This is my Mother, Mary Lou Witte
Isn’t she beautiful?
Today I want to share with you a look into what an amazing woman my Mother was. I’m doing this not just because it’s Mother’s Day, but also because what she shared with me as I grew up is exactly why I am who I am today.
My Mother was tirelessly creative and wholesome. She could raise a chicken from egg to table, grow county fair blue ribbon winning produce from a garden of her own making, she was the queen of everything kitchen!
On the farm, Mom could work a hay field, milk a herd of cows, cook a dinner for 12 and then do it all over again the next day. And still be Mom.
Mom loved the countryside. She and I would go on excursions sometimes with a destination, sometimes not. I could see in her beautiful blue eyes that the farm was still in her heart. She never stopped marveling at how beautiful our world is. It really is true that you can take the girl from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the girl. Something about that kind of upbringing brings heartfelt appreciation for everything.
Mom had a spirit of endless strength. She put trust in people to do her right and when that didn’t happen, she left. She put up with a lot and put on a smile to hide what was really going on at home. I never really knew how hard it was for her until the night Mom gathered my brothers and I and put as many things as she could in paper bags and left my father. That was a very frightening night but Mom, she held her own and stood up for herself and in the middle of the night, we just left. Then came the Curve Café where Mom, once again, took life by the horns and made a place as a restaurateur where community gathered and bellies were filled.
Mom also had this little part of sadness inside. She was just 21 days old when her Mother passed away from complications of childbirth. She was then adopted by an Aunt and separated from her Father and Brother. It wasn’t until she had graduated from high school that she reunited with her Father and much later in life with her brother. Even though, she held on to the hope and promise of finding that family connection. Family became very important to her.
Mom was a tough cookie too. She could be a pistol, a stinker, and challenge to ones deepest patience. But that was Mom, she was really good at that.
Mom and I would spend all day Saturday’s in the kitchen making, baking, canning, or cooking something. My favorite memories are those of making donuts and homemade pasta. A lot of work but boy, did we have fun! At Christmas time a literal cookie factory appeared in the house! Traditionally, Mom and I would make, yes, the dreaded fruitcake. Have you ever made fruitcake? You need super human strength to stir the batter! That Mom and I did together, one would hold the bowl, the other stir, then we switched and laughed, and laughed. By the way, that fruitcake – absolutely delicious!
Mom could make anything, no matter what, she would just do it. She could sew the most beautiful things; curtains, upholstery, dresses, even her Granddaughter’s wedding dress. She could mend clothing like no one’s business and even after we grew up and left the house, we’d continued to bring her our mending. She was especially expert in replacing zippers.
Mom loved music. She directed a choir in church and knew every beautiful old traditional hymn there is. She and I would gather around the piano where she would play and we would sing together, her alto, me soprano. I loved those times together and each Sunday at church I find myself in memories as one of those hymns ring through the day.
Mom taught me how to play the piano and read music. She did this through one of her amazing creative methods by painting white a long board, the length of the keyboard on the piano. Then she drew on staff lines, then the notes as they would appear in sheet music. She had every note that lies on a keyboard meticulously drawn on that board. From that I learned how to play those beautiful old hymns, and even Stairway to Heaven. One afternoon, I sat with my step-Father to teach him how to play Silent Night. No easy task as Pops had the biggest hands and fingers I have yet to see again! It took us the whole afternoon for Pops to master the song but he did it and imagine the surprise on my Mom’s face when we presented our mini concert!
Oh, the flowers Mom would grow… Amazing blooms of all kinds that from spring to late fall would grace the landscape with colors of the rainbow and scents of heaven. Everywhere Mom has lived there remains her blooms still bringing to life her grace.
Mom also loved wild birds. She feed them year round and knew the name of every species that showed up to partake in either the feast she provided or through the blooms that teased them into the yard.
Mom was notorious for her funny little crocheted masterpieces. From the Mr. and Mrs. Snow People set we all got for Christmas one year, to the three tiered toilet paper holders. She could crochet, watch a movie and explain her whole day’s activities all at the same time and never miss a stitch. I still display Mr. and Mrs. Snow People every Christmas.
When Mom was in her 70’s she decided to go to work at local assisted living residencies. She said “I’m taking care of old people”…. She studied and received certifications for all kinds of assistant care. She would cook wonderful meals, and sit with folks to talk or simply hold a hand. She was a very giving, compassionate and caring woman.
Mom had several serious health knocks. First an uterine cancer scare of which she beat. Then, breast cancer, which she beat. Then heart valve replacement surgery, which she came through with flying colors. Mom then developed COPD, and her little heart started getting tired. Still, she showed strength but she was sad. She didn’t want to leave us but she did – the only thing she couldn’t beat was that. She passed away Christmas morning 2008.
Mom could do anything, and she would. She was tenacious and just put her mind to it and did it. She was our rock- the matriarch, she was our master gardener, chef, designer, music maker, teacher, adventurer, and Mom. She loved fiercely; she gave her all for her family. Everyone in town knew her and understood how special she was.
I can still hear her deep laughter; see how her eyes would twinkle with something silly brewing in her mind. She was a funny lady and oh, the tear rolling laughter we shared!
Mom made me who I am today. I see now just how much. I thank God and her for her strength, her hope, inspiration, optimism, motivation, compassion, silliness, and creative spirit. I find these things wrapped up in me too, in my heart, with Mom’s embrace.
Today I honor my Mother. I miss her terribly and love her even more. Happy Mother’s Day Mom…. I have a feeling you’re doing amazing things in heaven. And I’m sure there’s not a hungry soul there…
I love you Mom
Mary Lou Witte
1927 – 2008