One of my earliest memories is my Daddy helping me get into a striped shirt and little corduroy pants and my leather moccasins. We got into the car to go pick up my Mama at her job. She was working at The Yarn Spinner. To a very small child, this meant she was magical like Rumplestiltskin. I was pretty sure she spun yarn out of thin air at her job. Of course, it was a yarn store and she didn’t make the yarn, but I truly thought she did.
At this time in Mama’s life, she should have been fragile. I don’t remember her being that way, though. It had to have been around the time her own mother passed away, because she went on to her heavenly reward when I was 3. She was very close to her mother.
My Mama also raised the four of us kids with my father most often working second shift, or sometimes third. This meant that she dealt with the lion’s share of the everyday parenting, the in-the-trenches sort of stuff. She and my Daddy lost twins during a pregnancy. Then one of their children was born with developmental and intellectual disabilities and my Mama was a special needs parent before the term was ever coined, and certainly before there was much tolerance or acceptance. She actually had people she loved tell her that she or our Daddy must have done something to deserve having a child that was different. There was no knowledge about how long life expectancy was for their special child, and decisions about anything weighed heavily on their shoulders because no one had any helpful answers. There was no advocacy group, no Facebook group, no Internet forums. She had to blaze her own path. She also had 3 other children at the same time, “normal” children to take care of. I think most of us realize by now that “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine. The other three of us are willful and full of mischief, just as our “special” sibling was and is. In other words, my Mama has had her hands full since the minute she became a parent.
I still remember so many small and big things that she took the time to do. Cooking meals, reading with me, turning my brand new earrings around and swabbing them with the cleaner so that they healed perfectly and I’ve never had trouble putting earrings in. Before Mama had to stop working due to disability, she had a passion for elderly folks. She took every kind of care of them, from bathing and diapering to playing Bingo and attending sophisticated social functions with them. She really shined as an activities director, probably because she’s a fun person. They all loved her so much, and I know I got special attention when I went to the nursing home with her because I was her daughter.
These days she spends at home with us. We are fortunate to be spending some time living with her, my Daddy, and my sister. I am so glad my children are getting this time with her and their Papaw. My Mama always showed strength, even before I knew what strength was. She has overcome some hard things that I don’t even want to contemplate what it must have been like for her. She has always trusted in The Lord, and I’ve been so blessed to have her as an example. She has always taught us to follow Jesus, and I remember learning to pray early on. My Mama has unshakable faith and unconditional love. She has a lot of pain now due to things her doctors still don’t quite have all sorted out, but she still got out of her own bed the other day to rub my leg and back down with cream when I was crying in pain from a pinched nerve. She has always helped others, always given of herself. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but we do love heart to heart. I’ve always known she was here for me. These are the best things you can give your child.
I am so blessed to be your child, Jennifer Louise Griffin Smith. It is a wonderful and precious gift that you gave me, teaching me to be a mother. I wish you another Happy Birthday.