Mother’s Day 1981: A Letter to My Mom
By Bill Shepard
It is that time of year again when special people all over our great land are being given special recognition for outstanding contributions to their world. It’s Mother’s Day, and I want to pay special tribute to the greatest Mother of the Year – You, Mom!
I looked for a card but I couldn’t find one that said all the things that I wanted to say, so I decided to say them myself. I want to say, “Thank You” for the many things you did for me long before I can remember and before I could help myself.
I want to thank you for scrubbing my overalls and shirts until your hands were red and then boiling my clothes in an old black wash pot filled with lye water, and rinsing hem through three clear waters afterward to make certain all the lye was gone. My clothes were the cleanest in the village. Ah, those washdays, I remember them well.
I want to thank you for scrubbing the rough wood floors of the house where we lived, with an old rough broom made of cornhusks. You couldn’t make them look slick and shiny, but they were as clean as a hospital floor. How refreshing to step inside and smell the fragrant odor of the clean pine floors. No, it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary and you accepted the task cheerfully as your duty to your family. There wasn’t much reward for tasks performed like that in those days except the satisfaction of knowing you had done your job well.
I want to especially thank you for scraping the Irish potatoes and making the cool poultices that you would place over my “sore eyes” during those hot August dog days. I don’t think I could have made it through those long days, shut up in a dark room and so hot that it was almost unbearable, except for your love and compassion and cooling potato poultices. I still remember awakening in the morning with my eyes swollen and stuck shut, feeling your tender hands bathing my sore eyes, like a professional nurse, until they would gradually open. You were a professional! You could blow on my eyes and do more good than all of the Argy oil in the drug store.
I want to thank you for not allowing me to go to the wash-hole every time I would ask. Even though there were other boys in the village who went at will, I had to have your permission. Of course, there were times when I slipped and went without permission, but when I was caught up with, I was taught a lesson in “Obedience,” lessons that I would never forget.
All in all, thanks for teaching me to respect authority. Those lessons followed me all my life and kept me out of trouble many times. How I wish more children today were taught the same way. Thank you, Mom, for being the one I could turn to when no one else cared or would listen. For making me do many things that I didn’t want to do, and for knowing just when to say, “Yes” and “No.” You had the wisdom of Solomon, and the patience of Job. And where you got your understanding, I’ll never know.
I want to thank you for being a faithful companion to Dad, as the two of you struggled side by side through the Great Depression to provide for yourselves and five growing children. And thank you, Mom, for giving me two of the finest sisters and two brothers that a boy could have. How you and Dad provided for us all so well on such a small budget is a mystery.
I want to thank you for being so brave during the war years when you watched all three of your sons volunteer for service and go marching off to war. I still remember the sounds of sobbing in the back room when Harry or Harvey would leave to go back to Camp. And later when I left, I know the same thing happened over and over. I know some of that feeling now, after raising my own and experiencing their leaving the family nest one by one.
Thank you, Mom, for being a Grandmother to my children, and a Great-Grandmother to their children. They’ll never forget the pleasant and enjoyable vacations and holidays spent with you and Dad. As long as they and their children live, you will live in their hearts and minds. Also, Mom, as a bit of surprise, I want to thank you for keeping the old home place intact after Dad left. I know that there were times that you thought of letting it go and getting out from under the burden of it. I’m glad you didn’t. For me, it was, and is, and always will be a link to the past and every time I go back, I relive memories of growing up there. It’s kind of a sacred place for my family and me.
While sitting here writing this letter, Mom, I have spanned a lifetime. I have been a little boy playing between the garden rows while you and Dad worked in the garden. Ah, those sunny spring days! What fun to pull off my shoes and play barefoot in the freshly plowed earth. I can smell it now, it seems. I have taken my cane fishing pole, and a can of worms and gone to the little creek behind the house to my favorite bream hole. There, in the quiet of the big swamp to the place where, as a boy, I spent many peaceful hours. I have relived my teen years-looking back. I wonder how I ever lived through them. It had to be your prayers!
And finally, Mom, Thank you for just being there all these years. You’re like the strength of a Great Rock. You’re the glue that has held us together for all these years. I sometimes fear for what will happen to us when you leave and I wish you could stay forever! I can never find the words to tell you all that you have meant to me. I would be foolish to try, for when I have said all I can say, the feeling inside me goes on and on. So, I’ll stop the pen and say the words that are most important.
I love you, Mom, and appreciate you more than I can tell. God bless you and keep you is my prayer.
Happy Mother’s Day,
Mother’s Day May 8, 2016
Thinking about something to write for Mother’s Day, I came across the above letter. It was given to me after Mom had passed away, and could have been the last letter, of the sort, that I wrote to her. She has been gone for many years, but beautiful memories remain. Good mothers leave beautiful memories. Wherever you are, Mom – Thanks for being my Mother.
Editor’s note: Perhaps we all need to pull out some pen and a paper and write a letter like this to our mother, grandmother, or mother-figure? Thank you for the inspiration, Bill.
And Happy Mother’s Day, readers!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.
His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C., 29673