Mother’s Day Tribute

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who lived in Denmark.  Her name was Anna Christina Hansen. No one really knows why she left her country, but at the age of 16, she bravely boarded a ship headed for the new country sometime around 1924.  She ended up in Michigan where she met a young first- generation American-born German named Benjamin Franklin Hacket, and they married. They settled in  the quaint Lake Michigan town of Ludington where their first-born child made her entrance into the world in August of 1926. They named her Donna June Hacket, and she was my mother.

Mother was the oldest of 14 children born to “Frank” and Anna Hacket.  Times were tough, and the winters were cold.  Most of the stories I recall of her childhood were about how hard life was in the cold and snow of the harsh winters of Ludington and how hard it was being the oldest of 14, having to help out with all the babies.  

donna.a

When my father met her, she was waiting tables in a cafe near Ludington, where he took some of his meals while working for an oil drilling service company called Hycalog.  I wish I knew more about what he did for them, but his job had something to do with “logging the well”, which I presume has to do with record keeping.  Story goes that he met her and brought her down to Bossier City to meet his mother and grandmother and to get their approval.  Mother, who had never been out of Michigan, made the trip and said yes to his proposal of marriage. They honey mooned in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Mother’s skirt was burned by embers from one of the flambeaux torches, which parade marchers still used back then.

Donna and Gus, her pet parakeet

Donna and Gus, her pet parakeet

So, Daddy, Mother, and her two children, Carol and Butch, moved to Louisiana, and Mother never looked back.  She loved the warmer climate and said many times how she really didn’t miss the ice, snow, and freezing temperatures.  I think the only thing about Ludington that she missed, other than her family, was the beach on Lake Michigan.  Through the years, we went back to Ludington on vacation, and I grew to love that beach, taking my own children there on vacation.

Mother was very quiet, which some folks at first might have mistaken for aloofness.  But those who got to know her, soon learned that she didn’t have an aloof or haughty bone in her body. It is just the way of Danish (Scandinavian) people.  I think it stems from the fact that those European countries are so cold, they they can’t help but be cold people, and so the Danes are just that way.  

But in her quietness, she was a devoted wife and mother.  She cooked Daddy breakfast every morning, and I do mean cooked, as in bacon, fried eggs over grits with biscuits and homemade fig, dewberry, or strawberry preserves.  Additionally, she had supper ready every evening when Daddy got home from work, and it was always a well-balanced, nutritious, homecooked meal.  She had to learn to cook southern style, since the food she grew up eating was mostly meat, corn, and potatoes and very bland.  She must have learned quickly, because I never recall her putting a bad meal on the table, and her Sunday fried chicken and rice with milk gravy were to die for!  She made the best gravy of any kind, and I still think of her every time I’m trying to get the lumps out of mine!

Any time there was someone in the church or a neighbor who was ill or had a death in the family, she cooked food and delivered it to the family.  She never said that she loved to cook, but I know it was a labor of love because she did it without complaining.  One day I walked into the kitchen to find her trying to hide her tears as she sliced a tomato.  Her hands hurt so much doing such a minor task, that she couldn’t hold back her tears.  She was 39, and later that year she was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis.

I will never forget her lying on the couch in the dark of night when she thought no one else could hear her soft whimpers of pain, but I knew she was hurting.  All I could do was sit on the floor next to the couch and lean my head near her and wish the pain away.  The pain was from two cortisone injections she had received in her knees that day, and to me, they seemed to do more harm than good.  That was way back in 1965, and I was 10 years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

Later, she was put on a monthly treatment of gold injections, in addition to the Prednisone she took daily.  The gold injections seemed to help, but from the age of 51, I don’t think Mother experienced a day without pain.  She was one of the bravest, most selfless women I know.  In spite of her affliction, she continued to do for our family, for others and to cook for those families in need and grief. She set an example of a Proverbs 31 woman my entire life.  She even took a little part-time job of working at the local drugstore–a job I later took when I turned 15.  

In spite of her hurting hands, she took up painting ceramics and produced beautifully detailed pieces. I still treasure the ceramic pieces she made for me. Later, she took up making afghans from kits where you weave the yarn through a mesh, and I still have several of those lightweight, washable afghans to this day. I treasure them, also.  

Donna in Hawaii

Donna in Hawaii

Even though the last 14 years of her life were riddled with relentless pain, she hardly ever complained. I really don’t know how she lived with such pain, but live she did.  Daddy took her to Hawaii for the first time in the late 1970s, and she had the time of her life sitting out on that beach, tanning to a warm shade of brown.  I wonder if she reminisced about her days of lying in the sun at Ludington Beach as a teen-aged girl?

Together, she and Daddy raised five children, who now range in age from 55-69, four of whom are still living and still live in Louisiana.  If I could be with my siblings today, I would ask each of them what they remember most about Mother.  

