Dad, Barbara, and I arrived in Germany May 8, 1955, on Mother’s Day. What a lonesome day that was, to look out of the hotel window and not be able to read any of the signs. We left Frankfort for Mainz, Germany. After being there for a while, I began to have problems with my health. The doctors said it would not get better by itself. They said I would have to have surgery, and then I wouldn’t be able to have children. So we decided to have another baby, and then it wouldn’t be so bad. After much morning sickness all day long and two or three visits to the hospital for glucose and rest, I went to Wiesbaden at the Air Force hospital. The next morning we had a baby boy and I was so thrilled. You see, I was wanting a boy, and Daddy wanted a girl. Afterwards, he was glad to have a boy. He had told my mother if it was a boy, she could have it. But he was quick to cancel that. In fact, after we came home, you would never have known he wanted anything except a boy.
My dad served 2 tours in Germany, one before I was born and one after I arrived. They were married in Fort Worth 7 years earlier. They were 21 and 22. In an early picture, probably taken on their wedding day, they stand side by side. My father grins like a Cheshire cat, and my mother looks as if she can’t contain her happiness.
Mainz, Germany, in 1955 was the headquarters for the American contingent monitoring the Allied rebuilding of Germany. WWII had ended only a decade earlier, and war damage still permeated the people’s lives. My father played an important part in bringing new life to the city.
When they arrived, Mom was totally unprepared. She dealt with bouts of loneliness, and one morning, the apartment was cold. She snuggled with my sister Barbara to keep warm.
My sister, a toddler, was my mother’s best friend during this time. My dad was away every day, the Germans spoke in German, and when the weather was too bad to go out, Mom and Barb played games to pass the time. I suppose, if one child was good company, how much better would two be?
Hospitals in Germany in 1956 weren’t what we expect in America today. The Air Force hospital was a sterile place with little decoration, and too many people in too few rooms. However, the staff were courteous, even warm and friendly on occasion, and my mother’s memories of her stay there are of the faces that smiled at her most often.
David was born in Germany, and the Germans didn’t think my mother should take him out in public, that she should leave him home with a sitter. My mother tells the story of a German woman she met at the market that was appalled at seeing my brother, just weeks old, wrapped in a blanket and in his stroller going down the street. To my mom, it was a moment to be proud of, her new son on display.
How differently minds across the world seem to think!
We took David and Barbara to the park when David was only a couple of weeks old. This was the huge park in Frankfort. Everyone was saying, oh, how small he was. They all thought he was so sweet (and so did we).
David was born 4:53 A.M., May 8, 1956, on a Tuesday, and we came home on Friday. On Sunday we couldn’t wait to show him off, so we took him to church. We started him out right, real soon.
Growing up, church attendance was the most important event of the week. I should say events, because we usually went two or even three times.
Mom loves being at church, and she wants everyone to look their best when they walk through the door. Our family was always the best-dressed on the pew. You see, my mother was a seamstress, and a good one, too. I had new dresses, from frilly pink things with puffy skirts to color-blocked outfits directly from Saks Fifth Avenue. My brother and father were polished in new suits, as nice as any from a department store. (Of course, Saks was very much my mother’s old brown Pfaff sewing machine.)
I’m sure my brother was all dolled up that May Sunday in 1956, with little booties, a hat on his head, and a matching jumper to ward off any chill that might try to seep inside and make him cry.
Mom worked in a pants-making factory after she was married, but before my sister was born. She and her good friend Emma went to apply, and Mom immediately qualified for an office job. Emma didn’t, so Mom said she wanted to work in the factory, instead.
Mom learned so quickly, she was allowed to take every Thursday off and come back on Friday to get her paycheck. Her boss told her she was one of his favorite employees, and she earned a really good Christmas bonus that year.
I think she disappointed the people in the office, because they hoped she would work in there. I’m glad, however, because I had new clothes to wear to church the whole time I was growing up. Everyone thought we were rich, we were so well dressed.
Thanks, Mom. I loved every new dress I ever wore, and I felt like a princess in every one. I couldn’t ask for better memories of Sunday mornings, ever.
Aunt Faye said she couldn’t believe we had a boy until she saw him. So, I took his picture in his birthday suit and sent it to her. I told her to tear it up. However, after we came home, I was looking through her pictures and ran across it, so I took it out of the book and tore it up. I think he’s glad I did.
Oh, my wonderful Aunt Faye! My Uncle Clarence always wanted a son, but he liked to joke that the only way there’d ever be any young men in their family was to marry one of his daughters off.
One picture of my brother as a toddler shows him wearing a full set of military greens, including a hat and his name stitched on his pocket. My mother sewed it by hand, with cuffs, regulation buttons, and even epaulets, just like his daddy wore.
Why did my mom really send that picture? For fun, probably, as much as anything. She was excited to have a new baby boy, and she wanted to share him with the world.
She did, too, even when her German neighbors frowned at her. It may have been Germany, and the year may have been 1956, but love was love, and my mother wasn’t hiding my brother where no one could admire him.
