It doesn’t seem possible that my mom, Jessie, has been gone for almost 21 years. It can’t be so! Of course, she is still in my heart and my head, and will be until it is time for me to go too, 0r better (as Sharon says), time to lay down my earth suit.
Jessie was born on a farm in the Michigan thumb on April 10, 1906. As she often said, she was born with the horse and buggy, and lived to see men on the moon. What a time the 20th century was! She lived through two world wars and a depression, the great flu epidemic, was widowed twice, lost one child in infancy, and two of her other three children before it was time for her to finally go. She told me many times how lucky she was that I was born when she was 41 years old, as I was her only child to survive her. I was unexpected, but not unwelcome!
She lived to be 91 years, and three months old. If she were living, she would be 112 years of age today.
Here is a poem she wrote about that:
What are Birthdays
“Happy Birthday” we all say
In remembrance of the day.
Adding still another year
Looking back with joy or tears.
Happy were the days of youth,
Self-centered, fragile; they in truth
Taught us much we know of life
How to cope and to survive.
Now the years are all behind.
I thank God each day, for he is kind.
Trusting Him, in peace I live
My “Happy Birthday” is to give.
Give of self and give of time.
Tell the world in verse and rhyme
That the Savior died for me
And He died to set all free.
Happy Birthday! for this day –
I have reason to be gay
For my times are in His hand
I’m the most blessed in the land.
Another Jessie poem, which she titled, Life On Planet Earth
Tick tock, went the clock.
And the years went by
Too slow for young feet
Anxious to go.
Down the road and away
To live and love and play
Swifter now the years
And there were tears.
But smiles, too
Pictured in the mind’s eye
Are memories that will not die
But will live on.
Tick tock, faster now they fly
The treasures of age
Gathered and filling every page
Of my book of life.
Pages, filled with what …
Much of it dross.
If there is any gold or metal tried by fire
God will record the gain or loss.
For Jessie’s 90th birthday, my daughter and her then fiance (a graphics designer) created a book to commemorate the occasion, and had copies professionally printed; a copy was given to each person who attended (75 in all.) They titled it “Treasures of Age”. It is a beautiful tribute, containing letters from relatives, anecdotes and poems by Jessie, and lots of pictures.
As I look into my mirror on my birthday I can see reflections of the changes that the years have made in me. I have had sorrows as well as many blessings in my life. I hope they have made me a more understanding, stronger and kinder person. Memories are a gift of God. We can block out the errors and remember things as we want them to be.
In the beginning life was simple on the farm. We went to school, to church on Sunday, and took an occasional trip to town and had a treat of candy or ice cream. Primary school was grades one through eight, all in one room. One teacher for all grades! In school we had box socials, spell-downs, plays, recitations and debates. I remember in 1920, we debated on the topic “Should women be allowed to vote?”
Our dad could play the fiddle and could jig too. He played for many square dances. Dad loved the farm. He was so particular he couldn’t stand a single weed anywhere. The crops were as near perfect as possible. He was an honest man, and liked by all his neighbors.
Mother loved sunsets and the beauty of all creation. She would call our attention to lovely things and tell us to fill our minds with clean and beautiful thoughts of nature. What a wonderful mother she was! I’ll never forget coming home from school to the aroma of freshly baked bread and sweet pickles she was canning.
Verna and I had the chore of bringing the cows up from pasture after school. Weeding was another job we had to do, and planting in the spring. We were the two youngest girls and we always played together. One time we had a special number in the Japanese musical Chrysanthemum for a high school program. We never fought and we always got along. We still do.
Tom was good to me. He helped me out when he was working and I was in school. He bought me a squeezebox. Ross could build anything. He could do my algebra, although he never took it in school. One time he built us a car with a motor. He built us a playhouse. We didn’t see much of Allen. He worked in the city because he didn’t like farming. I didn’t see Dad’s love for farming in any of the boys; they all wanted to go to the city to work.
I was the only one to graduate from high school. The others got up to 11th grade and quit to go to work. My father died the year I graduated, and Anna and John Newell paid the mortgage on the farm. We moved to Detroit. My Aunt Kate was a teacher and she wanted me to go to college too, but there was no money for that.
Here she is at the end of the day of her party, so happy and still full of energy! She’s the one in the birthday hat.
I love you, mom.