Today is my mother’s birthday. If she were alive, she would be celebrating 102 years on this earth, but, instead, she is celebrating in heaven with my daddy and that makes me happy. I miss her. I always will until I see her again. The day she died, I became an orphan. I became the matriarch of my family and I didn’t know if I was up to the job.
My mother grew up in the days of silent pictures, horses were still on the streets, indoor plumbing was not the norm, and clothes were hung out to dry, not put in a dryer. There were no takeout restaurants. No giant stores. No cellphones. No big screen tvs. In fact, my grandfather didn’t have a tv for a long time and when he did get one, it was about the size of a large radio and in black and white. She lived during the days of radio shows where everyone would sit around the radio and listen to show like “The Shadow.” She was born just a few years after the Victorian era and she still had a little of that Victorian aura about herself. She was the oldest of four sisters with whom she stayed close all her life. There is only one of the sisters left now and she lives in Michigan. Life for my mother was school, church and home. I never heard her speak of any vacations her family took. They probably never did. People didn’t have time for those kind of things back then. Making a living was all people had time for. She did go to dances and in fact, I found a copy of a letter she wrote to some band asking them to play at a school dance. I think she was the president of her class by what I read. She was a woman before her time. I really wish I knew more about my mother’s early years. I bet I could write a book.
This is my mother’s senior picture taken in 1932.
Mom was born just before WWl. She grew up in a small Indiana town where she knew everyone and everyone knew her. She lived in the same house until she married my daddy. That is a story unto itself. My parents were some of the most ordinary, quiet, sensible people you would ever meet, but there was a streak of rebellion and excitement in them. I am not exactly sure when they started dating each other. I found an autograph book of my mother’s where my daddy wrote some things that made me think he was in love with her, but she wasn’t quite sure about him at the time. I have that book around my house somewhere, but I have lost it and have not been able to find it. Anyway, at some point, daddy won my mother’s heart and they became a couple. After they graduated they continued dating and then one night, when they were suppose to be going to a basketball game, they headed on down to Kentucky, found a justice of the peace and got married. They came back home, each to their own home and continued living their lives like nothing had ever happened, But….. one day the newspaper came with wedding licenses in it and my grandpa saw that Miss Jeannette Driggs Ridenour was wed to Mr. Paul K. Pentecost and let’s just say the roof came off. So, parents and my parents had a meeting and it was decided that since they were married, they needed to make a home together. No more living at home with Mom and Dad. So they started their life together.
I am not sure where all they lived, but there was one place my mother called “Tucker’s” that my mother evidently loved. She talked about it often. Then my daddy’s mom and dad wanted him to come home and farm the farm as they were getting old and couldn’t manage any longer, so Mom and daddy packed up and brought their little family to the farm where I grew up. I am not sure how many of us kids were born at that time. But my mother and daddy lived there until they had to go into nursing homes.
Life was not always easy on the farm. It was hard work, but my daddy was never one to shy away from work nor was my mother. I believe that is where I got my strong work ethic. Mom raised six children on that farm, making our clothes, canning, washing clothes in a wringer washing(worshing) machine and hanging the clothes on the line to dry. Ironing, cooking and cleaning. That is about all I remember my mother doing at home. Besides reading.
My mother loved to read and every two weeks she would pack me and my younger brother into the car and drive five miles to Hagerstown where the nearest library was and we would all get armloads of books to bring home to read. I loved going to the library. I loved how it smelled. I loved the two older ladies that checked out the books. I got my love of reading from my mother and I am so glad I did. My aunt told me one time that when my mother was a girl she always was reading, even when she was ironing clothes. I believe it. She would get up early every morning and read the Bible and read her library books. With six children to raise, she had very little time during the day to sit down and read. Early morning was her time and if one of us kids would get up at five a.m., Mom would tell us to go back to bed for a while longer. It was her reading time!
My mother was the best cook for miles around. She fried the best chicken I have ever tasted. Just last week I fried some chicken and for some reason, it tasted just like Mom’s and I was so excited. I hadn’t done anything differently. Maybe it was the chicken itself. I do know the chicken my mother fried was killed one day, dressed and prepared the next, so it was nice and fresh. Saturday was baking day and all kinds of cakes, cookies and pies came out of Mom’s kitchen. I was often in the kitchen with her baking something for a 4-H project. One summer my family grew sick of yellow cake because that is the kind I had to show at the fair. And one year it was orange breakfast rolls that we had every single week until I showed some at the fair. I love to bake and it all began in my mother’s kitchen. I don’t like cooking so much. I think because it is something one has to do every single day if one wants to eat unless you go out to eat every day, which we don’t. My mother was cooking all the time when she wasn’t cleaning or gardening. She loved to garden. I have some of her perennials in my own garden today. I remember an old fashion rose bush that smelled heavenly growing on a fence by our vegetable garden gate. Every year it was loaded with pink roses. She grew African violets and my daddy built her a window hothouse in which to grow them. She became quite an expert at raising them and had many beautiful violets growing all year round in the window.
My mother was terrified of storms. When one would come up, she would tell us to stay away from windows and she would huddle somewhere in the house far from any window. One year lightning struck our house and blew the telephone clear off the wall. That kind of reinforced Mom’s fear of storms. And yet, she liked to watch rain come over the hill and down to our little farm. I loved storms until this year lightning struck an electric poll near our house and took out several of our electrical appliances and the internet. Now, when I hear thunder, I start unplugging things. I understand now to be fearful of lightning.
Mom wasn’t a hugger or kisser except when Daddy would grab her and spin her around and hug and kiss her. She would act all embarrassed and we kids would go, “Ewwww!” but we really loved it. With her strong German heritage, she didn’t demonstrate her love that way and even though I got few hugs from her, I knew she loved me. There was no doubt in my mind. She would do anything for her children, but she did expect us to mind her.
My mother told us interesting stories like when Pearl Harbor was attacked and about all the airplanes that flew overhead for hours heading west. She lived through the Great Depression and told about men who would come to their door asking for food and Grandma would give them some. My Grandpa worked in a grocery so they were never without food and shared what they had. Back then they called those men hobos although they were men out of work traveling across the country looking for a job. She told about a little boy who went missing in her town when she was a girl and that the last time he was seen he was walking with a woman with long, dark hair. I don’t know if she told me that story in order that I would be wary of strangers, but it sure did make me so. She told about the days when she would go home for lunch from school, crossing the rail road track and then when she was going back to school a train would be on the track and how some kids crawled underneath it to get back to school on time. I asked her if she ever did and she told me, no. I wish I could talk to her again and hear her stories. I know I would listen more closely and ask a whole lot more questions. She told me about walking to church and the library just a few blocks from her home. I thought it was wonderful to live so close to a library. One of her best friends was Dr. Dubois’s daughter. He was the town doctor. He lived just a couple of blocks from my mother’s house. Her friend moved to California and she never heard from her again. I am glad I still hear from my best friends from school. Not often, but we do keep in touch. I think my mother always missed her best friend. She told me about her Aunt Emmie and Aunt Idy whom she loved and visited quite often. They, of course, lived in the same town not far from my mother and she could visit them any time she wanted. All my aunts and uncles lived far away from me most of my life so I didn’t get to experience that closeness with them. I wish I could have.
If you still have your mother with you, ask about her history. Have her write it down. One day you will wish you had.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you. Say hello to daddy for me. Bye.