In honor of Mothers Day, and because so many of you blog-readers love stories about my mom, here’s a bit of info about her. As you read between the lines, you’ll see how she came to be the colorful person she was.
She was born too soon and was unhealthy, so the doctor told her parents not to name her. That way when she died, they wouldn’t be too attached. And so she remained “Baby James” through December and into 1913. By St. Patrick’s Day her father, a full-blooded Irishman, nicknamed her “Pat” after the holiday. He called her that for the rest of his years.
Eventually they officially named her Evelyn Pauline after an older brother, Everett Paul, who died at the age of 8 in a school yard accident.
Growing up during the Great Depression, she learned to squeeze a penny till Lincoln squirmed and made sure we could pinch him, too. She married a shy, 42 year old Swede when she was 29. Unable to wait until he popped the question, she did it herself.
When asked what she wanted as a housewarming gift, she said, “Toys for children who might visit us.” Before she had any of her own kids, though, she made friends with all the neighborhood children, and while in labor with her first baby passed out chocolate chip cookies before heading for the hospital.
After having two little girls born 20 months apart, Mom was expecting a third when she began hemorrhaging and was rushed to the hospital. After being given the wrong blood type from an inaccurately labeled bottle, she nearly died. But God had other plans for Evelyn Pauline Pat James Johnson.
Although doctors cautioned Mom not to become pregnant again, our brother Tom came along on Dad’s 50th birthday, a definite bonus to all of us. To this day I think Mom tricked Dad, since she’d wanted nothing more than a houseful of children. Eventually she got her wish with 17 grandchildren, all local and all in love with their grandma.
Mom viewed children as marvels to be cherished, protected and admired. She never encountered a child she didn’t approve of and although she rubbed off on them, her greatest joy came when they rubbed off on her.
She also loved music and practiced piano daily. In her teens she taught lessons, in her thirties played the four-keyboard organ for Moody Church, and in her prime accompanied enough weddings and funerals to put us through college, although she gave the money back to the bride instead.
Mom memorized entire books of the Bible, taught high school Sunday school for decades and conducted in-home Bible studies throughout her married life. But she also loved a good practical joke and made good use of her whoopee cushion, plastic vomit and artificial dog poop. No wonder kids loved her.
Dad used to say Mom was a risk-taker. Tomorrow I’ll tell you a story that proves it.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)