“In a mother’s caress,” President David O. McKay said, a baby “first experiences a sense of security, finds in the mother’s kiss the first realization of affection, discovers in mother’s sympathy and tenderness the first assurance that there is love in the world” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, p. 5).
These first gifts—along with numerous other reflections of a mother’s nurturing love—are what help produce a home.
As children growing to adulthood, we may not have realized that once upon a time our mothers and fathers had hopes and dreams, took long walks, thought deep thoughts, and were young and searching in a world fraught with problems similar to those we faced as young people. But just like our parents, we also soon made the transition from childhood to adulthood, storing and stacking away our youthful memories. And suddenly many of us, too, find ourselves parents of children who are too occupied with their own daily world to be interested in our longings. So we put some of our hopes and dreams on hold while we busy ourselves with the more important demands of the present.
But it is in the present that I find appreciation and understanding of past sacrifice. And I often wonder how I can thank Mom in particular for giving the countless hours we eight children, each with personal needs and demands, required.
I remember Mom washing sheets from beds into which little dirty feet had somehow stolen unwashed. Even in winter, with nearly frozen hands, Mom would hang steaming white sheets on the line.
With ten of us packed into a small house with inadequate closet space, many things had to be stacked and piled on thinning floors. Those floors, despite the piles and the underlying tar paper that was beginning to show through, were always scrubbed and polished.
Mom never let a year pass without planting a garden. During summer months, the canning kettle sang with steam. By fall, the storage shelves were well stocked with pickles, preserves, and canned or dried fruits and vegetables. Mom’s pans, regardless of the season, turned out bread loaves, while her sewing machine produced clothes for our growing family.
We spent many winter evenings around an old coal stove, enjoying each other’s company and warming our bodies and spirits as Mom read us stories. She saw that we children were taught the gospel. Despite the demands of family life, Mom never neglected her Church work or meetings, serving willingly in many callings and teaching classes in nearly every organization, including Sunday School, Mutual, and Relief Society.
Mom was always resourceful and creative, often making do without money. She could turn an old piece of clothing into a child’s coat that was the envy of the schoolyard. With a self-made pattern, a few printed flour sacks, and a minimum of trim, she could whip up beautiful pants and dresses. She seldom went long without crocheting a doily or producing a new quilt made of old homemade dresses.
Mom was a quiet, self-effacing person. She seldom told us how often, in our growing-up years, we caused her anguish by questioning her love, wisdom, and devotion. Sifting through the memories now, I can see that she radiated love day by day in all she did—in the years of scrimping and saving and in personal sacrifices that allowed us children to attend college, serve missions, and have things she never had. I can still see the love that was in her face when she beamed with satisfaction while her children gave talks, assumed responsibilities, or gained honors. And I can still see the love she showed through service as she sewed and cooked, ironed and cleaned, milked and planted.
“Every wise woman buildeth her house,” the scriptures tell us (Prov. 14:1). Like the houseplants Mom cared for with such love that they seldom failed to flower, we children flourished under the hand of a wise woman who built a home on firm family soil.
Looking back, I realize why Mom never complained. Perhaps she knew that her image, actions, and unfailing example would remain with us and remind us to serve quietly with wisdom. And to pass that legacy to our children.