, “What larks!”

Mother made sure that we were always dressed and ready for church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, every day of Vacation Bible School, and every night of the annual gospel meeting. I’m sure she made the dresses that she and I are wearing in this picture. She made sure my hair was just right, too. On Saturday night, she rolled my hair onto pink and brown rubber hair curlers. Then on Sunday morning, she took out the curlers and shaped my hair into Shirley Temple curls.

Mother made my school clothes.

I’m sure she made her dress and mine that we wore in this family portrait. How well I remember the day we went to the photographer’s to have it made.

Mother made my clothes for special events, too, such as my white satin flower girl dress for my Uncle Ronnie’s wedding. I’m the one on the right.

She made my first evening gown. Again, I’m the one on the right.

When Ray and I got married, she made my dress, her dress, a special dress for my bridal tea, and all of the bridesmaids’ dresses, too.

Mother  kept on making clothes for me in the early years after Ray and I were married. One year she made me a beautiful full-length cotton gown, trimmed in lace, and a matching quilted robe. She made dresses for our daughters, too. All the while, she continued sewing for other people, teaching the Wednesday kindergarten Bible class, serving her parents (including taking care of her mother in my parent’s home for several years), serving in leadership roles in her clubs, being the treasurer for her adult Sunday School class . . . . I could go on and on.

A few months before my Daddy passed away unexpectedly, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Mother kept on living and blessing for many years. She was able to be at the weddings of our children . . .

Mother pins on my corsage at our son’s wedding

. . . and to meet most of our grandchildren.

Mother’s Day tea party in 2016

Mother passed away in 2020, weeks before the COVID epidemic. I am grateful for a godly, serving mother. I wish I could tell her Happy Mother’s Day.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:21-31


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  1. Again, SO beautiful Charlene. Just trying to fathom the amount of sewing your momma did will boggle the mind. The pictures you have here are gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Remembering back, my mother sewed too, a lot, but did not attain the level of expertise, evidenced in the utterly glorious gowns you show in the pictures. It’s so easy to picture you, talking to your mom all those hours while she sewed. That kind of situation and relationship (and time) is so critical for a child’s development: to be able freely to narrate, to share, to . . . well, my mother would have called it “babble” but it’s important beyond measure. And my mom knew it too, and listened endless hours to me, too. We are blessed, right? .

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