Sunday, December 18, 2011

Today In History

At our Hawley grandparents' home in Michigan:
Dad, Grandma Hawley, Mom
Dave, me giving high five
Our mother would have turned eighty-six years old today and we miss her. I have never met anyone quite like Mom. Below is a tribute I wrote December 18, 2007 on her eighty-second birthday.

Today is December 18. It's a good day for birthdays; Steven Spielberg, Ossie Davis, Betty Grable, Keith Richards, and Brad Pitt all have (or had) this day listed on their birth certificate. Those celebrities have fans but a far more important individual to me shares December 18. My mother turns eighty-two today. Born at home on a peach farm outside Nashville, Arkansas, Mom made her entrance onto the world stage on this day in 1925. It was a big year for news. Calvin Coolidge was in the White House while Al Capone took over the bootlegging mobs in Chicago. John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee while in Germany, a disaffected Adolf Hitler published Mein Kampf. And in Howard County, Arkansas, Jord and Ruth Chesshir rejoiced at the birth of their second daughter.

The couple begat (I like that old Bible term) four children at six year intervals. Besides my mother, there were daughters Evelyn and Jordine (Jerry) and son Bill. My grandparents had no name for Mom for six months; she was simply 'the baby.' At one-half year of age, she was christened Sarah Nelda Chesshir. She was always called Nelda but later in life confessed she would have preferred Sarah. She followed her sister Evelyn to Harding College where she met a young man from Michigan, several years her junior. A romance began, leading her to the altar with Roger Hawley on Christmas Day, 1949. (My folks never kissed until engaged which my students believe is some sort of urban legend.) Mom taught elementary school in Arkansas and Nebraska before and after having three babies- Dave, myself, and Scott. Wanting a daughter to complete the family, my folks tried to adopt but the Lord had other plans. Foster sisters Cecelya and Sandy came to live with us when I was eight and became part of the Hawley clan. Seven of us lived in a tiny house with three bedrooms, one bathroom, no shower, and two teenage girls. Besides managing a hectic household, Mom found time to be a Cub Scout Den Mother and sponsor for a women's social club at York College. She loved every child who found their way into our home and there were many. Mom's and Dad's lives were redirected on a number of occasions. My father's preaching/counseling took them from Morrilton, Arkansas to Brooklyn to York, Nebraska to Thousand Oaks, California. After California, they moved back to Nebraska, then to Lubbock, Texas and finally to St. Louis. At each stop, Mom touched lives and in the process, became a surrogate mother for many who lacked what I took for granted. Over the years, my parents became involved in Marriage Encounter and Marriage Enrichment. Mom became a noted speaker for womens' groups in churches and colleges. She was naturally shy and had to step out of her comfort zone to stand in front of strangers but it's remarkable what we can do if we believe the Lord is leading us to mentor others. That, in a nutshell, is my mother.

But no biography, no matter how brief, can simply be facts and statistics. The telling of a life story comes from the daily events that together connect the dots to form an outline of who we are. My memories of my mother had to with unconditional love. Unconditional did not mean there were no consequences to undesirable behaviors. It hurt her when we misbehaved and fought which meant she was hurting quite a bit of the time. I don't recall Mom spanking me-that was left to Dad- but I remember getting my legs switched for various offenses. She was so disappointed in me when I broke the chandelier in the living room playing one-on-one with Dave. The protection of her children was paramount. When Scott was very young, he drank Energine, a high powered solvent cleaner. We had one car and Dad had it but somehow she got Scott to the hospital. When the first doctor she found did not take it as seriously as she thought warranted, Mom snatched her son away and ran to find another physician who immediately had Scott's stomach pumped. Mom standing up to a doctor seems so out of character but she may have saved my brother's life. A dozen years ago, I underwent hernia surgery. Like most tough guys, I told her I could make it just fine without her assistance. She would not hear out of it. Driving through a blinding rainstorm for most of the 400 mile journey, Mom did as she did when I was little and nursed me back to health. I remember Mom making my pregame meals when I played high school basketball, sitting with me while I ate. She knew nothing about sports and was not particularly concerned if we won or lost as long as we enjoyed ourselves. The fact that Dave, Scott, and I felt no pressure to perform or succeed athletically may have led the three of us to careers in high school coaching. We retained the enjoyment because we played for ourselves and not as as result of any parental obligation. I remember Mom being a terrific cook (BEST apple pie ever) and making her own clothes and some of ours. She always made a big deal of birthdays and holidays- traditions were big to Mom. We made yearly trips to her ancestral homeland of Arkansas. As a child, there seemed to me to be an endless parade of third cousins, great aunts and uncles, and down the road childhood neighbors but she cherished each and every one, acknowledging their role in making her who she was. And who was she and is she? Simply a remarkably Godlike woman who never became famous but I have no doubt has had more influence for good in the world than those celebrities she shares this date with. Speaking for all your children, your husband, siblings, cousins, grandkids, nieces and nephews, and the thousands of others who love you for who you are and what you stand for, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

Applicable quote of the day:
"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."

Tenneva Jordan

Applicable quote of the day # 2:
"When love is gone, there's always justice. And when justice is gone, there's always force. And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi, Mom!"

Laurie Anderson

God bless,
Steve (#2 son)
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at


Jon said...

hope your mom has a great birthday.

CoachSutton said...

Today is Kylie's birthday as well. Although she is not as famous as those listed now, she will be one day. I pray that she becomes a strong, compassionate wife and mother just like your mom!

Devin Turner said...

Tell your mommy that i said happy birthday I hope its great!!!

Okay it is so on with this Jon kid!! ^_^