My mother, Ferol Emma Ownby Lavergne, would have been 88 years old today. She was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas during a time when the men worked hard to provide for their families and the women worked even harder just to survive a sometimes harsh world.
But it was the other gifts my mother gave me which I cherish more than any of the material things she gave me over the years. Gifts like commitment, perseverance and imagination...
For reasons unknown to me, my mother married my father on a whim. She didn't love him and I'm pretty sure he didn't love her. It was a broken hearted rebound story with a relationship that endured almost 30 years of ups and downs. My mother spent the rest of her life devoted to her family. Watching her strength to endure at times what needed to be endured gave me a gift that I have had to call on many times during my own lifetime.
We moved constantly when I was growing up. Staying one step ahead of poverty caused us to change homes over the years, but the one constant I could always depend on was my mother's vegetable garden. While I hated working in the garden during the heat of a muggy Louisiana summer, I understood the necessity of such a thing for our family's very survival. Creating a garden at some of the places we lived wasn't always easy but my mother never gave up. Working beside her day after day as she struggled to put food on the table taught me perseverance. And it was that gift I used to survive a serious medical condition three years ago which could have crippled me for life if I would have let it.
But the greatest gift my mother ever gave me was a love of reading. She was a Zane Grey fanatic. I don't know whether those books reminded her of growing up on a farm during an untamed time in American history or if she just wanted to be taken away from the dullness of her every day life by escaping into a good book. Either way, she encouraged me to read at a very young age and I discovered books when I was four years old. My sister and I would walk the mile round trip to the local library and load up with as many books as we could carry. To me, books were treasures to dive into and to this day I surround myself with books of every type. My mother's love of reading fed my own imagination and is probably the reason I am a writer today.
For all the gifts my mother gave me as I was growing up, I just want to say thanks. I'm sure she wondered if her children would grow up strong and not be tied down to the life she was forced to live. No worries...I'm doing just fine.
Happy 88th birthday, Mom, wherever you may be and hopefully you are still enjoying a good book...