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Carolyn Freeman, My Mother

269. Carolyn Freeman, My Mother

Mom was born on March 14, 1910. She was the oldest of nine children and we never really talked about what that was like. I know that she quit highschool early in her senior year so that she could get a job and help pay bills. She went to work for Indiana Bell Telephone Company and continued to work there for 35 years. Mom’s mother, Irene Sanders, found herself supporting the nine children when Mom’s father was sent to federal prison for mail fraud. Irene’s long-time friend held down the home base while Irene got a job.

Joyce and Elinor were the two youngest of Mom’s eight siblings. Joyce was born in 1922 and Elinor in 1924. My mother got married in 1931 and I was born in 1933. It fascinated me that both Joyce and Elinor were closer in age to me, than they were to Mother. Mother was 12 years older than Joyce and 14 years older than Elinor. But Joyce was eleven years older than me, and Elinor was nine years older than me. Well, enough of that—it just always felt weird.

My Dad left when I was 12 or 13 and from then on it was Mama and me. We did o.k. together. For one of her birthdays I bought her a large strawberry cookie jar and that started for her an amazing strawberry collection, the like of which I have never seen anywhere—strawberry dishes, glasses, shower curtain, scale, knick-knacks, stationery. Whatever you can name, Mother had it in strawberries.

I think Mother passed on two major things to me: her love of books, and her Christian faith. She loved to read. Often if she liked a book she would read more and more by that author. Or, reading one book would lead to another whole subject which she would explore.

As far back as I can remember, she always went to church. And her expectation was that I would also go to church. Somewhere in her early 70’s she took a course at her church called “Experiment in Practical Christianity.” She said that that course deepened her faith, and she re-read the course book over and over again.

She wasn’t perfect, and I followed suit in that too, but she gave anything she tackled her very best shot.

When she retired at age 68, the first thing she did was to take the highschool equivalency test. She was the oldest one there, and she passed with flying colors. Finally she could say that she had a highschool diploma. Probably in 1979 or 1980 she telephoned me and said she had been asked to teach a junior high Sunday School class. She wanted to know what I thought. At that time, my four children were those ages and I recommended that she find a different age to teach. But she went ahead and within a month she was also signed up for an adult education course in Human Sexuality because she told me that as soon as she started teaching, she realized that sexuality was an important issue in young teenagers lives.

When it became necessary for her to leave Indianapolis (and her church there) and I arrived to help get her ready to move, those teenagers came to the apartment to celebrate her 70th birthday.

I hope she knows that I loved her and admired her clear up to her death and beyond. I started working on a book about our relationship soon after she died in 1984 and published it this last year. It’s called Mama and Me—Our Journey Together Her Last Three Years and Beyond. Working on it for so long was healing in many ways, and when I received the first copy last September it was a completion moment and brought tears to my eyes. (Our picture—Mama and Me—is on the cover. You can see it on Amazon.)

So happy birthday Mom. I was at the grocery this morning and considered buying a container of strawberries. They were too expensive and not that great looking here in March. But I held them for a minute and thought of you.

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