Mom, thanks for going without

Who is privileged to choose where they come from? My mother, Carol, was born in a small town in Sanpete County, Utah during the Great Depression, the oldest of five children. Since her father was often sick, the family never had very much. When she was older, her father was the janitor in the high school she attended.The family subsisted on what they could grow and what scarce employment they could acquire. The children also did what they could to help by delivering papers, cleaning homes for more fortunate families and other odd jobs.

Ruth being held by her father
Ruth being held by her father

My grandmother sewed all of the clothes that my mother wore. The family was very frugal and lacked the funds to purchase clothes from a store. My grandmother lovingly knit my mom beautiful tops and sweaters that her friends admired.

As I grew up, I was totally unaware of the sacrifices my parents made for my siblings and I. My father worked two jobs to provide a home and the necessities. My mother kept a very clean home and became expert at baking yummy foods we all enjoyed. She suffered from depression and was on a perpetual diet trying to lose weight gained from her delicious baking.

I remember at the end of each summer, my mother would give me a budget and take me shopping for school clothes at the local bargain retail stores. We had no malls back then. I learned not to look for brand-name clothes as the price would be out of our budget. My favorite store was Lerner’s. They had modern and stylish clothes at a discounted price.

All the time I was shopping for myself, I never noticed my mother looking for anything for herself. Rarely did she buy herself a new dress, but she seemed content to wear her “regulars.” Nevertheless, she was always clean and classy and kept her clothes mended by hand. I remember her taking in white shirts to iron from neighbors to earn extra money.

In retrospect, I can understand why Mother rarely smiled or voiced appreciation for the worldly possessions our family had. Even with all that Father provided, in comparison to many of our neighbors, friends and relatives, they were unimpressive. I grew up comparing myself to my cousins, friends and those more fortunate around me. It was a very oppressive way to live.

My mother secretly wished for a career. At that time, without higher education or marketable skills, the prospects were limited. At one time, Dad let her work outside the home and she really seemed to enjoy the experience. But, she always put the children and her husband before herself.

When her own parents were old and feeble, mother took care of them. In fact, both of her parents lived into their 90s. My mother, who literally sacrificed herself to care for them died in her 70s. So what is the life lesson I learned from my mother? That of self-sacrifice for the good of others. Now that I am a mother and grandmother, I appreciate what she went through as she fulfilled her duties.

I married a Polynesian man who swept me away to the islands of the Pacific for the past forty plus years. He worked hard to get an education and has taken good care of our family. When we lived in the islands, I was always in awe at how happy the people were despite their lack of what the world consider riches.

How do you rectify the injustices in the world? You don’t! But, you can learn to appreciate whatever you have been given.

Thank you, Mother for your example of self-sacrifice.

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