A Life-long Letter From My Mom

I slide my hand over a treasure. It has the smell of “old books” mixed with a touch of cedar from the chest it rested in for years. Yellowed newspaper clippings are tucked between the pages. My mom’s life is portrayed in a pile of small diaries with black, red, white, green and brown leather covers. Now they are a testament of a life.

Before the age of 15 she began recording her life, writing daily snippets of information on a small page. She faithfully continued to write an account of her days for over 33 years. There is one book that doesn’t match the others-a spiral bound paper booklet which was given to her. During WWII times were hard and you used what you had.

A portion of my mom's many diaries.

A portion of my mom’s many diaries.

Unknowingly, she gave me snapshots of her life. She voiced the desire to my older sisters that no one would read them. They sat silently in the cedar chest soaking in that smell. So many years passed before we touched them. Our curiosity begged us to pick them up to get to know the mom who left us so early. Even now there’s a tinge of guilt intertwined with the knowledge that she would want us to know her.

Just as a quilt is made up of pieces of cloth which are sewn together, so are the stories she tells about her life. The bits of information she shares are woven together to enable me to know her. When reading these precious books I feel like there’s a warm quilt being wrapped around me.

Carefully lifting one page at a time, I imagine my mom turning a page and hearing that same swish. Since her cursive scrawl is difficult to read at times, I have gotten into the rhythm of her style of writing and her life flows into mine.

Her own mother died when she was eight. She was the oldest of five children. The relatives banded together to take care of them. My mom and her sisters were tossed about between relatives for several years, while her two younger brothers remained with a different relative. They all lived in the same town and kept in close contact. When she became a little older, she was expected to come back to help her father in his home. Mornings began early with cooking breakfast, then walking to school with her sister. Being a talented musician, she taught lessons for several instruments at the nearby music store. After school she would go there to teach, make supper for the family, practice her own instruments and study. Late at night, she put her pen to the page and days turned into years.

At 16 years old she was asked by mutual family friends to take on a housekeeping job. My dad was the 17 year-old farmer whom she described as “nice”, and she was the young woman who went to care for an ailing widow and her son. The job didn’t last long, but that was the beginning. The diaries tell touching tales of their courting, marriage and honeymoon a few years later.

Stories are told of the city girl who went to be a farmer’s wife. She wrote scores of short accounts of what it was like to be a wife and mother of six on a growing farm. With a cheerful attitude mom cooked, cleaned, gathered eggs, drove tractors, or worked in the fields. I can almost taste the “good supper and cherry dessert” she often made.

To know her was to love her. Unexpected visitors could pull up a chair at the kitchen table at any hour. She was never too busy to listen and share some coffee and cake. People were drawn to her like a magnet as if searching for her secret to serenity, amidst the chaotic large farm and family life. She was the family communicator as relatives all over exchanged letters with her. Looking for the best in people, she was friendly and warm. Although she fought fear, she worked through it and served in her church and community. God was her strength. She wasn’t perfect but I like to imagine she was.

My mom’s diary entry the day I was born.

 

Naturally, I am attracted to the page of my birth date in the diaries. I was my parent’s sixth child, so the event seemed to have a common aura. There are a few facts about my weight, time of birth, and how her body coped after the delivery. She mentions how her father “did not care for the name!” I chuckle as I remember how traditional my grandfather was and I appreciate the way she could incorporate some humor into her writing.

I often say that I “missed my mom”, whereas my older brothers and sisters “miss my mom.”  I was only seven years old when she passed away unexpectedly at the age of 47, so my oldest siblings had the privilege of knowing her much longer than I did. I hear bits and pieces about her from them, but hearing her voice in her writing is a special gift she left me. I am so grateful to her that she took the time to write this journal of her life. Holding the same books she held, breathing in the scent of the diaries, and seeing her handwriting is priceless.

I only have a few faint memories of physically being with her. But I am eternally grateful that I have little books full of gems. My sisters are able to fill in some information about the people, events or feelings which were going on simultaneously with some of the stories, and I’ve learned to “read between the lines.” I am thankful that she was around long enough to instill in me her basic moral and spiritual values. Those seven years of influence were crucial and I strive to be the kind of person that resembles my mom.

After mom had her younger children down for the night, she would slip into her nightgown before settling into her chair to scribble out another page. In her later years, she would write by the blue light of the muted TV, waiting for teenagers to come home from their dates and events. I was the tiny girl who would often sneak out of bed to curl up on her warm lap while she wrote with her blue fountain pen. Writing every night despite the time on the clock or her exhaustion, displayed a life of discipline. She faithfully filled in her last page, the night before she died.

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Extending mercy, writing, communicating, and the love of music are a few pieces of the quilt that I’ve inherited from her. My mom’s life on earth was short, but I’ve been able to glean wisdom from her writings which I hold close to my heart. Simply sliding my hand over one of her diaries reminds me to be grateful for a life-long letter from my mom.

About Myrna Folkert

Myrna is an author who desires to use her gifts to glorify God. She's created this blog to tell stories of her childhood, musings about life, motherless daughters, grief and loss, faith in God, her family history, and facts about the Long QT syndrome. She also has a hearing condition called Tinnitus. Doing interviews with motherless daughters like herself are of great interest. Join in discussions by following this blog and commenting. She would love to hear your stories about life. Myrna is a Christ follower, wife, mother, sister, friend, aunt, and cousin. She was an elementary school teacher for 27 years; now works in her church, and a few other volunteer activities such as Hospice doing "Life Reviews" and Vigils. Myrna loves to read, write, listen to music, go to concerts, and take pictures. Her favorite pastime is boating with her husband near the beautiful shores of West Michigan.
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20 Responses to A Life-long Letter From My Mom

  1. Sandy says:

    WOW, Myrna. Your writing is always amazing, but this is…. mesmerizing. Gripping. Fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing. What a gift that you can get to know your mom. WOW.