Mother has been gone since June of 1991.  She was a devoted grandmother, too, but she never had the joy of meeting my special son, Miah, or the last pumpkin on the vine, Termite.  I’m sorry my last two sons never got to know the love of their Mamaw Donna.  She was a lovely person inside and out. And even though the Bible tells us not to communicate with the dead, I just want Mother to know how much I love her, miss her, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.  

So, if your mother is alive today, will you give her a big hug for me?  If you have differences, put them aside.  Unconditional love and forgiveness are the best gifts you could give your Mother today, no matter what your age.

Mother's Day flowers

My oldest son sent me this beautiful, fragrant bouquet yesterday, and the card reads:

      “Thank you for everything you do.  You deserve all the love in the world.  Love, your son.”

While I was writing this post, Miah quietly slipped this under my door . . .

Note from Miah

And right now, I feel like I have all the love in the world.

BW

Those leaving comments will be entered in a random drawing for another pair of pink camo and bling ladies’ sunglasses!

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Comments

Mother’s Day Tribute — 36 Comments

  1. What a grand tribute! Yer Mom clearly lives on in ye – and in the love shared yer Family. We are honoured to call ye “Family” and salute ye for all ye do and accomplish, daily. Our best to ye always…

    • Our best to y’all, too! It touches me that a little bit of something might live on in me. She had such a hard life of silent pain that most people weren’t even aware, if it weren’t for the slowing of her gait and a limp now and then before having both knees replaced! I can hope to be half the woman she was when I should be able to accomplish at least as much without such an affliction.

  2. What a wonderful tribute. I know she looks down on you with pride.
    BTW…After seeing the beach photo I sure know who you take after. The hair is shorter, but you favor her a lot.

    • I hope she does, Steffi. I was wondering if she and Daddy would be proud of me the night I received the award a few weeks ago. I wish they could’ve shared that evening with me. I do miss them both so much . . . . . and I hope you had a great day, too! Oh, and you’re the second person to say that about my favoring her a lot!

  3. Your mothers love for her family and your love for her is very evident in your blog. And the tributes to you from your sons are memories to always cherish.

    I filled a sandwich baggie with sugar free chocolate pieces to carry to my mom today and went by the store to pickup a small bouquet for her. There were only 2 bouquets left! Neither were really fresh but one was better than the other and as I started to pick it up, a young father and a little girl about 5 or 6 walked up to get a bouquet. They looked at the one left and she said it is dead daddy. He said they would try another place. I asked if she liked the one I had and she did. I asked her if she thought my mommy would rather have a bag of candy instead of flowers and she shyly nodded. Guess who got the bouquet. And I had a mom who was munching on candy when I left her place later. Happy Mothers Day everyone. Stay safe in this tornadic weather.

    • Oh, Cammy, you made somebody’s Mother’s Day very special . . . well, more than one mom!!! Did you give your mother a big hug for me? She’s such a strong woman and example of hard work and what it means to do things yourself. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day, too!

  4. What a beautiful tribute to your Mother. Yes, Wendy, both of your parents were looking down from Heaven to see you get the coastal stewardship award a few Friday’s ago. I really do believe they are like our angels looking down from above. Even though I know the theological arguments against such thoughts!

    I did not know that what the company your Dad worked for and it was a well known mud logging company. If I remember correctly they developed some of the early well logging technology. The well logs allow the driller and geologist and drilling engineers—the entire team to see what they are drilling through like how much sand and shale and determine the porosity and resistivity and know where the pay zones are located. Drilling a well is bit like a complex surgery on the earth.

    My Mom was two years older than your Mom. Today at a special Mother Day dinner we all spent the day sharing stories of our parents and how they ended up coming to Louisiana.

    For those of us who had parents who grew up during the Great Depression–they endured not only very harsh winters but also lived through a season when commodities like sugar and steel were rationed for the war effort.

    My Mom and her sisters made dresses out of material from flour sacks. Everything got recycled in those days.

    • Your reflections bring me great joy this morning, Lillian, and thank you for shedding some light on the work my dad might have done while working for Hycalog. I have an old photo of him standing in one of the portable office buildings, looking like he was doing some kind of calculations. He was so YOUNG in that photo! Late 20s!!! I had no clue there were land rigs in Michigan, but there must have been! I wish he were alive so I could ask him questions about that work. At that point, he didn’t even have his bachelors in math yet, and later earned his Master’s in Industrial Engineering. What a great way for y’all to celebrate your parents who have gone before us.

      • This is a wonderful and touching tribute to your mother. Having had my own bouts with osteoarthritis, I understand her pain in a way I might not have a year or two ago. Thankfully, mine’s under control now, thanks to cherry juice (!!!) but it must have been so hard on her to have to undergo those treatments and surgeries.

