December 6, 1933 – March 20, 2016
83 years ago, a baby girl was born into an already very large Norwegian family of 7 boys and girls (2 of the girls would die in infancy) and three more would follow after her… This family of ten would live out their young lives in a railroad car in Conrad, MT. This remarkable woman lived through the Great Depression and stood in the food lines for food and coats to wear. This experience would give her a flair for fashion; in her later years as a teacher and then wife and mother she loved to shop and adored her shoes! She watched as her oldest brother went off to war in WWII, pulled her father out taverns and lost him to a premature death when she was a senior in high school.
The tales she would tell of family bath nights using the same water, having one of her hats thrown down the outhouse hole by the bratty neighbor girl and getting even with her by “sharing” goat turd raisins, and the fights and teasing she put up with at the hands of her rascally brothers and sisters would fill a library. She would be farmed out to her tiny Norwegian Aunt Annie’s farm to help cook and clean during the summers.
She would traverse the countryside with crazy Lutheran pastors that drove like bats out of hell over wash-board roads to get to the various country churches on Sunday mornings where the pastor would preach and she would play the piano. She gained fame as the State Champion Majorette – baton twirling was competitive back then – and she would spend summers at Whitefish and Flathead Lakes first as a nanny and then as Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp’s Dean of Women.
She would then go off to college, become a teacher, meet my Dad in Livingston, MT and marry him 6 months later at the age of 23. She would have a son and 10 years later, a daughter, and she would move 23 times to follow my Dad’s career ambitions. She would become a Brownie leader and classroom and school library volunteer. She would help plant and start a new Lutheran church. She raised her children in a home that always knew her love. She welcomed and put up with the constant comings and goings of the neighborhood kids and her presence was one their working Mom’s always appreciated.
She was tested physically throughout her life including surviving congestive heart failure, a stroke, and the onset of dementia. She was tested by her children, whose lives did not always reflect her greatest wishes for them and her husband whose career she sacrificed her own for.
She was and always will be my first love in this world and someone I did not fully appreciate until she was gone. I wish I had known the woman she was BEFORE she had me – the carefree college girl and ground-breaking elementary school teacher who in many ways was before her time in instructional practices. I wish I had known my Mom before time took a toll on her spirit.
The woman I did know, however, was a wonderful mother, who despite our clashes in later life, was my best friend. She shared the adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder with me at bedtime and wondered at the life and times of our first president George Washington at Mount Vernon and the history we were surrounded by while living in Virginia. We explored the meanderings of Alkali Creek and the dress racks and shoe islands of Lord and Taylor’s department store with the same zeal.
She had a tender heart, a curious mind, and at least throughout my childhood – a very fun sense of play and humor. While she hated to cook, she loved to decorate – especially at Christmas – in later years this would become a point of contention between us as I had the same affinity but not always the same ideas. Candles in the windows were her statement to the neighborhood that the light of Christ shined within our home. Candles were a part of every dinner as well – a light ever-present in our lives, even when times were cold and dark. I found a stash of her candles while home at Thanksgiving this year – she had an abundant supply – a constant source of light she was certain never to be without.
We are without her light in our midst this year – a void that is achingly real. But I know her light shines on – within each of us and those whose lives she touched. I love and miss you Mom, so very much. The sun is shining brightly today in your honor. Thank you for filling my heart and my life with your love and own special light. Happy Birthday, Mom. I know heaven is radiant with your beautiful light today.