Sunday, May 09, 2004
Growing up in depression years was tough enough. Growing up in an Amish family during the depression years was unbelievable. That is where the root of who my mama is was created. Most Amish children did not go beyond the 8th grade, as their help was needed on the farm. So, after finishing that year in school, Mama Vi, 2nd in a family of 12 children, was pulled out of school to help on the farm. It wasn't an easy life. She left home when she was 17 and married my Daddy when she was 18. It was a perfect match. They moved to South Bend and settled in. Both Mama and Daddy started working at Ball Band (aka Uniroyal) in the late 50's. Daddy worked in the power house and Mama worked in the factory. After a few years, she became the resident expert on building Fuel Cells for the Navy fighter jets.
In the early 60's they decided to adopt a child. ME! The story is often told that when the case worker called to tell them they had a little girl for them, there was only one problem. She had a birth defect. It seems the 2nd toe on each foot sat a little higher than the rest of the toes. BIRTH DEFECT?!?! Mama and Daddy said bring her on over - that is not a problem. **We now realize that was probably just a symptom of other issues, excessive height, base line humor and over active imagination. :)
Back in those days if you adopted a child you had to have one stay at home parent, the Mom. So she left Ball Band and stayed at home with me. I was very spoiled, but being the beautiful, engaging child that I was it is more than understandable.
3 years later we adopted another little girl and our family was complete. I wasn't the happiest with the addition, in fact I have a note I wrote to the case worker thanking her for the baby but asking for her to take it back, as it wasn't what I ordered. (signs of the developing personality more than evident in that one little note.)
My first day at kindergarten, I discovered Show and Tell. What a great concept. You got to stand in front of the class and tell them a story or show them something cool AND THEY HAD TO PAY ATTENTION!! I HAD to be a part of that. So I raised my hand and waited my turn to go to the front of the room. Once there I announced that my Mama and Daddy had bought me at the baby store for the bargain price of $300. Then went on to explain how very special that made me, since I was chosen amongst all the other babies at the store. The conversation between Mama and the teacher is one I wish could have been recorded.
Anyway, after a couple of years Mama decided to go back to work. She joined a company that sold clothing via home shows. Before long, she was the regional sales manager with over 100 woman working under her. Since daycare wasn't around then, many Saturdays were spent in the back of a conference room or banquet hall listening to her train her sales reps on how to sell, how to deal with difficult customers and how to be the best you can be without compromising any part of yourself.
Then in August of 1972 our world fell apart. My Daddy and my Uncle (Mama's youngest brother) were killed in a plane crash. Suddenly she was alone with a 10 yr old and a 6 yr old. She left her job to stay with us and help us through this very difficult time. You see - she believed that Family came first. She still does. Her life was built around us.
After a few years we sold the house and moved to a smaller one. Mama realized it was time to go back to work. Oh, she had been taking in sewing and such but the late 70's weren't an easy time financially for many people and we were no exception.
With a limited education it was tough finding anything that would really take care of the family. She had a daughter getting ready to go to college now and another in High School. We made it work, but it was tight. The funny thing is, we girls never knew we were poor, or strapped as Mama preferred to say. She kept that secret for many years.
Finally Uniroyal called to see if she wanted to come back to work there. They needed someone with her skills and she already knew a lot of the job. Back she went. It helped, but it still wasn't easy.
Then Gulf War I began. What many in our small town didn't know was that Uniroyal was working with the Navy on the Tomahawk missiles. My Mama was very involved that project. To the point that she has a plaque from the Navy thanking her for her effort. That plaque is still in the box put away. Not because she is ashamed or embarrassed. Because she is humble.
What I haven't mentioned in all this is her deep faith and belief that God will get us thru all situations. We often say that God only gives us what we can handle, but sometimes you gotta wonder if maybe he got us confused with another family. :) Her faith has been the cornerstone of who she is and the foundation of our family.
Anyway, Uniroyal closed it's door, and pretty much screwed all of the employees. No pensions for many, including Mama. At that point she decided it was time to get her GED. Now, you need to realize that when Mama decides to do something, she does it and does it will style. At the age of 60, ~47 years after she left school my Mama received her GED - with honors. We are so proud of her!
She is finally getting ready to retire. She currently works at one of the local colleges. She has been voted the Good Samaritan two years in a row. That is an award that the students vote on recognizing someone who has had a positive impact on their lives. That's my Mama.
So....now you know a bit about the incredible woman who took 2 little girls into her heart and home and has spent her life making our lives better.
I love you Mama, and am so proud of you. Thank you for choosing me.