        The reason I tucked my comment in here is because of our dads. I didn’t know yours had a degree in Industrial Engineering. My own dad, with only a high school education, rose up to the supervisory ranks of the IE department at Maytag. We always laughed at him, trying to bring time/motion management studies into our house! Mom would just roll her eyes.

        Unfortunately, he never went as far as he could, because his boss refused to promote someone without a degree. But the men he worked with loved and respected him — and despised the man who wouldn’t promote him. 🙂

        • Daddy’s story is somewhat similar in that after marriage, he went to night classes while working at ARKLA Gas as a draftsman, earning his bachelor’s in math. He stayed with ARKLA, slowly moving up the ranks, and then when I was in high school, he earned his Master’s going to night classes. I typed his thesis for him when I was as senior in high school. I just had no clue the magnitude of what my dad was accomplishing at the time, though. Marrying in 1954 and becoming a full-fledged engineer in 1973, almost 20 years later! But you’re right, without those degrees, he would have never been advanced up the ranks.

  5. What a heart warming, nostalgic trip back to your roots. It made me think of my situation with my mom, and you know the story, I called her and it made all the difference in the world. It’s true, put your differences aside, forgive and let the past go, its the past, all that can be changed is the here and now. Without out our mothers, where would we be? Who would our children be? We owe alot to our mothers, let them know it.

    • Yes, I do understand, and I’m so glad you called her. Really and truly. Thanks for letting me know! Where would we be, indeed?

  6. Loved reading this. I miss your Mom and Dad very much. They were truly a love story and you could see it reflected in the way they looked at one another. I always looked forward to Aunt Donna’s deviled eggs!

    A belated Happy Mother’s Day.

    • Those good ol’ deviled eggs! The only time we got them was if we managed to snatch one up at a church picnic or potluck meal before they were all gone. Why is it that deviled eggs were for special occasions only? and not for once a week, LOL?!!! What do you recall about how she prepared them? Do you recall sweet pickle relish in them?

      • I love deviled eggs! Maybe we should make this a thing at our family gatherings now! Or maybe I’ll just request them on my birthday…do you have her recipe?

        • She really didn’t do anything fancy. I’ve made them several times for Seth, since he’s the only one who’s ever requested them. She always put sweet pickle relish in, as I recall. Maybe I can ask Nanny Carol to see what she recalls, but YES, we should add them to our family memorial dishes’ list!!! I’ll be happy to make you some!

          • That is how mom made them. She added about a tablespoon of sweet relish to the yolk mixture. I think she boiled about 6 or 8 eggs. She always sprinkled paprika over the top of the finished ones too.

  7. I always enjoy your stories and the love of family. You are a very gifted writer, just keep up the good work. I hope you had a very happy MOTHER’S DAY. I ‘m researching my background and I hope give my grandchildren a love of country and background for patriotism. Have a great week.

    • I encourage you to give them that heritage so they can pass it on! I know you will do a great job . . . another labor of love for your grand kids, Louise!

  8. Such a lovely post to read! I miss Mamaw. She was such a sweet, gentle lady. And I may not remember her cooking very well but I’ll always remember her orange chair and her little cabinet next to it with all of her manicure tools and numerous shades of nail polish, most of them red!

    • Funny the things we remember as children. Have you seen Mamaw’s rocker since I had it recovered recently and placed in my room? It’s a little crowded, but I love having it here . . . it reminds me of my grandmothers, too, since it started out in their living room in the old house my grandfather built in the early 1900s!! When it was in their house, my daddy sat in it on Wed. evenings when we great-grandmother sat so Grandmother Vi could go to choir practice! Plus, Mamaw rocked all of you three oldest children in it as babies, as did I.

  9. Lovely tribute to your mom, Wendy. My dad was the oldest of 14 as well, a position which taught him enormous patience. I love real-life stories like this.

    • No, Merle, I didn’t mention it, but I had 2 older half siblings, and I am the first-born daughter of my parents. Then came my younger sister, and last of all, my brother. Yep, I’m a first-born, type A personality!!! And did many of the boy things with my dad until baby brother was big enough to step in and be the son! Explains why I was such a tomboy and still pretty much have those tendencies today! I think they call is moxie, but I see it as a good thing!

  10. If we don’t have at least 10 more female comments, I will wait and do the drawing another time. Thanks to those who have already taken the time to comment, however!

  11. Love your column,; family, love , fishing, cooking , open waterways & wildlife —- I envy your lifestyle !

    • Hi Jo. Is this your first time commenting? If so, welcome to the bayou. I’m so glad to have a new reader who enjoys following life and culture on the bayou. Thanks so much for visiting, reading, and for taking the time to leave such a nice comment! BW

  12. Thank you so much for a glimpse of your history. It’s a beautiful story and good for us to hear. Relationships with mothers are sometimes tangled and your reminders of love and forgiveness are the best message.

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