On of the legendaries stories in our family is of my mother’s plane trip from California to North Carolina. The year was 1961. We had been living in Oceanside, CA, for the past two years, while my father was stationed at Camp Pendleton. When Dad got orders to Okinawa, Mom decided to move to Salisbury, North Carolina, where Dad’s extended family lived.
The trip was remarkable for a number of reasons. For starters, it was Mom’s first flight. I don’t think she had any idea what to expect, which in hindsight was probably a blessing. Had she known how stressful the flight would be, she may have decided to stay in California. Two plane changes and a missed connection complicated the flight.
Secondly, she was traveling not only with me, but also with my three sisters. Sharon, the oldest was 4, while Nancy was only 6 weeks old. Jeanne and I were in the middle. I can’t imagine going to the grocery store with four preschoolers, much less flying cross-country. I take my hat off to my mother for being brave enough, or perhaps naive enough, to get on a plane with the four of us.
The flight was also remarkable in that Mom’s survival depended on the kind assistance of total strangers. Fortunately, her fellow passengers were eager to help. After Jeanne kicked a tray of food in Mom’s lap, a young Marine offered to hold the baby. He disappeared into another section of the plane. Mom didn’t see him or Nancy until the end of the flight. He took good care of Nancy and returned her after assisting Mom off the plane. Others helped keep Sharon and I in our seats after we decided to run up and down the aisle.
However, the most remarkable aspect of the flight was the reason Mom was returning to North Carolina. Mom and Dad met as students at Catawba College in Salisbury. They were married on Christmas Eve 1955, in the midst of Mom’s junior year of college. She finished the year and took some summer classes but dropped out before completing her degree when she learned Sharon was expected. With Dad gone for a year, Mom decided to go back to school and finish her college degree. She reasoned that Dad’s parents, grandparents, and an assortment of aunts and uncles would provide plenty of help taking care of the four of us girls.
Mom finished her degree that year, majoring in biology and becoming certified as a teacher. Dad returned safely from Okinawa and the family moved to Parris Island. Mom and Dad would have five more children and Mom never become a paid school teacher. However, she taught us children many lessons and skills by incorporating teaching into every day tasks and reading aloud to us until I was out of elementary school.
It never mattered to any of us that Mom didn’t “use” her degree. The fact that she went to such great lengths to earn it demonstrated the importance of education and the value of hard work. When I interviewed for a college scholarship, I was asked who my role model was. That was an easy question. Mom was my role model then and she continues to be my role model. She placed a high value on education, but she placed an even higher value on serving and caring for her family. When I had children, I strove to live up to the example she set and prioritizing raising my children above career success and achievement.
Thanks, Mom, for making that incredible cross-country flight more than 50 years ago. Thanks for modeling the importance of hard work and education while teaching us that family is the most important part of your life. And, especially, thank you for allowing Jesus Christ into your life and sharing His love and plan of salvation with the rest of us.
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!
The family Mom and Dad created.