A Greatest Generation mom

The month of May is full of promises. Usually, the weather is very agreeable, especially after a long winter like the one we just finished. Abundant sunshine, green grass, and a kaleidoscope of floral blooms bursting forth from flower beds bring a sense of harmonic convergence. The calves are exploring their pastures and a field of triticale is looking good. Hummingbirds and thousands of bees and other pollinators swarm the big willow and fruit trees in my yard. It is so tranquil that thoughts of the political world in Denver and Washington D.C. seem a million miles away.

The 12th of May this year is Mother’s Day. I often tell my family that I consider every day to be Mother’s Day. There is seldom a day that goes by that I do not talk with my Mom on the phone, or with my daughter. A day never passes without consciously thinking of both of them at some point during the day. My mother turned 97 this past Valentine’s Day, still active and mentally sharp. She is the very embodiment of what Mother’s Day honors. As part of what is known as the Greatest Generation, she lived through some of America’s best and worst days. She was raised by a single, working mother in an era when almost all the other kids had dads who worked and moms who stayed home. No time to worry about social norms and things that couldn’t be changed.

Resiliency would be one word that could define her, smart would be another. In an era that now calls for endless government social programs, with more regulation of people’s lives, my Mother’s generation of women forged a nation of post WW II children without much help from the government.

Pearl Harbor changed her young life. Within a month, she and my Dad got married and shortly after that, he was off to training, preparing to face the tyranny that was raining down on the world. My Mom would find work in the PX near the base. By the end of September 1943 she would give birth to my oldest brother, John. My Dad was in the first wave to hit Omaha Beach in Normandy and would eventually be in Berlin with a contingency of American soldiers, as General Patton rolled in. My Mom was balancing motherhood and doing her part on the home front.

Generally speaking, after the war, life settled into a routine that played out across America. Moms kept sharp eyes on their children and the neighborhoods, as dads went to work to provide a better life for their families than what they had. Between the Great Depression and the second war to end all wars, this generation of Americans knew how to deal with life. President Eisenhower played golf, built infrastructures like the Interstate Highway System and in a great farewell speech, warned America of the threat of an alliance between Congress, the military, and the industrial complex. As the Supreme Allied Commander in WW II, Eisenhower could speak with authority, the difference between a strong America and an overwhelming bureaucracy that could undermine democracy.

It is true that my Mom didn’t have the option of choosing between 50 different brands of ketchup in a grocery store aisle, or 150 television channels, but somehow my siblings and I thrived. Our meals were simple and nutritious. My folks raised seven kids on an electric lineman’s salary, and sent us to college as well. Another tribute to the sense of purpose that defined that generation of mothers. Some feminists of today mock the notion of the nuclear family, but given the social problems that we currently are experiencing, it might be a good idea to reassess the policy goals of allowing government schools to become de facto parents. When my daughter was in college, she commented on the fact that other than one other person, everyone she knew had been raised in split families.

As the Sixties unfolded, President Kennedy said we should put an American on the moon, and we did. Mom set the tone for reading material in our home. Shoddy journalism was not allowed. She would subscribe to the Atlantic Monthly, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, and in the latter part of that decade a new magazine called Psychology Today. We built models of the Apollo space modules and followed every mission that was launched. A set of World Book encyclopedias sat in the living room, along with a dictionary. When you have to actually look up words, it does wonders for retention.

As my older siblings left home and my Dad became the manager of the local power company office, my Mom would pursue a college education of her own, from a branch of Ohio State University near us. She would be an active champion of women’s rights as a founding member of a local chapter of the Women’s Action Equity League. An opportunity came up to travel to Europe with her sister. My Dad declined to go, saying he had seen Europe once, and once was enough. It was one of a few times that he made reference to WW II. Yet, he encouraged her to go, so she did.

My mom is a strong woman, who has endured the loss of her husband, and knew the heartache of burying two of her sons and a grandson. Yet, she soldiers on.

The point of all of this is: If you have a mother, take the time to honor her this Mother’s Day. As that country song goes, you’re not that busy.

Thanks, Mom. For the life you lived and for the life you gave me.

Valerie Maez writes from Lewis, Colo.

From Valerie Maez.