I think she’s still like that, eager to share what she’s enthused about. If she gets a new house, she wants you to come spend the night. A new car? You’re welcome to take a ride. Clothes, furniture, or even a new dish she’s just learned to cook, she shares freely and without anything in return.
That’s my mother’s loving nature. I hope I got some of it from her, and that I’m willing to share God’s blessings with my family and friends. I try, I really do. I’m not sure I’ll ever match the example she’s given me, even if I live to 103.
One day I closed the door to our apartment and couldn’t get back in without a key. David was in his crib and started crying. A friend tried to get a window open, but they were all closed, also. We called the M.P.s to unlock it. When they finally arrived, they had the wrong key. So we had to wait longer, and he had cried himself to sleep by the time they got the door open. You can imagine my relief to find him o.k.
One time we were in Leonard’s Department Store in downtown Ft. Worth near the escalator. With three children, I’m sure it was difficult to get through the mass of shoppers and corral us all on the elevator at the same time. I was only a baby, but as I understand it, my mother pushed my stroller onto the escalator just as my brother broke free to chase down a balloon drifting across the floor. Of course, she had to go after him, and I was already headed up the escalator. At the end, we were all safe, but can you imagine the confusion, a baby on a trip alone up the escalator?
My son Steven, at three, once closed the bathroom door in our hotel suite, not realizing it would lock everyone out. I had just started the tub filling, and we panicked. Thank goodness maintenance arrived before the tub could overflow and flood the seven floors below us.
After locking my brother in the apartment, I’m certain my mother was desperate with fear. The awful thing for her was that everyone could hear the baby’s cries, and then for the Military Police to arrive with the wrong key? My mom tells me that garage door openers are the best invention there is. She might forget her key, but she never forgets her car.
We laugh about near-disasters like this, are glad they’re over, and file them away and forget about them. There’s something more to this, however. When that door was finally unlocked, my mother didn’t blame God for the locked door. Instead, she thanked him that my brother was safely asleep in his bed when she got inside.
My mother has a unique ability to trust in God in every situation. It’s one of her best qualities, enabling her to find God’s goodness in every situation. Little eyes learn what they see. From my mother, I’ve learned that God never lets us down, and we can trust him no matter what comes our way.
And let’s not forget how David used to cry and push his head against the rails in the bed. If I didn’t get to him quickly enough, he would cry and push his head harder against the rails, until when I picked him up, he would have two ridges in his head. Oh, yes, and how he climbed out of the bed. I had it raised up higher so I could reach him easier. I didn’t realize he could pull himself up. Poor Barbara got one spanking for pulling him out of the bed. She said, “I didn’t do it. He did it.” In a day or so as I was walking in the room, he was trying to come over the rail. I had to apologize to Barbara. Then I let the bed down some.
My sister was already a pint-sized grown up when my brother was born. Mom tells me that Barbara was all hers, and she wasn’t sharing her with another. I think that means that Barbara had the run of the house, and she got to do just about anything she wanted, including boss my parents around from time to time. Of course, I’m sure my sister would disagree with that, but she was always the responsible one, taking care of things, a little mother in her own right. As I grew up, I remember her reading her Bible and praying, making sure she didn’t do anything displeasing to God, and generally following my mother’s example. Of course, Barbara, even at three, was indignant to be accused of pulling her baby brother out of his bed. I can hear her now, “No! I didn’t do whatever you accused me of. If Jesus wouldn’t do it, neither would I. How can you think that of me?”
I have no idea if David was capable of snickering at six months old, but somehow, that’s how I picture him, his hand over his mouth, and his little baby chuckle, thinking, “That’s a good one on you, Sis. And I bet Mom never finds out, either.”
Except that my mother is pretty smart. There’s not much that got past her when we were kids. Oh, we might fool her for a little bit, but she always saw through us in the end.
Mom’s taught me something else. If you’re wrong, always apologize. Never, never be the person who refuses to admit she’s made a mistake.
I’ve made a few ill-thought-out accusations over the years, and the times I’ve followed my mother’s example and asked forgiveness, it’s made things right once again.
Then, I “let the bed down some more,” or to say it differently, I change what I was doing so the misunderstanding doesn’t happen again, and I get on with life.
I learned that from my mother. She was doing it before I was born, and she loves people in the same way, today.
For a year or more Barbara and David tried to talk us into getting another baby. Anytime a friend of ours would have a baby, or a new baby would be in church, they would start all over again. Finally, I talked them out of the notion of wanting another baby. I told them how you would cry, and how I would have to spend so much time with you, and a lot of other things to discourage them. David started to school, and they were both kept pretty busy with school and everything; but there I was at home all by myself. Then I got to thinking how nice it would be to have another child. I talked it over with Daddy, and we decided we would put our order in.
Oh, oh, my brother and school! What stories his school walls could tell if they could speak to us now!
However, I wasn’t born yet, and anything from this time period is hearsay only, so let me tell you of something I do remember.
My brother had a good friend named Ritchie. He was tall and thin, with short brown hair, and to my half-pint eyes, as handsome as any friend of my brother could possibly be.
I doted on him.
