My mother worked the hardest of any lady I have ever known. I'm not saying that other ladies haven't worked as hard, I just don't know them. She married my daddy on December 19, 1936 at the young age of 19. It was on the tail end of "The Great Depression". Yes, that one that happened back in the 30's. Times were hard and the tasks of the day must have taken grit and determination edged with optimism and hope AND strong faith in God, because we were taught those values over and over.
My mother was without question on my daddy's team. Together they could do anything to which they set their heart and mind. Little by little their goals and dreams became realities as the joy and heartache of each task etched deeply into the family they eventually became. They raised us to work hard and be honest and kind to others whether they were young or old, rich or poor. They instilled in us a deep reverence for God. They taught us that through Him we could overcome or endure hardship.
My parents owned a wheat and cotton and dairy farm in Southwest Oklahoma. They owned and herded sheep and one winter lived in a tent on the range to care for the young ewes who were soon to birth lambs. At some point Daddy felt he should minister to hurting people and they sold everything to follow that call. In the span of their life together they built two houses and two churches debt free. They lived the "Dave Ramsey Lifestyle" before it was the "in thing" to do. My mother taught us to reduce, reuse and recycle in a way that would make any current "Green Movement Guru" her most vocal fan. We were taught to do without and be contented or figure out a way to come up with what we needed. Across the span of my mother's life there were several times the different homes in which she lived had no running water or indoor plumbing and definitely no furnace or central air.
She killed rattlesnakes and wiped tiny noses, gathered eggs and patched many pair of jeans. She gave the best soft and cheerful kisses on the top of tiny heads and sang a wonderful lullaby bop as she rocked babies in an old cane bottom straight back chair. She cooked gallons and gallons of beans and oatmeal. She could pull a group of kids and grand kids together in a group effort to snap a bushel of green beans more quickly than you could realize you were involved in "work". Her brown eyes were soft and kind. In my mind I can hear her say, "Just do your best and don't worry about the rest".
She didn't realize what an amazing cook and decorator and seamstress and family administrator she was. She didn't realize how godly and what a great counselor she was simply by listening. She was just Mother. If she laughed too hard, I cried. Yes, I did, I cried. And oh my, she could get so tickled and laugh and laugh and I cried harder. I dunno...maybe the harder I cried the more tickled she became but her initial onset of laughter would have nothing to do with my crying of course. I was told that my immediately older brother also cried when she laughed hard, so maybe I learned this technique from him!
As the youngest of her ten children, it still amazes me the way she cared for each one of us. I'm sure there were times she felt like there wasn't enough of her to go around her family needs and responsibilities.
She wanted all of us to play musical instruments. We did. How did she endure it? She wanted us to sing. We did. How did she endure that? She wanted all of us to go to college if we wanted. And so we did. I heard her sighs and prayers and her songs. Now as an adult with children, I realize those things were her way of keeping herself and others encouraged.
I didn't like to be away from my mother, except to go to school, but even then I would run out to the mailbox to wait for the bus and if I didn't hear its' rumble coming up the hill I would run back to the house and jerk open the door just quickly enough to say, "Bye Mother bye!" Then I would run back to the mailbox to wait. But if the bus wasn't coming I had to repeat this process. I was born when she was 47. I grew up with a keen sense that I might not have her in my life as I grew older and I loved her. She was my comfort.
I will never forget the day that mother sat on the front porch balcony of the home in which I grew up. Philip and I stood on the front steps. She told Philip, "You can take Rachel anywhere you want to take her, just be kind to her and love her." I suppose in a way she passed that mantle of comfort along to him. He has not let her down. She would be proud of him. As a mother now, I know the depth of those words.
As her family grew, so grew her love and knowledge and wisdom. I can only wish to be half the wife and mother and grandmother and sister and friend that she was. She has been an almost constant thought to me.
Happy 95th birthday Mother. I will see you again one day. I know you are waiting.
Love, Rachel Ernesteen
Ernesteen Frances Shumaker Easley
January 7, 1917 - July 15, 1998