“I was 30 the first time I got an Easter basket,” my mom said to me last weekend. “My dad got it for me, and I was so excited.”
Mom was born during the Great Depression. She had one dress to wear to school and her sister had one dress, so they took turns swapping them. They had one pair of shoes apiece and after they wore out, they put cardboard in the bottom. Her parents were rarely able to provide meat for meals, and sometimes she went to bed hungry.
During summer break, life was different. Mom would board a bus to visit relatives in a town an hour away. They weren't well to do, and I'm sure they made sacrifices so my mom could visit, but they certainly had more than mom was accustomed to.
“It was like living on top of the world for a few weeks, until I had to go home and go back to school … with nothing,” she said. “We would get up and grandma had a big breakfast waiting for me. We would visit for a while and then I’d go out and play with some of the kids in the neighborhood. Then she’d get lunch ready – that was always good.
“Sometimes we would get into my aunt’s car and go shopping downtown or go to a movie, so I had good times there.”
I know these stories because I began recording audio interviews with her sporadically on Saturday afternoons five years ago. We have talked about her upbringing, her marriage to my father, her work history, her friends and much more. I learned more about her during those conversations than I ever imagined. We took a break from the interviews for a while, but we’ve recently started recording them again.
The longer I talk to her during these interviews, the more I am picking up on her natural tendency to make sacrifices for the generations in her family that came after her. When you have experienced hardship and lived to tell about it, easing the burdens of the people you love hardly seems like a sacrifice, even when it is. I suspect she would consider it a privilege.
She survived hunger, a lack of clothing, a lack of material goods in general and many other hardships – with her dignity and faith intact. And now, nothing makes her happier than to make sacrifices for the people she loves – the way her aunt and grandmother did for her.
“I’ve been told I’m a lot like my grandmother, and I probably am,” she said a few Saturdays ago. “As far as clothes – now I have more than I need. I need to give about half of them to the Goodwill, but I’ll probably hang onto them as long as I can. And I’m still working. The Lord has been good to me.”
Indeed he has.
But that didn't stop me from buying her an Easter basket this afternoon.
UPDATE (04-20-14): Here's a photo of Mom posing with her basket.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.