|Mom and Dad in 2004|
|Mom at 17 or 18|
A photo of my beautiful Mother, Helen, taken at age 17 or 18, carefully hand colored. With ancestral roots going back to one of the first Anglo families who moved to Nacadoches in the Spanish/Mexican territory around the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and a Caddo Indian ancestor whose "Texas" ancestry goes untraceable hundreds of years earlier, she is a true daughter of Texas. It was her grandfather, the son of a German immigrant to Central Texas in the 1830's, who married a descendant of the early pre-Texas root of my family tree.
As I enjoy telling people: My Mom was raised in a zoo. Literally! My grandfather took care of a herd of dairy cows for Captain Roy Aldrich of the Texas Rangers on a 20-acre spread just outside the then city limits of Austin. Ma and Pa's small house sat in the middle of the animal cages comprising what amounted to the city's first zoo, a collection of native Texas critters and other animals taken in and cared for by Captain. Captain had an office in the Texas Capitol Building and lived in the large 2-story primary farm house on the property. When they could Mom, her older sister and younger brother would catch a ride to the State Capitol then play on the steps waiting for him to get off work then Captain would drive back home with them. Their weekends were a flurry of Austin and local families strolling and picnicking on the grounds and visiting the wild animal cages while other Texas Rangers along with State and Local politicians visited with Captain.
The stories Mom tells of those years were always magical to me: sliding down the tin roof of the wolf cage, getting chased up trees by loose javalinas (fierce wild pigs) and having to wait for men on horseback to lasso the animals in order to rescue them, my little uncle getting the end of his finger bit off by a parrot and my grandparents just sticking it back on and wrapping it up (it worked!), cramming as many sour wild grapes into their mouths to see who would make a face first, plus so many more. And though they played in the creek to keep cool on long summer afternoons, no, she insists, they were smart enough NOT to swing on grapevines over the alligator pond - as much as I want to believe they did. I think "halcyon days of childhood innocence and freedom" pretty much describes that period of her life. I love to hear Mom's stories still! We tried for years to get her to write a book about her childhood adventures, and she did finally start one years ago and sent a couple of stories to family members. I regret I have no idea what I did with them and wish I could replace them. She has since written an autobiography for the family, but she's left out so much of what made her early childhood so interesting to a city-raised daughter.
Mom's family later moved to a small community NW of Austin. She graduated from high school at 15 and she was almost 17 when she moved to Fort Worth where she worked at the Dr. Pepper bottling plant and lived a rented room with my aunt and 2 other friends. She met my Dad at the nearby Baptist Church on April Fool's Day when she was 20. They got engaged on Halloween and married the next Valentine's Day (well, that was the original plan any way - the church and senior minister were already booked so they were married by a minister friend on the 7th in my grandparent's living room instead). I was their Christmas baby. My sister is 19 months younger, and my brother was born 9 years later, just before Mother's Day. In fact, tomorrow is his birthday - ON Mother's Day. This year my parent's celebrated their 64th wedding Anniversary!!
Although she never had a paying job after they got married, my Mom was always actively involved with us in school along with other volunteer activities right up until the past 3 or 4 years when medical issues prevented her from doing so: Church, PTA at the school and as President at the city level, Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girl Leader for 11 years, Cub Scout Leader, Blood Testing for Carter Blood Center, long-time volunteer and Administrative and Training Director for the local chapter Contact (a nation-wide telephone counseling ministry). Her final volunteer position was with the hospital auxiliary in Labor and Delivery. As a member of Contact and continuing through her years with the hospital auxiliary she also made hundreds (maybe thousands) of small pillows which were given to new mothers and surgical patients to tuck under and around them. Mom is now 84 years young. Although she can no longer do leg work as a volunteer she continues to make pillows, quilts, small stuffed animals, aprons and doll dresses for the hospital, Salvation Arny and for the church bazaar.She's been named both an Arlington and a Tarrant County Volunteer of the Year, among many other honors and accolades bestowed on her. Nowadays she works diligently in her yard and gardens and still does all that sewing, including cross stitch.
And she can tell the most hilarious fractured fairy tales!
To make her even more wonderful, during all of those many MANY hours a week of volunteer work throughout all these years she was and continues to be the epitome of the ideal SAHM! What's even more (and probably her biggest challenge), she has so patiently tried to guide and direct and most definitely has put up with me for the past 63 years - something I can never fully appreciate nor thank nearly enough! I am so blessed to have Mom for my Mother, so proud of her many varied and important accomplishments, and I love her so very, very much. So to My Mom and to each and every one of you, your mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts everywhere, my warmest and most sincere ....