    Like

    • myrnafolkert says:

      Thanks Sandy! Your encouragement means so much to me, because I still have the first commentary you gave me a few years ago on my manuscript. You were the first person who I dared to share it with. Yes, the diaries are a wondrous gift.

      Like

  2. Beth Foreman says:

    What a gift from your mother, Myrna. It’s heart-warming that her desire to write is continuing in you.

    Like

  3. Wanda says:

    Thank you, Myrna, for another great story and for giving us a peek into your moms life. Great descriptions, filled with emotion and it even made me feel like I was wrapped in a warm quilt.

    Blessings to you,
    Wanda

    Like

  4. Wanda says:

    I also love the heartwarming pictures you added.

    Like

    • myrnafolkert says:

      They’re simple pictures that I take myself most of the time. I think if pictures are added, it is much more meaningful to people. Breaks it up a little too, when I have a longer piece like this one was.

      Like

  5. Wanda says:

    I also enjoyed this blog entry. Thank you for letting the world into your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cindy Nyhoff says:

    So enjoyed this writing! It is coming up on the 17th anniversary of my mom’s passing and I miss her so much every single day. Thanks for sharing!

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    • myrnafolkert says:

      Yes, Cindy, no matter how long it has been since we have lost a loved one, we always remember the dates and miss them. It just seems like someone is missing at family gatherings. I totally get that. Thank the Lord we will see them in heaven if we are believers. Thanks for commenting. It means so much to me.

      Like

  7. Carol Teske says:

    Your writings bring tears to my eyes. I was only 16 months old when my mother died. My only memory is of her in the casket in our living room -she wore a blue dress. What a bizarre only memory! Then there was Bertha, your mother’s sister. She is the one who raised me. I often marvel at how she came from a city life to the farm when we did not even have indoor plumbing! She came into a family with two young girls, had to adjust to farm life and a very different style of living. Now I am blessed with my third mother still living. Life does move on.

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    • myrnafolkert says:

      Oh Carol, you and your family went through so much more and kept your strong faith and are such an inspiration to me. It is amazing, how Martha and Bertha went off to the farm lives! At least my mom could visit her father and family often. Your second mom, Bertha, went so far away and had such a different life! I know she loved you girls so much. It’s cute that often little Marilyn and Carol are mentioned in the diaries. Oh the many stories we should exchange! We are blessed and God is so good. He took us through losses and continues to be faithful. (Yes, your third mom, Opal, is a sweet lady)

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  8. Lois Blanchard says:

    Thank you, Myrna. This is beautiful, and reminds us again, of just how special Martha was. I saw her but a few times, as we lived so far away in CA. It is wonderful that you have all of her writings to treasure, and learn from. As I remember, she was a VERY hard worker, which never seemed finished. When we all 5 were there last, Don had such an allergic reaction to the barns, and farm in general, that it cut our visit short. Had we been able to spend time, and get medical help, that could have been helped, I’m sure. Surely others living in those environs had similar problems.

    I remember the house where John and Dena lived, and wondered then just how this could be. They did so much with so little. Every one seemed happy, and well provided for. Their faith kept them together, as ours does for us. God is so good to all of us, and we have so much for which to be thankful.

    Love to you, and yours, and keep on writing. I love it.

    Aunt Lois

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    • myrnafolkert says:

      Hi Aunt Lois,
      It’s so nice to hear your perspective. Yes my mom was such a hard worker! She often talks about writing a letter or receiving one from you. It’s amazing how you all had time for letters when you were such busy mothers. She would get a “few snaps” from you which was a joy. Barely a day would ever go by when she wouldn’t give or receive a letter or visit. We marvel at how much she would do in one day! I’m tired just reading it! There was a common thread between the four remaining children-Martha, Bertha, Fred and Art-their strong faith and hard work ethic. I’m so thankful I come from such a rich heritage of faith.
      It did seem that material things were not that necessary. I wish I was more like that, and kept better contact with loved ones.
      I really cherish your comments Aunt Lois!
      Love,
      Myrna

      Like

  9. This is such a delight to read. I love how you can connect with your mom through her writing. You honor her memory well.

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  10. Livvie says:

    Myrna, my mom posted this to my facebook and I’m so glad she did. I can’t imagine the feeling of discovering your mom’s journals. What a wonderful way to connect with her and who she was even as a young girl. I’m sure there will be so much to learn and to enjoy through taking a peek into her mind! Thank you for sharing this wonderful discovery!

    Like

    • myrnafolkert says:

      Dear Livvie,

      I’m so glad your mom sent it to you. The Facebook author page gets lost and there are so many blogs! Thank you for reading, and especially for commenting. It means the world to writers to know you’re affecting someone. Yes we knew about the diaries but didn’t begin reading them until recently. Such a special treasure not only into her mind but also the way the world was back then. I’m working through slowly and we’re also scanning them for an extra safety measure.

      Blessings,
      Myrna

      Like

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