By Gelene Simpson
Corsicana Daily Sun
You have often heard me say how the month of October brings back so many memories to my mind. On the first day of the month, I remember my Dad’s birthday. And today is the anniversary of my mother’s birth. She lived 97 years, and even today sometimes when I wake up early on a winter morning I somehow feel her presence. She always got up in the night to make sure that we children were covered snugly with quilts she had quilted on the frames that were some of her most valued possessions.
Mother took her job as a mother seriously. She worked extra hard to get the best advantage she could for her children. Her own mother had been very talented by had died when Mother was about 10 years old. So Mother had to take charge of her two younger brothers.
Even though she was very busy with all her home duties, she developed a love of photography. As a young woman she had a camera and took pictures of everything. My favorites are those she took of friends and family out in the snow. And she always insisted on having professional photographs of her children. Olan Mills was a well-known name in our house, and the photo album I purchased for my children when I was a young mother was an attempt to imitate her example.
Another emphasis my mother made was in the area of education. She was particularly concerned that because my birthday was in January and school started in September, I would fall behind in my education. Not one to hesitate when she deemed action to be necessary, she spoke to the principal at Travis School about paying for me to enter early. Although Mr. Pollan said it was impossible at that time, she was still undaunted. She sent me instead to the nursery school at our church which was the Eleventh Avenue Methodist Church at that time. This early experience gave me confidence so that, on the first day of real school, I was happily able to enjoy walking the five blocks to William B. Travis Elementary School by myself. I remember feeling very proud to be there.
Mother was always a great believer in reading — reading books, reading the Corsicana Daily Sun; and it all started with reading cereal boxes when we were just tiny tots. In fact, Mother would let me out of just about any chore if I could show I was reading something — especially history. As a result, I grew to relish historical novels like those of Charles Dickens. The thicker the book was, the better I liked it.
There was always a lot of music-making going on around our house. I could usually tell the mood everyone was in by the song each selected. For example, I knew what lay ahead when I woke up and Mother was singing that good old hymn, “Work for the Night is Coming.” There would be a good deal of washing and ironing and maybe a little mopping thrown in for good measure. Of course I was happy when Mother insisted that I take piano lessons, and the first hymn I learned to play was “Wonderful Words of Life.”
Mother thought that youngsters should go to summer camp and other church-related activities. Glen Lake Methodist Camp at Glen Rose became one of my favorite destinations. And later, events at Southwestern University at Georgetown and Mount Sequoyah in Arkansas were on my agenda. These were the “mountain-top experiences” that still influence my thinking after all these years. When I think back, I remember that when our high school Spanish Club needed another chaperone for a trip to Mexico, Mother volunteered to go even though she had a tendency to become carsick. It was a miracle that she didn’t have a problem this time. She was determined that we should get to go on to Mexico because we had had so many paper drives and such to make the money for the trip.
Mother determined early in my life that I should study hard, learn all I could, and get a scholarship to college. I liked that idea myself and fell right in with her plans for me to get a higher education. She also had great respect for teachers and the teaching profession as a whole. Fortunately, that Mother was descended from a long line of Chapmans, who had been, in many instances, preacher and teachers. You might say it was in our blood all along.
Mother had courage and determination not to give up, whatever life might bring.
Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org