This morning my mother begins her last week in her 70s with an 80th birthday on Friday. As she incredulously declared on Saturday evening to me, “Can you believe this?!”
Daughter. Sister. Mom to seven girls. Grandma to fifteen. Great-grandma to two. Friend to countless others. Church member. Sunday school teacher. Alto in the choir. Writer. Volunteer. So many identities, none of which ever earned her a paycheck. Ellen Raines Blose is worth celebrating this week.
Although there’s a party coming up, I thought I would celebrate her in words, focusing each day this week on things she has taught and modeled over the years. And although my late father had a hand in it all, he would agree that it was really Mom doing the bulk of the parenting.
Mom often reminded us that she and her nine siblings and all seven Blose girls had a leg up on others just by the luck of our birth. It wasn’t just hard work or intelligence that afforded opportunities. Most likely she learned this from her own parents who fed and cared for the less fortunate in their Keezletown community. It was the Great Depression and people were out of work and hungry. Not once did her mother or father question whether someone deserved their benevolence, but her parents modeled the very essence of grace and gratitude.
I recently told a friend who is a social worker that we took in foster babies years ago. As busy as my Mom was with a dairy farm and seven kids, she signed up to be a short term foster parent, often getting babies late at night. I remember there was a dedicated drawer for foster baby clothes: tiny white sleeeping gowns and booties. I recall the excitement of readying the bottles and crib for our little guest. Those babies were Blose siblings for just a short time, but they were nurtured and cared for as if they were one of us. They were children of God just as we were but didn’t have the good fortune of being born into a history of good decision making and stability as we had been.
This may seem brutally harsh, but we were raised knowing that there would always be someone out there smarter, better looking, more athletic and richer than us, but there would also be many people less fortunate. I was important and special, but in my Mom’s words: “You were not raised that the sun rose and set on your behind.” As someone who studies society, I have noticed a trend (and it started when my kids were small) of way too much lavish attention shelled out on toddlers at birthdays, huge bouquets at dance recitals, graduation balloons at preschool promotions and soccer trophies for doing nothing more than showing up. Mom’s reality check provided us with emotional comfort when life didn’t quite measure up to our expectations. There weren’t bouquets or trophies at the end of every hard day. You had a meal, a warm bath and a bed and this was more than others had. Personally, it allowed me to find gratitude even when my world felt like it was collapsing around me during Tony’s illness and death. I couldn’t have discovered this without my Mom’s guidance.
Hey little brown eyed girl, happy birthday!