For Mom, Mommy, Mother, or Mama

  • Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Mother's Day to Vera Porter Johnson.

When my daughter was in elementary school (20 years ago), she wrote me a letter for Mother’s Day. It reads, “My Mom is the nicest, coolest, funnest Mom you could ever have. She sometimes lets me stay home from school when I didn’t do my homework. She is behind me 100 percent at whatever I do. When I change my mind right in the middle of what I’m doing she won’t be very mad. She’s my Mom and I love her.”

Everything changed, of course, when she was a teenager. I was no longer nice, cool, or fun, but we muddled through and our bond is stronger than ever.

Looking back, I really didn’t do that much as a mother. My own mother made most of my clothes, washed and hung them out to dry on the backyard clothesline, then starched and ironed them. She cooked three meals a day, kept the house clean, and made sure we said our prayers at night. She did all of that and more with four children and a husband who worked shift-work.

I’ve written before about my Great Grandmother Sarah Frances Durant Porter, who lived out in the country on what is now called Porter Road. Besides raising 10 children, I learned from her diary just how much she did for her family.

Grandma Porter quilted; grew onions, peas, beans, squash, cabbage, tomatoes, collards, millet, and potatoes in her garden; raised chickens and guinea hens; sewed everything from her children’s clothes to sheets, pillowcases and mattress covers; attended church and prayer meetings and cleaned the cemetery at Oak Grove Methodist Church; visited the sick and had multitudes of people over for Sunday dinner.

Am I hinting that mothers today have it easy compared to mothers of yesteryear? No, because mothers are more than the chores they do. Mothers are the glue that holds a family together.

When my grandfather, James Eugene Johnson, fought in WWI, the military made sure that all of the soldiers sent their mothers the following preprinted post card dated May 12th, 1918.

“Dear Mother: Today is Mother’s Day and I am sending you this card just to let you know that I am thinking of you. The thought of you will help me be true during all the days and months until I return home again. I am wearing a white flower today in honor of the best Mother who ever lived. The love I have for you inspires in me greater love for my country, the cause we are fighting for and God.”

When he was with the Army of Occupation in Germany the following year, my grandfather wrote, “Dear Mamma, I hope next Mother’s Day I’ll be home. I had a long dream about home last night so you might know how blue I am today.”

My father, Everett Johnson, was raised by this same “Mamma”, due to the death of his mother when he was a small child. He called his grandmother “Old Mother.” In a letter home in 1945 when he was stationed in England in WWII, he envisioned what everyone was doing at home.

He wrote, “Dear Old Mother and Family, how are you and Old Papa and the family getting along tonite? Guess he’s reading the paper in his corner and you’re in your rocker in front of the fire. Every now and then the refrigerator cuts off and Old Papa knocks his pipe out on the dog-iron in the fireplace. The clock strikes nine or maybe ten and it’s time to check around and go to bed. Wish I could be there many of these nites.”

One of the sweetest stories I’ve heard is from an interview I had with Ida Tanner Hanna back in February, 2012. She grew up in Nesmith, which is in Williamsburg County. I only write about Georgetown County, but wrote a column about her anyway because her stories were so interesting.

Ida was born in 1925. When one of her three older brothers was required to wear a suit for his high school graduation, there was a problem. Ida’s father was the only one in the family to own a suit, and it was too small for his son. Ida’s mother let out the jacket seams and dropped the hem of the trousers. She ironed the hem with a wet paper bag and saved the day. Unfortunately, Ida’s father couldn’t attend the graduation as he had nothing to wear.

To mothers everywhere . . . thanks for the memories.

Debby Summey may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or djsummey@gmail.com.

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