4:00 P.M. The long yellow bus squeaks to a stop, and, depending on the day (excluding Primary day), one to five children run across the lawn to the green country house. Lunch pails banging and books falling, they race to the house and through the doorway. “Hey, Mom, we’re home!”
4:00 P.M. Five years later. Now the yellow bus whizzes past, but an old car roars into the garage, barely missing the sleeping cat. Doors fly open, and amid flute and violin cases, purses and books, it’s still a race to the house. Fumbling at the door, with big loads, they call through the screen, “Hey, Mom, we’re home!”
Sometimes Mom wasn’t home. But her “spirit” always was, and we knew her body would soon return. Looking back, I know that I’ve always been glad that my mother did not work. That is, she didn’t work outside our home, for money. She worked in our home; and so did we. It was hectic, often. Five children and a large home with more than our share of music lessons and extracurricular activities kept us continually moving, and Mom, too. She somehow absorbed the activities of our day and liked it.
If we forgot our music folder or lunch or got sick at school, we knew she’d be our girl Friday. Mine was no “soap opera/quick food” mother. She thrived on making twenty-loaf batches of bread every week, part of which went for the softest sacrament bread in the stake. Quantities of homemade cookies filled us up, and the basement was a kaleidoscope of jeweled canned fruits and vegetables.
Reading was her addiction, but she sewed and sewed and sewed and found time for a twelve-year bishop’s wife’s share of Church work and community service. She was (and is) slender and attractive even in her worn out garden army fatigues, and there was never a time we were not proud of her.
And the summers at home with a mom. Blessings accrued then, too, because she did not work. In fact, I pity kids who hibernate in darkened summer homes, watching television while eating store-bought popsicles. We had baseball, swimming, and some television too. We also picked raspberries together early in the morning in spite of our abhorrence of the hard-backed raspberry bugs. We weeded the garden, shelled peas, and snapped beans on the step together to the never-ending accompaniment of our transistor radios. While we froze the beans and corn and canned the peaches or did the dishes, we played games and sang. Fun times were freezing bananas and dipping them in chocolate, or having friends over for a huge freezerful of homemade ice cream and rounds of croquet.
Once a week, Mom took us to the library and we’d lug home four or five books each. We chased the cows and doctored the cats and mowed the lawns, and she was there, too.
I’m sure she had bad days, too. We don’t remember those. It wasn’t that we needed her visibly all the time. Our mother was like money in a savings account. She was an invisible security; an idea person.
In my college years, I still appreciated Mom not working away from home. She tried it one winter but it was too hard for all of us. Finances were tight when Dad sold cars and when he started his own business and we could have used the extra money, but not at the rate of our mother’s interest. Instead, each of us worked and earned money and each attended college.
All my years away from home have been marked by one and often two letters a week from my mom. She does not write to fill her empty hours, because she never has had—and probably never will have—an empty hour. Her capacity for energy is amazing in spite of some major health problems over the years. Few friends received letters from parents as often as I did, and many were convinced their parents didn’t care about them. Through the years her care packages were famous in college dormitories. She was not overprotective, but we felt secure and loved. Even now, she’s never too tired to listen or to accept collect phone calls and listen some more.
One of the nicest blessings about my mom was my dad. He was glad she didn’t work. In fact, he was the main reason why she didn’t.
Even now the blessings roll in from her early decision. When I stopped teaching school after the birth of my first daughter, my decision to stay at home with her, in spite of tempting offers to return to an academic environment, was made easier by Mom’s lifetime example. Her schedule is busy, but she’ll come across the continent if there is a new baby. What a joy to have a nonworking grandma in our home for a week to keep the wheels turning smoothly!
My mother would have been outstanding even if she had worked outside the home, but I’m not convinced her five children would have had as much of a chance to be. She was content in her own boundless way with her stewardship. She evolved it over the years. She has stayed at home, yet she has made herself infinite.