It is hard for me to believe, but 100 years ago in a rural area of the Choctaw Nation within the borders of a state that just earned statehood ten years previously, a baby girl was born. That infant grew to become the most profound influence on my life. Well, after all…
… she gave me my life. Yep, I am talking about my mother.
Born to a full-blood Choctaw, sired by a Methodist Missionary who went to Oklahoma to “save the heathens,” my Mom grew up on what has remained an active and thriving horse farm. Some may call it a ranch, but the farm is rather small by ranch standards — just a couple acres. However, I spent 10 summer/autumns on that farm, and grew to love it.
My maternal grandmother died of the Spanish Flu when my mother was 22 months old. Her father could not handle being a single parent. Those days, fathers were not the single-parent type. He brought my Mom and her oldest sister to live with his sister in Missouri. My Mom had another sister and a brother who were sent to live with another aunt somewhere else in Missouri. My Mom’s family was split… and it wasn’t until about 60 years later that my Mom finally was reunited with her sister and brother who lived elsewhere.
The aunt that my Mom and her older sister lived with was reported to be cruel. She subjected her own six children and her two “carelings” (as my Mom and her sister were called) to almost forced-labor on the farm where they were raised. Milking cows before dawn, mucking out stables, picking produce grown for the family from dawn to dusk, little schooling, and my Mom’s sister being ten years older (age 12), was required to cook, clean, and do “women’s work.” Times were rough for women in the 20’s.
In 1924, my Mom (then age 6) and her sister were “sent back” to Oklahoma (and that same family horse farm) to live with her birth-father’s brother (my Mom’s uncle) who had just married. Her uncle (who I never met) and his wife (also full-blood Choctaw) were kind and loving. They never adopted their nieces, but loved them very much. The woman who my Mom called “mama” was unable to have children, so she doted on my Mom and her sister as her own.
During The Great Depression, my Mom got her first job, working for $2/day as an administrative assistant (sort of) to the President of the local Coal Mine. At least it was a job. She learned how rough the life was for miners, especially Italian immigrants to migrated to Oklahoma for jobs.
That job was “in town.” A small town in rural Southeastern Oklahoma, but nonetheless, it was the center of the population. It was near the old family farm. Yep, Mom rode a horse six days a week to work. She got to ride in a carriage on Sundays when they “gussied up” to go to church.
While working “in town,” Mom met a man who in 1938 offered her a better-paying job. She began working as an administrative assistant to a man who was elected to serve in the Oklahoma legislature representing the rural southeastern district of this small town and surrounding area.
That man had political aspirations. He was elected to Congress. When he moved to Washington, DC, he brought my Mom with him to serve as his Confidential Aide.
While working in DC and while running down the steps of the U.S. Capitol with some print job to go to the Government Printing Office (GPO), my Mom literally bumped into (and was knocked down) by my father, who was running into the Capitol from the GPO! Yep, my parent’s “first date” was picking each other up from the steps of the United States Capitol Building. (That’s our family story and I’m stickin’ to it.)
They were married in 1939. Dad went off to serve in the Army during World War II. He and seven brothers served… and all returned safely.
Mom continued to work full-time while having 15 children. She obtained a college degree by going to “night school.” She continued to work for this same Congressmember until he retired and left office in the 1970s.
I fondly remember visiting my Mom in the Capitol Building … back in the day when kids could run up the west steps and right inside the front door and watch Capitol Police smile and laugh. Long ago and far away those days were….
I could prattle on, but a lot of the family history is already here on this blog, so I will conclude.
Mom was a very special woman. College educated in the days when few women were. Raised a large family yet still worked full-time. (Her stated reason was that she “needed to escape the daily bedlam for insanity.” I am not sure which was bedlam and which was insanity — our home or Congress. Perhaps both! LOL!)
I cherish my memories and continue to hear my Mom’s voice guiding me every.single.day.
Life is short: cherish memories and LOVE YOUR MOM!