First of all, Irene is a lovely name.
It’s old-fashioned, it’s spelled correctly, and it’s not one of those “made up” names….. but honestly? Her name was FRANKIE Irene.
I’d probably go by Irene too.
It’s Mother’s Day weekend so this is my ode to her and to all the mothers reading this.
My mother, just like yours, was special. I’m certain you are thinking right now of your mother, maybe you’re missing your mother, maybe you’re thanking God for her…or sadly, maybe you’re one of the thousands of women desperate to BE a mother….
Indulge me as I share a few reasons why my mom was so special. Notice I said special, not perfect.
- Irene was FIERCELY independent before it was the norm, or acceptable. She learned to drive in the farm truck. She fell in love and eloped, without the blessing of her parents. She was one of the first to teach while married and eventually while pregnant (if she were here she would scold me for saying pregnant… it should be “expecting”, the word pregnant was a little uncouth…. She always had her own bank account, separate from my dad. Not just separate, but in a different bank, ha. All finances were divided and never the twain should meet. She was first to bravely wear pants to church…woo hoo….how about them apples?
- She was a TIGER MOM before we had ever heard the term. When Mike and Carla had Matthew she was determined to be a part of his life, even after the divorce, and because of her determination that special relationship exists still today. When JoKay was teaching at Couch and her job was eliminated, mother loudly protested to anyone who would listen and almost lost her own job doing so. When I was in a “fuss” with another girl in high school and went to mother for help (she was on the same campus) she marched my behind to the Superintendent’s office, pointed her finger and said she wanted him call all the girls in and “sort it out”…ha. AND HE DID.
- She didn’t SUFFER FOOLS and if you were her friend you knew this all too well. She expected everyone to act appropriately, and if you didn’t she didn’t hesitate to explain your infraction….
- She was FRUGAL. She had to be. She could stretch a dollar like nobody’s business. She did without so she could take care of us. She was honest. If we couldn’t afford it she said so. She wasn’t mad or sad, just direct. I dared not question. I wanted to attend a private college and she “matter of factly” explained to me that for that to happen I would have to have enough scholarship money…..otherwise I’d go to SMS (Missouri State) like the rest of the family. Dear ole William Woods came through with those stacked scholarships and we were all happy, thank God. When my $1,200 Volkswagen beetle died she bought yet another used car for me, then it died, she got mad, told me to go to the Ford dealership and pick out a reasonably priced new car. Daddy and I came home from Alton with a new mustang and mother wrote a check for it. How did she have that much money in her account? We don’t know.
- She PRAYED. Unbeknownst to me she prayed every day that I would NOT find a husband at Westminster (William Woods was female and Westminster male). Her mouth to God’s ear. When I graduated I moved home and fell in love with Jack. ….talk about a praying mom, ha. She faithfully attended our church and her belief was deep and strong. She didn’t hesitate to defend the local alcoholic (who who seemed to always be in the ditch) when the gossip reached an unacceptable level in Sunday School…. but she just as easily would go to someone she knew wasn’t “saved” and ,during the invitation, pray with them until they walked the aisle…. evangelistic she certainly was.
- She loved. DEEPLY. She was almost broken when her brother died in a farming accident and within weeks her father also died. When Mike was flying helicopters in the arctic and it looked like he was missing and dead, it was almost too much, but Mike survived and so did she. When Mike’s life choices stretched the limit, her love never wavered. Actually, I think he was her favorite, ha….Funny fact. When I taught at Couch I snuck into the permanent record vault to compare IQ scores between JoKay, Becky, Mike and myself. And of COURSE Mike’s was the highest. Haha… can you believe I did that? She loved him so much. And proud doesn’t begin to describe how she felt about Becky and Jack and JoKay and Jerry. She was over the moon about Dawn and Matt….. I mean OVER the moon.
- Sometimes her TRUTH-TELLING was a little embarrassing…honest, but embarrassing nonetheless. …..When I was on the phone, being asked out by an older boy she loudly exclaimed “absolutely not he’s much too told”…. that took care of that.
