by Joe Rector

Mother’s Day has come and gone. I purposely didn’t write about it then because I needed time to think. Moms across the country celebrated with families either with visits or long distance phone calls, Facetime, or Skype. All of us agree that those women who are mothers are a special group.

In the 1950s, Mother’s Day was also a special time. My mother always took the day to heart. Her mother lived about a mile from us, and Mother seemed to be inspired and awed by her. I never understood that because Mamaw Balch always seemed to be a stick in the mud. She smiled rarely and spent her days listening to radio preachers and reading her bible. Still, she brought four children into the world. She worked to provide for her brood during the Great Depression. Never did the family go hungry, although they had little cash. She made sure their home was clean and warm, and her meals were the kind that gave energy that was needed for completing all the jobs on a dairy farm.

Mother celebrated her mother’s love with visits and with acts of kindness. Both women were small in stature, but they were stronger than most in attitude and grit and determination.

Mamaw Rector was a complete opposite. She was a rotund little woman who worked outside the home for years. By the time we boys came around, she’d already retired. At home in Lonsdale, she cooked and doted on my grandfather, whom some say was far from a warm, engaging man. Her daughter and two grandsons also lived with her at some point, and later she opened her home to a great grandson. Mamaw was filled with the “Rector” pessimism. We carefully asked how she was because most of the time the answer came back with a litany of woes. Still, she loved her children and patted on them and spoiled them as much as possible during their early years.

Daddy called her “Momma,” and he never failed to check in on her after his shift at Southern Extract was finished. He’d make sure the house was in order and that food was plentiful for the family. Even as he grew sicker with cancer, he dragged himself to her house until he no longer could drive.

Mother loved us boys. She stayed at home until we began school, at which time she began teaching and returned to college to earn her Bachelor’s Degree. We made her Mother’s Day gifts at church or school. One I remember was a potholder made with pink and yellow strips. The presents weren’t much, and I feel sure the moms today would feel slighted with such trivial things. Still, Mother took them as if they were treasures.

On Mother’s Day, she walked into the yard. We followed her to the rambling rosebushes. There, she searched for five perfectly formed roses. After cutting them from the branch, she pinned them to our collars, as well as to hers and Daddy’s. Then we traveled a short distance to the old Beaver Ridge Methodist Church. During the service we sang “Faith of Our Mothers” (a small adjustment to the familiar hymn), and the minister spoke of the importance of all mothers, always giving special praise to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

As the years past, Mother made the same trek to the rosebushes to select buds for us. However, she made a second trip to pick a white rosebud for herself. It symbolized the loss of a mother. A tear would come to her eye before she turned herself back to the daily grind of her own life and responsibilities as a mother.

I still shake my head when I think of those old Mother’s Days. Edna Rector rose before the rest of us on that Sunday, just like all of them. She’d get ready for church and then don her housecoat before making pancakes and bacon for breakfast. She’d already put a roast with potatoes and carrots in the oven or cut up a chicken for frying. When we returned from church, Mother changed clothes and returned to the kitchen. She’d finish cooking up a Sunday feast, and our family would sit together for at least a while. When it was over and we’d all waddle to other activities, Mother cleaned the kitchen. Only then did she sit down in her chair to read the Sunday paper. Sometimes she’d nod off for a while.

She’s been gone for a long time. I miss her and wish I could give her a hug, a kiss, and a “thank-you” for all she meant to me. A single rosebud just doesn’t seem big enough to say those things, but then again, it is a beautiful flower that grows and brings joy, just like mothers.