She was twenty-nine years young when I came into the world: her first daughter, and her only daughter, for almost fourteen years. In her eyes, her family could not have been more perfect. Now she had a tiny newborn daughter and a twenty—month old son. Her hair was dark brown and her skin, smooth and youthful.
Twenty-five years and three more sons and one daughter later, her skin is still smooth and tanned from summers spent outdoors, but there are laugh lines around her mouth and her eyes have tiny wrinkles around them. Her hair is no longer brown. It has morphed over the years into a beautiful, glorious halo of silver.
She’s no stranger to hardship. She has two angel babies waiting to meet their Mommy in heaven, and I know she grieved for those babies she never got to meet. She was twenty-nine years young when I came into the world: her first daughter, and her only daughter, for almost fourteen years. She battled intense loneliness when Daddy was away on work projects in other states and countries. She grew up on a farm and was expected to work like a man, and she did. She threw hay bales and drove tractors and milked cows so early in the morning that some people wouldn’t even call it morning yet. Oh, but she still had to help with doing cooking, laundry, gardening, and housework for a family of eleven.
Growing up, we Youngman kids loved to hear her stories about the time she spent in Northern Ontario, and when she lived in a seedy part of Thunder Bay, ON, to work with First Nations people. She would tell us about her adventures of traveling to volunteer in summer camps, and the band she was in with three of her siblings. We heard tales about lots of snow when her family moved to New York, and the story of how she met our Daddy. She told us about her job at the fabric shop and when she worked at the furniture factory. But mostly, she would tell us about the people she met, and really, that sums up my Mama. People.
There have always been people in and out of our home for as long as I can remember. Some would come just for tea and Mama’s listening ear, some would stay for the night, and some would stay even longer. She cared for an elderly friend who moved into our home for a while, and every now and then, we’d get up in the morning and come downstairs, and she’d tell us to be quiet, that there was someone sleeping on the couch. Sometimes it was a friend who needed a place to sleep for the night, or someone who was in trouble who Mama had been helping.
She always made time for me as a child, and I never felt like I was in her way. She involved us in everything, from gardening, to cleaning, to food preparation, and as we got older, she would give us more responsibilities. She taught me almost everything I know, and now that I am married and have a home of my own, I realize more than ever the priceless gift my mother gave me.
She taught us how to swim, and ice skate, and she took us to the ski slope for the first time. She would wake us up the middle of the night and take us outside when there was a comet predicted or something cool was supposed to happen. She faithfully drove us to our music lessons every week, and would encourage us to keep practicing. Looking back, I don’t know how she survived all those [very irritating] plunking beginner piano ditties, screechy violin beginnings, high-pitched flute practice, guitar strums, and picking around on the harp.
She would read to us almost every afternoon, and oh how we kids loved story time. All of us are avid readers now, and we attribute it to afternoon story time (and probably the Pizza Hut book-it program too!). We would be transported to different parts of the world through those stories, and reading about life through other people’s eyes was a good experience for us.
She also made quite a few trips to the ER or the doctor’s office for broken bones, stitches (*ahem* Wes!), and various illnesses. You may find it interesting that five out of Mama’s six kids have broken at least one bone, and two of us have broken more than one. She’s become a pro at bandaging cuts, nursing sick ones back to health, and later in life, learning a wealth of information about health, nutrition, and diet, due to my Daddy’s diagnosis of diabetes.
You probably get it by now that my Mama is an extraordinary woman. Her prayers have brought me to where I am right now, and I am humbled to tears that I get to be her daughter. When I was more interested in climbing trees, catching toads, pulling the legs off of daddy long-leg spiders, and playing matchbox cars with my brothers, she prayed that her little girl would learn to love being a lady and that God would bless them with a deep and meaningful mother/daughter relationship.
I think it grew out of her patient pursuit of me, coupled with her prayers, which evolved into the relationship we have today. Since I have married and moved away from home, she has shown me the kind of tough love that she knew I needed. I know that releasing me hasn’t been easy for her, and not living close to my family hasn’t been easy for me, but she has never questioned God’s calling for my husband and me, and in doing so, she has made it much easier for me to live here. She knows that if she complained to me about how hard it is that I live so far away, and how she only gets to see us twice a year, and badgered my husband to bring me home more often, she would erode the gift of marriage that God has given to me, and cause me to question God’s sovereignty in my life. Instead, her unselfish support, encouragement, and words of truth give me confidence to be the individual God wants me to be, where He wants me to be. Her greatest gift to me has been her biggest sacrifice—to see me move away and the death of some of her dreams.
Today, her six children are in four different states and one in a different country. You won’t hear her grumbling about not being with her entire family today, on Mother’s Day. She’s too busy supporting her children and being excited about the directions that her children’s lives are heading to complain about what she doesn’t have. I know she misses her children today, but she and Daddy raised their children to be independent people who take opportunities to go out, to be a witness for Christ, to learn new things and meet new people. That’s the kind of woman my Mama is.
Thank you, Mama. You’re my hero, and I want to “rise up, and call you blessed” (Proverbs 31:28). You gave life to me, you nurtured me, and now, you enable me. I only hope, that if God gives me children of my own, that I can be a mom as wonderful as you.