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The story of one mother

Posted: May 8, 2014 8:21 a.m.
Updated: May 9, 2014 5:00 a.m.

 

With Mother’s Day only two days away, it’s only natural, and appropriate, to reflect on and honor the world’s maternal parents. One thing is a certainty: we all have, or have had, a mother. Allow me to tell you the story of one in particular.

She was born and raised on a farm in rural Missouri, destined to be the oldest of six children. Her birth came shortly after the Great Depression, but as her parents would say when interviewed years later, the depression didn’t affect them all that badly because they weren’t wealthy to begin with and had always lived off the land by their crops, livestock and big vegetable garden. They weren’t hit nearly as hard as city folks whose food all came from the store, which of course required money.

So she worked in the fields and the garden and her sister and four brothers who came after her did the same. But this girl had bigger dreams and ambitions and she knew one of the main keys to success was an education. She went to college, earned her degree and became an elementary school teacher. In later years, after she was married with three children, she went back to college at night while still teaching full time. She could take only a class or two at a time, but she earned her master’s degree.

She not only bettered herself, but she set a good example and was an inspiration to her siblings. Almost every one of them went to college, got their degrees and pursued careers in education. That very well may not have happened if they had not seen what she was able to make of her life. Growing up on the farm taught them some strong lessons. One was the value of hard work. Another, and I may be speculating a bit here, but I think it made them realize they didn’t want to spend the rest of their lives farming, as noble of a profession as it is. They still farmed during their summer breaks and some still farm to this day in some form or fashion, but it’s not their livelihood.

She taught fifth grade in her hometown for many years and was popular with her students, despite of, or maybe because of her disciplinary standards. She kept order in her class and was known for swinging a paddle when needed. This was back when teachers could do that.

She finally left teaching, but really didn’t go far. She took a job with her state’s teachers association, helping teachers advance themselves, advising them on their benefits, working toward getting legislation passed that benefitted education and a long list of other duties I’m sure I know nothing about. After several years of that she finally did “retire,” but then started working part time as a tour guide on bus tours that allowed her to travel and get paid for it and, a bonus for her, she got to be in charge of large groups of people. It was right up her alley. She took the time to travel on her own, as well, visiting Europe and The Holy Land and other destinations that beckoned her. She also started her own consulting business and became a motivational speaker. She later taught some college courses to education majors when she was well into her 70s.

She now lives a retired life on the Gulf coast of Florida and is happy and generally healthy in her 80s. She still travels from time to time, often to visit her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, almost all of whom live in the Carolinas. She even drives herself up here in -- get this -- a red convertible Ford Mustang. That lady knows how to live!

This woman has lived a remarkable life, but she had nothing given to her and had to earn every bit of success she achieved. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is about my very own mother and I know that one of her hardest challenges and greatest accomplishments was raising me. It could not have been easy.

Happy Mother’s Day to Frances Phillips and all the mothers in the world. 

 

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