Today is Mother’s Day in the USA. All across America and beyond, we continue the timely and timeless tradition of honoring mothers -- our own and others, past and present. And rightly so. We can never thank them enough for their countless contributions to their families, communities and our nation.
The longer I live, the more I’ve come to appreciate Mother’s Day, and what my own mother means to me. I’ve told her story before, and I’m telling part of it again today. Her name was Gertrude, but most of her family and friends just called her “Gert.” She was born in 1907 in the old Goodbars community in Van Buren County, “two hoots and a holler” from Warren County.
Gert was one of ten Simons children who survived to adulthood: 5 boys and 5 girls. By today’s standards that’s a humongous hearth and home. However, large families were typical back then, especially in the country. The more hands the better. Rural life was labor-intensive. So, boys and girls shared the load, with little to no slack for age or gender.
Mama never said a whole lot about her youth, but when she did, I listened eagerly and tried to understand how she had to grow up hard and fast. Her formal education was scant, but she learned amply the lessons of life from the “school of hard knocks.”
Early on, Mama left home for Fort Payne, Ala., where she found work in a hosiery mill. She lived in a boarding house and worked long hours at the mill for little pay. It was a brave thing for such a young woman to do. Later, she returned home to work in a hosiery mill in McMinnville. That occupation became her lot in life for decades.
Mama divorced my daddy when I was a young boy. Granted custody of my two sisters and me, she became a struggling “single mom,” way before that term was common in American parlance. She went above and beyond to raise my sisters and me as well as she possibly could. She worked her fingers to the bone at the mill, and “took in” washing and ironing of clothes from other families. She also cleaned houses for others. She did all this to keep our little family fed, clothed, sheltered, loved -- and most of all, together.
Given her own lack of formal schooling, mama talked to me often about the value of a good education. “Get a good education, son. That’s something nobody can take away from you.” Those words of wisdom, uttered so long ago, reach out to touch my heart today.
Mama left this world in 1981, but her loving legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She will be with us in spirit later today, when Betty and I host family and friends for another Mother’s Day celebration in Pleasant Cove.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.