If we were all honest, we would have to say that at some point in our lives, we grew bored listening to stories our mothers or other relatives told. Maybe we were young and busy and thought the content of the stories to be dated and irrelevant. Maybe we were frustrated, sleep-deprived and stressed out and we didn’t have time to listen. It’s possible that we just didn’t want to hear the same old tired adages anymore. Looking back, most of us probably wish we had listened closely instead of brushing off the anecdotes that they attempted to share.
The connectivity between an individual’s life story and that of their mother was shared by renowned author Mitch Albom. Albom wrote, “Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.” Before Albom, President Abraham Lincoln stated, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
Mothers impact generations. I interviewed several mothers from different generations and asked them to tell their stories. While none of their circumstances are the same, each mother, young and old, shared their love for their children and the pride that they bring.
“Behind the Scenes”
Thelma Pugh celebrated her 95th birthday in January. She is likely among the most experienced of mothers in our community. Pugh and her husband John Marion had eight children, Faye, Raymond, Francis, Rodger, JoAnn, Terry, Alice and Paula. The Pughs made their home in Grove Hill.
Pugh learned to sew and crochet as a child and these skills would serve her well throughout her life. In addition to raising eight children, Pugh also worked outside of the home. First, she worked as a seamstress at Solomon Brothers Shirt Factory in Thomasville. After this, she worked at Vanity Fair as a seamstress. Pugh made clothing for her children throughout the years.
John Marion Pugh was a truck driver who loved his large family. He was diagnosed with cancer while the children were still young. Often, his illness kept him bedbound. However, when his health permitted, he taught his sons how to drive trucks and run farm equipment, realizing that these would be skills that they needed. Thelma was a quiet source of strength and energy for her family during her husband’s lengthy illness.
She and the children planted gardens each year and raised cattle for milk and meat. Pugh made sure that all of her children knew how to cook. Each of her daughters was taught how to sew.
Pugh recalled one time when her husband was ill and four of the children had measles. The other four had whooping cough. She was the lone well person in the house. I asked her if this was a stressful time. She responded, “Well, I didn’t have time to think about stress. I had to take care of my family. They needed me.”
“The Lord was with me,” Pugh says of losing her husband and raising a large family alone. “They were all good children,” she recalled as she smiled.
Paige & Kolton
When we started the interview, Pugh said, “I’d much rather be behind the scenes than talking.” I am thankful that she was willing to step to center stage for just a moment because her faith and resolve to take care of her family merits attention.
“Kids are my heart”
Martha Howell has lived in the High Acres subdivision for more than 50 years. She raised her eight children in the same house that she currently lives in. Her grandchildren and great-grandchild still enjoy coming home to “Grandmother’s house.”
Howell says that she always wanted to be a wife and a mother. She was raised in a large family in Newfoundland. She had 13 siblings and wanted her children to have experiences like her own childhood, making memories with many siblings. She met Jimmy David Howell when he was stationed in Newfoundland with the U.S. Airforce. They married in 1953 and called his hometown of Jackson their home.
Through the years, Howell’s home has been a gathering spot for neighborhood kids. “It was like Grand Central Station here,” Howell recalls. When school was out for summer, she watched neighbors’ children and kept popsicles in her freezer for sweaty hands to grab when the children needed a break. Her children often invited their friends over, knowing that their mom would welcome them and feed them. Howell’s hamburgers and spaghetti remain favorites of the family and of anyone who recalls eating at her home.
Boundaries have always been important to Howell. She says it didn’t matter to her how many children were at her home, they needed to be gone to their own homes by 7 p.m. “By that time, I needed as much peace and quiet as a mom of eight could get and they needed to be with their parents,” she laughed. Sundays were Howell’s favorite day when her children were small. The family often packed a picnic lunch and headed off to the Old Locke to enjoy nature and each other’s company.
When asked if she had any advice to share with today’s mothers, the 83 year old said, “Talk to your kids. Make them put down phones and games. Put down your own phones and games and have a conversation. Love them and pray for them. Pray for them every day.”
“Kids are my heart. I have loved my children and every child that’s come into my house. Sometimes I didn’t like their choices, but I always love the child.”
Words of wisdom abound from Howell’s French-Canadian accent.
“Glad I was a mother”
Seventy-seven-year old Barbara Lewis raised four children as a single parent on a fixed income. “They are all grown now, but I remember those times. Those were hard times and they were good times.”
Lewis raised her children in Thomasville, near her own mother. Although they may not have owned many material possessions, Lewis made sure that her children knew the importance of family. “We may not have had a lot, but we had good relationships. We have good relationships to this day.” Lewis remains close to her daughters and spends much time with them.
Church was of great importance in the Lewis household. Barbara expected her children to be in church. “It was only with the help of the Lord that I could get the kids what they needed. I made sure we were in church.”
Meals were also important. Lewis says that she is thankful that schools offer breakfast now. When her children were small, there was no school breakfast program, so she made breakfast each morning. Her children learned to garden and to cook; skills Lewis thought necessary for their futures.
“I’m glad I was a mother,” the grandmother of five stated as she smiled.
Nineteen-year-old Paige Allday never had any of the typical symptoms of pregnancy and did not plan on becoming a mother until later in her life. A trip to the emergency room with chest pains resulted in routine tests. Allday says she was stunned to learn that she was expecting.
She initially was told that she was possibly seven weeks along, but an ultrasound showed that the baby was actually measuring at 22 weeks. She says that her world completely changed in the three – day period between the ER visit and the ultrasound, but she does not regret it.
Kolten Lee was born on Jan. 15. His mother had just over four months to prepare for him. Allday says, “He has changed my life in the best way! I have never felt so complete. Although things didn’t go as planned or traditional, I’m very happy. Unplanned doesn’t mean unloved.”
“Hold on to hope”
Infertility is a quiet struggle that approximately 10 percent of American couples struggle with. Tiffanie Chancellor and her husband Brandon struggled with infertility for several years.They chose to go through fertility treatments in hopes of having a family. They were devastated when the treatments were unsuccessful.
In December 2015, after discontinuing treatments, the Chancellors were thrilled to know that they were expecting. Several days later, they were distraught with the news of a miscarriage. “I chose to hold on to hope,” Tiffanie stated.
In vitro fertilization or IVF was the only hope for the Chancellors. Exactly a year from the date of the miscarriage, Tiffanie underwent the procedure. A week later, it was confirmed as successful. Maverick was born July 26, 2017. A preemie, but a fighter, the Chancellors were elated with their baby boy.
Ten months later, they were shocked to learn that they were expecting again. This time, no treatments were involved. Maddox was born 10 weeks early on Nov. 25, 2018. On Dec. 31, just a few weeks after coming home, Maddox stopped breathing and was rushed to the ER. Tiffanie and Brandon feared the worst. Their young son was critically ill and in and out of the hospital for the first four months of his life. A severe food allergy was the culprit of Maddox’s illnesses. “It is only by the goodness of the Lord that our son is here today,” Tiffanie stated.
“Both of our boys are truly miracles. They are our greatest blessing and our biggest testimony,” according to the Chancellors.
Mother’s Day became an official holiday in America in 1914. It is always celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Remember your mom this year. Listen to her stories. Also, if you want free entertainment, local retailers will be filled with men and children shopping for the matriarchs of the family on Saturday. It’s quite humorous!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.