My brother took me everywhere, even when he was out with his friends. David’s friends soon learned not to complain about me being along.
On one of these outings, it was David, Ritchie, Steve, and a fourth boy I don’t recall. Steve hadn’t wanted to come, because he knew my brother could be crazy. Steve sat in the back seat next to me. What I really recall about that outing was not where we went or what we did, but that my brother stood up for me. When Ritchie complained, David cracked to him, “Well, I can just pull over right now, and you can walk home.”
Ritchie turned around from the front seat, put his arm up on the back, and he winked at me. Then he said, offhanded, as if anyone with any sense would say the same, “No, that’s okay, man. That’s cool.”
Nothing else was said, but I think David would have done it, left Ritchie stranded on the side of the road, because I was more important to him.
I suppose I cried when I was a baby, and my mother probably had to devote more time to me than my brother and sister liked. I never knew anything about it. All I knew was how special I was, and that I was loved.
Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, David. I couldn’t have had a better brother and sister than you.
After about three months or so, I went to the doctor for a check-up, and sure enough, they told me I was pregnant. I was so thrilled and excited I could hardly wait to tell Barbara and David, and of course, Daddy. I went to school to pick David up, and you can’timagine how excited he was. We went to pick Barbara up at Brownies, and David went running across the grass, and he could hardly wait to tell. He said, “Barbara, guess what! We are going to get a baby!” Then there were two so excited they didn’t know what to do or who all they could tell. I told them to wait until after church. That way we could surprise everyone at one time. One of our neighbors went to our church, and I knew Barbara and David would want to be the ones to tell. Anyway, it wasn’t long before everyone knew. But we really did surprise everyone at church on Easter Sunday. I wore a maternity dress. Some even asked if I was just wearing it, or was it for real. Sure enough, it was for real.
My brother’s excitement reminds me of my husband and the birth of our son. I was blindingly excited at the idea of having a child of my own, but it was in the hospital when he was born that my husband’s excitement first shown through. Just like David, running across the grass and yelling, “Guess what!” Farley was on the phone to everyone he knew to report the birth of his new son.
Then, and this is so very endearing to me, when we first took our son camping, Farley printed a banner that stretched across the front of the travel trailer, so that everyone in the campground would know we had a new baby on board. That was Farley’s way of saying, “Guess what! We have a baby! He’s healthy, beautiful, and ours!”
Our excitement over our son’s birth was palpable, so I can understand my brother and sister’s excitement over me. It’s been over five decades since then. A lot of healthy babies have come into our lives. Barbara has three, David two (and grandchildren!), and there’s my one. That’s a lot of diapers to change.
Here’s the important part of all this. Never has my mother shared anything but excitement at the births of her children. Even when we were at our worst, and we drove her to tears, she’s always expressed her love for us.
I suspect she still feels that same surge of excitement every time she thinks of us swelling inside her with new life.
“Guess what, everyone! I’ve having a new baby! Don’t you all want to come and see?”
My answer is the only one I can imagine. “Yes, Mom, of course I do. After all, that baby was me.”
As usual, I asked God to bless me as I carried the child He was giving us, and to form it just right, and to use you for His glory.
Mom tells the most wonderful story from before she and my dad were married. It seems she was his Sunday school teacher. What I really think is that she was teaching him to fall in love with her. To hear her tell the story, she says he served in the Army in Trieste, Italy, and after returning to the U.S.A, he was sent to Korea in 1950. When he returned to the States in 1951 – and got out of the Army – my mother looked so beautiful to him, he simply had to propose.
She was horrified, to listen to her tell it.
Still, I think Mom was secretly pleased, even though she wasn’t ready to get married at that point. She says she agreed for one reason. He lived a soldier’s life, always here and gone again. He wouldn’t change just because he was out of the Army, and once he was off again, he’d forget all about her. The fact was, he had already re-enlisted before he proposed.
I laugh about that now. After sixty-five years of marriage, did he forget? Not on your life. The funny thing was, in a way, my mother was partially correct. My dad wrangled his way out of his re-enlistment in order to marry my mother, but two years after they were married, my dad once again re-enlisted, and they were off traveling the world, just like Mom had predicted Daddy would do. Only this time, she was at his side.
I feel that’s why I had such a happy upbringing. My parents set the finest example there could be, two young people, brought together by God, and even when my mom didn’t think she needed to get married, God knew the perfect man was out to get her, and she couldn’t be allowed to say no.
When my own son was born, my mother’s prayers all those years ago came full circle. I was desperately sick with Steven, and yet he was born perfectly healthy. That was my mother’s prayers from decades before still working their miracle in the life of the tiny daughter that had yet to see the first sunrise of her first new day.
Today, Steven is a grown man, he loves God with all his heart, and he listens to the Lord for direction in everything he does. I can only hope and pray that my prayers will inspire as powerful a legacy in Steven’s children as my mother’s have in me. I lift him in prayer regularly, following my mother’s example, that God will use him in a mighty way.
Thank you, Mom, for your prayers, and for the example you set for me. The world is better because of you. You have a fine grandson to prove it.