- She HURRIEDLY did household tasks because she hated them (this is so me) and one time she managed to wash something red with Mike’s basketball uniform and turned it a lovely pink. It was after school so no time to fix.. Mike started and played the entire game with a lovely pink uniform… .not her best work. She was forever hurrying while cooking and always cut her fingers… she never had a bandaid so she just put a piece of adhesive tape on it and carried on.
- She was INTOLERANT…..When a little boy showed up at school from child services, and placed in mother’s 1st grade classroom, he was called N——r on the playground. Mother witnessed it, lost her temper and slapped the guilty kid… she came home that day certain she was going to lose her job, but she must have scared the guilty kid so badly he never told anyone. (hope he doesn’t read this). When they couldn’t find a foster home for the little boy from child services because he was black (our entire county was white)…..mother took him home with us and he stayed until a family was found. Keep in mind this happened in the early 1960’s…. and yes, she shouldn’t have slapped anyone, but times were different then. Trust me, she was my first grade teacher and she popped me too…for answering “yep” several times instead of “yes ma’m”…..ha… and I survived.
- She was CRANKY every Mother’s Day because she never won the First Baptist Church corsage for 1) the oldest mother 2) the youngest mother or 3) the mother with the most children….. ha…. If you’re my age I’ll bet you remember those corsages… sometimes home-made from peony blossoms.
- She was HUMAN. With trying to pay for JoKay’s college, keep Becky on track in high school, Mike in junior high and an unexpected late in life baby (me) who had colic and apparently cried non-stop….working full time, and keeping Daddy’s shirts ironed, going to church 3 times a week and attending all the basketball games..etc… she one day simply went to bed, shut the door and didn’t come out. I obviously was too little to remember this episode but the story was…..she was just done….like lots of mothers out there who simply don’t know if they can manage one more stinkin’ day. …… JoKay was called home from college to help and after a while it got better. But Lord have mercy, it must have been hard for her. I think often about that event and how in those days folks just didn’t talk about depression or exhaustion or mental health.
I have a million other examples of Irene’s character and traits…. and what a blessing it was to have her for a mother. It seems that by the time I realized how extraordinary she was, the cancer struck and
she was gone.
She didn’t get to meet my boys, she was not there for motherly advice or sympathy or to be proud of my family. No graduations or weddings or the birth of grands…..I’m sure that’s why I am “over the top” when I write about her. Her memory…all these years later, looms large and for that, I’m incredibly thankful. I’m pretty sure I’ve unconsciously tried to emulate her my entire life.
Mother’s Day, for many years, wasn’t pleasant for me. It just made me sad. But life goes on., doesn’t it? I’ve discovered I have many of the same traits as Irene….the good and the bad (I haven’t slapped anybody but I did throw an earring once during choir rehearsal in Brookland)…. Mother’s Day has become a happy day for me!!
In 1997 when I was so sick (the first time..ha) I prayed hard to not die but to be here for my boys so they would remember me….How dang lucky am I? God decided to allow me these extra years to be a mother…. and it’s been wonderful.
So here we are…….I well remember when my boys were little and they brought home gifts from school or Sunday School on Mother’s Day, and how it made my heart simply burst with pride and love.
(I’ll bet you moms out there feel the same)…
However, things change when you get older. for me this day is not at all about gifts but instead it’s about TIME. Time spent with my boys and now my daughters in law and grands. I’ll wager your mom says the same thing.
This is the only gift I want.
(of course if one of them was in the NFL I’d ask for a new car but that’s not happenin….)
It’s my hope that on this Mother’s Day you’ll spend time with your moms, if you’re lucky enough to have them close…. and just be together. Talk, listen to her stories AGAIN. And if your mom is gone…. well, use this day to tell someone about her! Share a story, share a laugh, remember her! Put on a peony corsage and roll.
Here’s to you IRENE, my sweet Mother ……You were so loved.
Happy Mother’s Day