Today is Mother's Day. All the glowing tributes have already been written (except this tardy scribe's), the flowers and candy and special gifts have been bought, and for one whole day out of the year Mother sits up on a pedestal. Well, one day is enough. Pedestals are for statues - not for living, breathing, restless human beings. Mother wants to get down and look at the meat - and pick over the spinach herself - and make sure that shadow behind Junior's ear isn't part of Mother Earth. These days, in bomb-wracked England, the "bloody but unbowed" victims stand on the rubble heaps that were once their homes, and shout the defy, "There will always be an England." And so it is with homes where Death has struck a blow, and the mother is taken. Someone will rise up to take her place, "There will always be a mother." This is the day when we all want to talk about our mothers, and how much they mean to us. So today I would like to pay tribute - not to one mother - but to five women who have mothered me. Now I just know that, when those criticisms come through that I asked for (if you are real frank and honest with me) one of them will be, 'Don't use the perpendicular pronoun so much." After today I must reform. Please don't look at them this time, but think about these grand people whom I am about to name - in the order of their appearance, as the theatre programs express it.
First, my flesh-and-blood mother, who was Judith Gilkerson, before she married Frank Burlingame. She handed down to my sister her finest qualities: Her sterling character, utter candor and forthrightness, industry, and sweetness of disposition. (Birthright of the elder, I suppose). But I think I inherited her love of people - and love of animals, too. Mother loved everybody, in high or lowly station. She died when I was 2-1/2 years old. I have only one memory of her, but it is a precious one. She was lying in bed (near death, I learned later) and I wanted to crawl in beside her. A restraining hand and a voice of protest came from behind, "No, no; Mamma is very sick." But Mother whispered, "Let her stay," and I snuggled in beside her. My mother had requested that her mother have me when the home was broken up. So, Grandmother and I set up housekeeping, first near Apollo and then in Indiana. Grandmother did her best. But she was old, and ill most of the time. I would run away - to watch the trains come in, to invade people's homes without knocking, to explore the world in general. I surely needed a mother. T'was then that Mrs. Sara Christy came into my life. She and her husband lived right across the street. Grandmother had confessed her inability to cope with such a lawless creature. Mrs. Christy, with no children of her own, gave me a mother's love and a born teacher's training. She bathed me, dressed and fed me, and gave me two hours of "nursery school" every morning. She never lost interest in her little protege, and for years sent good books and magazines to my home on the farm. There surely must be compensation in another world, for, Mrs. Christy, who gave so freely of her time and talent, seemed to be unjustly requited by fate in her latter years. I can only repay her by passing on the good she gave. Grandmother died when I was six. After a long, bitter year of being unwanted - of living in three different homes - I found my way into Paradise. That was Aunt Caroline's home. There I found love and understanding, a big new world to explore, with plenty of animals to love and pet and play with. Aunt Caroline was the most completely unselfish person I ever knew. She never coached me to give her loyalty and appreciation. She taught me to love and revere the memory of my own mother. She looked upon my mother as a guarding angel, who was watching over me. That certainly cramped my style. For, although I pictured God as being too busy to see every little thing I was doing, I couldn't escape my mother's watchful eye. Oh, I could write a whole book about Aunt Caroline, her steadfastness, the grace of God in her heart, her reverence for the Word of God, His church, and His day; her kindness to the little stranger within her gates; her unswerving faith; her earnest sense of stewardship; her utter impartiality. When I went away to Texas, to enter the State University in Austin, and be with my sister, her last words were - not "Write often," or "Don't forget us," but "Live in the fear of the Lord" (that meant the fear of displeasing Him). She died - in the harness, as she had always wished to - the following St. Valentine's Day.
In the lonely days to come, Mother Lytle stepped into that aching void, and was a true mother to both Ina and me. She remains to this day our special mother. (And to think I never sent her a Mother's Day card!) Well, she is another completely unselfish person, who asks no favors for herself, but just stands by, ready to help. Her sympathy reaches out to all those who are in trouble. No one knows how much good she has done. I mustn't say too much, because she will be reading his, and get all puffed up, and have to get a new hat 'n' everything.
Estelle tells me it's 5:30 - the deadline for this letter. So I must close - without paying tribute to my mother-in-law. But you already know how fine she is. A real mother. "There will always be a mother."
Florence B. Taylor
P.S. - Please answer the questionnaire. Just write the answers on a post card - to make it easier.
Next -5/22/41 - Mrs. Emily Nelson Wright