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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
And right now, I feel like I have all the love in the world.
Those leaving comments will be entered in a random drawing for another pair of pink camo and bling ladies’ sunglasses!