Friday, October 26, 2012

A Tribute to a Beautiful Woman

Today is my beautiful momma's birthday, and I would like to reflect on the privilege I have had having her as my momma for 55 years.

Momma and Grandfather Savage
Momma was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, as an only child to my Ma-Ma and grandfather. From the moment she was born, she was loved with a passion that every child should know. Not only was she an only child, but she was the only grandchild on her dad's side, and the only grandchild that lived nearby on her mother's side. As a result, she got a lot of attention and love. I say this, knowing that one would assume that she was a spoiled only child, but truthfully, that's pretty far from the truth. Even though she was loved with everything they had, my grandparents did not allow her to be spoiled. As Ma-Ma would say, "You children aren't spoiled, just well-loved".

Momma around 8 years old
Momma grew up making many trips to New Orleans (both grandparents graduated from Tulane, and loved the city), and many summers were spent in North Carolina with my grandmother (Ma-Ma) and great-grandmother (Mommee). Children from the community were always coming over (her best friend, Virginia, was a frequent guest), so there wasn't any isolation for her. She dearly loved her parents, and my great-grandparents, Mommee and Poppee (Ma-Ma's parents). Her life revolved around school and parties. She claims that her senior year in high school was basically one giant dinner party. She was an accomplished pianist and oboist. Because she couldn't march with her oboe, she carried the bell lyre (which was the main reason I started playing the bells). She loved her band friends, and my grandmother promoted the band with all she had. As Momma's friend, Rita, once told me, "Truthfully, your momma was the only one that was really very good, but the rest of us kept practicing because we didn't want to disappoint your grandmother!" During the summers, she would attend music camps, and it was at one of these that she met the band director at a small university in Indiana named DePauw University. He started recruiting Momma for the school, and by the time her senior year came around, she had decided she wanted to attend DePauw. There was just one small issue--it was north of the Mason-Dixon line, and this just wasn't acceptable. My grandfather offered her any car she wanted if she would just stay south of this important line (they actually wanted her to attend Ole Miss), but she was determined to attend DePauw. So, off to DePauw she went, declaring a major in music education. That lasted a short time. She discovered a couple of things: 1. Music takes a lot of time, and she didn't want to spend all of her valuable potential party time in the practice room, and 2. Music theory is HARD (see #1) (as a side note, I figured out the same thing some 20 years later). Meanwhile, she had a class with Ken Wagoner, and he encouraged her to change majors to psychology, of which she did. She still talks about what an awesome professor Dr. Wagoner was.
Senior in high school piano recital
Through all of this, she met my dad, and became engaged to him. Plans were made to be married over spring break of her junior year (my dad's senior year). Forty days before they were to be married, my grandfather laid down for a nap and never woke up. They scaled down the reception, but kept the date. Not sure how they got through this time (Momma claims her grades weren't very good that semester), but if you know my momma at all, you know that she is a strong person that stands up to adversity and keeps going. 
Momma and Ma-Ma 1954
Ten months after she and Daddy were married, my brother, Steve was born. Two years later, I was born, and three years after me, Michael was born. Three babies in five years kept her very busy. The fall after Michael was born, Stephen contracted rheumatic fever and was bedridden for six months. It was discovered that Michael was allergic to milk, and I had pneumonia more than once that winter. To this day, I have no idea how she handled all of this, but she did. Our yard was always filled with neighborhood children, which she couldn't figure out why until she overheard a mother say to her child, "Go down to Barbara's. She likes kids." Of course, Momma couldn't turn them away.

After we were in school, Momma drove back and forth to Indiana State University and got her elementary education degree and began to teach 6th grade. She then got her masters from DePauw, and continued teaching for several years. In 1975, she and my dad separated and then divorced. In October of 1976, she married Allan Feld, and a few years later, quit teaching so that she could help operate the new carpet store that she and Allan had opened. In December of 1980, Allan suddenly got a terrible headache, and by dinnertime, had passed away from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Momma was left with a brand-new business and no one to help her run it. I quit my job at the local children's clothing store, and for a year and a half, the two of us ran it. In 1982, Michael joined the business, and to this day, he and Momma, along with my sister-in-law, Julie, run the business. I'm so very proud of them and how they have continued to run a successful business for all of these years.

My momma is a passionate person. She loves her music, her animals, her yard and flowers, but most of all, she loves her children and her grandchildren. She will tell you how fantastic all of us are with very little encouragement. Her love for children doesn't stop at biological children. She adores her in-law children (they are considered one of her own) and through the years, has taken on children from the community, just like her mother did. She spent countless hours being a Girl Scout leader, as well as a Cub Scout leader. She spent hours accompanying students for music contest. We used to joke about her wanting to adopt every child in her classroom that she didn't think were loved the way that they should have been (truly, there were years that this was a real concern for me). Her hugs are just about the best thing in the world, and my husband will tell you that she loves him as much as she loves us. She just loves her family with all she has, as every mother should.
Our family at Amy and Joseph's wedding in August, 2012
So, today, I celebrate my Momma and rejoice that I have had so many wonderful years learning from her and trying to be half the momma that she is. Momma, I love you so very, very much and I'm so proud to be your daughter. With all my love, Julie