This column revolves around that old John Wayne quote from “Hondo,” “You do what you think is best.” I used it a lot because I felt as though most of us were raised so that what we thought was best, was in fact, the best thing to do.
Most of us in my generation had “stay at home moms” who were able to interpret the world for us and instill family values beginning Day 1. You don’t see many “stay at home moms” any more. This simply means that the daycare workers are instilling values into children along with parents. Many women are bringing home a paycheck and sending it straight to the daycare center which, as a friend of mine with a stay at home wife said, “Is ridiculous.”
I believe we are products of our environment and must be taught our family’s history and the ideals our family has put forth as being important. If your family’s history and values can be taught by the daycare worker, go for it. But remember, it’s those quiet hours in the morning when a little one’s mind can best absorb what it is you have to give. By the time 5 p.m. rolls around, little is left in you — and in that little one — for learning’s sake.
You have only four or so years with a child before he/she is off to school and then only God knows what they will see and hear. It’s important to put your “stuff” in there before that happens. And so it is that, as we approach Mother’s Day, I appreciate, more than ever, the 95-year-old mother with whom I can sit and have a conversation.
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Being able to go back — way back — into family history with someone who lived it, is simply a gift. Every time I hear of someone my age losing a parent, I realize how lucky I am. Dad must have married her for two reasons, she was the model of the USO girl and very pretty (still is), and her sense of humor. Even today she will not leave the house without spending an hour “getting ready.”
She was born May 18, 1922 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in a fairly affluent area on East Fifth Street. Her dad sold insurance and taught school and her mom stayed at home to raise six children of which she was the youngest.
She lost a 13-year-old brother to diphtheria in 1933, and of course, growing up during the depression wasn’t easy, but they survived as a family with much love and caring for each other. Her father would barter with local farmers for insurance premiums when money was scarce.
Reading was a very popular pastime and they attended Park City Presbyterian Church on Sundays, sitting in “their” pew. Her remaining sisters all reached their late 80s and she was the last born and has survived them all. Her brother Jack, a chiropractor in North Carolina passed away at 46 in 1965, from heart problems originating from malaria contracted while serving in the Pacific in World War II. Her first husband died in France, as a paratrooper. She was 22 at the time.
I was her first born and I know I was a spoiled child because she’s still spoiling me 70 years later. Today she spends her time taking care of a daughter and great nephew, riding her exercise bike while playing internet bridge, taking short trips to the store and watching news on television. To her credit, she did have reservations about getting her last license. “Do you think they’ll let me have one?” She asked. “Don’t know mom. Take the vision test and see what happens.” They gave her a six year license.
Many evenings we sit on the porch and talk about our family’s history and current events and her memory is magnificent, unless she’s making all this stuff up. When dad passed away I honestly thought she would too, mentally. Instead she accepted life’s terms and became her old self. You can hear her humming in the kitchen when she’s cooking and one of my fondest memories is of the times I could hear her and dad’s infectious laughing in the house as we played kick the can under a street light eons ago.
Mom’s story is the story of many mothers of the depression and WWII. They spoiled us with love, food, hug and all the things a mother is supposed to be about. When we took them out of the home in order to get another car or television set, it was a monumental mistake. If you don’t believe it, read the paper.
Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.