With the recent loss of my mother, I have been reminiscing about her life and ended up reminiscing about mine. I did not realize until now how great of a role she played in me becoming…well, me. Here are a few of her attributes that made a lasting impression.
Be mountain tough: Ollie Mae (Day) Roark grew up on a hillside farm in Claiborne County with eight other kids, and they were a gritty bunch. They didn’t have much, but lived a lifestyle that didn’t need much, and yet they were grateful to God for what they had. It got them through the Great Depression and World War 2, both very lean times.
Help others: In the days before Medicare and unemployment insurance, people had to lean on each other. Mom was forever cooking meals, cleaning house, and caregiving neighbors and kin when they were sick or in need. She half raised my son and helped make him a darn good cook and a fine young man.
Work hard: at whatever task is at hand. In Mom’s case she hoed acres of corn, tobacco, and garden rows alongside the men folk, and usually ended up helping with the cooking and childcare to boot. She and women of her time had multi-tasking down pat before it was even a word.
Tell good stories: When Mom grew up, sitting around the fireplace telling stories was what television is today. A good story is primal, simple, memorable, and often splashed with good humor that allows you to never tire of hearing them again. Mom had many tales of growing up on the farm, surviving a world at war, and just every day life. I wrote down as many as I could, and they are priceless to me now that she’s gone.
Appreciate the great outdoors: I actually got this from both parents, but Mom grew up in a time when people were way more in tune with the natural world than we are today. She spoke fondly of gathering native chestnuts, blackberries, and walnuts to sell or use; making tea from spicebush, sassafras root, and teaberry; gathering medicinal plants like star root, yellow root, and mullein for her mom to treat a family illness; smoking rabbit tobacco. Her generation observed the rhythms of nature, and knew when to plant things based on the size of white oak leaves or the blooming of dogwoods. And Mom would rather fish than eat. Give her a cane pole and a can of worms and stand back. Her secret to catching more bluegill than anyone else? Patience, and spit on the worm for luck before you cast it out.
While I don’t do many of these attributes as well as she did, I would like to think that people around me can see a few of them poking out a little. The fact that I like to write this column is to some degree due to her influence. So, thanks Mom.