Posted by Dr. Judy at 3:03 am
In case you missed last week’s blog, Part I, you might want to take a gander at it now or after you read today’s blog. Heaven forbid you miss a juicy tidbit!
But let’s go back to where it all started…
Louise Marie Redden’s story began in 1918 when she was born in a little cottage her father had built near Girdletree, Maryland. When her family moved to DE, she grew up in a farm house, formerly a Quaker church. She scouted for and found Indian heads at a grave site in the back field. She loved the outdoors and going huckleberrin’, reading, and coloring.
Taught by her mother, she attended the one-room Raughley Country School until high school. She wasn’t happy about not getting the grades she deserved when report card day arrived. One day, she summoned up the courage to ask her mother why. Her Mom, Essie Maude, retorted, “Others will say I favored you.” So Mom got the short end of the stick. Her mom was strict, so thinking back on it, it was a brave mom who challenged. Good for her! Scared to death to go high school in town, courage in tow, Mom and her best country friend, Violet Goodwill, traveled several miles to town and graduated from Harrington School in 1936. Finally she got the grades she deserved.
Though she had wanted to be a teacher like her mother, the Depression squashed her dream. Mom was grateful her parents were farmers. They always had enough to eat. She remembers money being very tight and picking strawberries for a penny a quart. That’s how she bought her first grown-up winter coat.
Luckily for Mom, strict, well-off spinster and business-savvy, Aunt Sally, who worked for the owner of Breyer’s ice cream, offered to lend Mom money to go to business school. Mom jumped at the opportunity. No, it wasn’t her life’s dream to go to college, but it was more education. Even though Aunt Sally refused to allow her to become a teacher, Mom still talks about attaining part of her dream.
Always reticent, she was petrified when she moved to Philadelphia. It was before the war, and Pierce Business School was frightening. She had to ride the “L” train to classes everyday. Quite an adventure. She had a terrible time learning to type, but she never gave up. She practiced till her hands hurt, but she became a speedy, accurate typist. She graduated, made life-long friends, and kept in touch until they passed on. Mom was tenacity with a kindness chaser. And she did eventually go to college at night after work, when we were in school. I was so proud. Mom had homework, too!
Mom’s goal after business school was to make $100 a week. She worked at the Corn Exchange Bank until 1942 when she moved back to Harrington, DE. She worked for Mr J.C. Messner, Superintendent of Harrington Special Schools. Her career as Senior Secretary, which she loved, lasted 33 years, 7 months, and 4 days, as she still recites. Mom was also a Notary Public, had a private typing service, and she helped Daddy with the newspaper. Many a night I fell asleep on top of the huge printing press. Mom was a real team player.
Never one to sit around, in the summers before she was married, Mom worked as a waitress in Rehoboth Beach, as did Violet Goodwill, her close friend, who grew up on the farm next to hers. During WWII, she was also a switchboard operator at the famous beach front Henlopen Hotel. She finally came out of her shell and dated a handsome soldier, a musician in the Army Band. But fate intervened when her boyfriend was transferred.
Back in Harrington one day in 1947, she decided to go to Burton’s Sports Shop for a coke. As Mom put it, “All of a sudden, this short, cute guy, Winston Churchill Burgess, suavely sauntered up to me. With a mischievous grin, he jauntily asked her a question, “Where have you been all my life?” Maybe it was the gleam in his eyes, but not long after that, they eloped! She fondly remembers an emergency trip they took to Florida that led to an unexpected short trip to Havana, Cuba. She jokes that it was so memorable that she never took another vacation with dad again!
Kitty was born first in 1948, and then a year later, me. Mom would tell you her daughters, Kitty, a retired RN, and I, a clinical psychologist and professional coach, were her greatest accomplishments. Her daughters would say that having her for a mother was their lives’ blessing. Mom worked tirelessly along side Winnie who was owner, publisher and editor of the Harrington Journal. She was always proud of his ability to work night and day to assure the paper would get out. She also loved doing bookkeeping at the Harrington Senior Center until her deafness precluded it.
While flowers were her passion at home, Mom’s greatest adventures were traveling. She has a gigantic world map with more stickpins that you can count. Her first trip in 1970 to visit European capitals sparked her travel lust. I was a senior at Roanoke College, and Mom was the chaperone. What made this impossible dream become a reality? We were blessed to receive scholarships. It was an unforgettable month. Mom’s National Geographic Magazine photo dreams took wing. And it opened her eyes to the world of possibilities.
Later came African safaris, climbing the Great Wall of China, holding a tiger in Malaysia, riding an elephant in India, and seeing the crown jewels in England and Russia. Mom loved the stunning azure blue ocean and beaches of French Polynesia. Seeing where I and Ken were married by a Tahitian priest in Moorea was also a thrill. She had to jump a barbed wire fence and trespass, but she chortled it was worth the risk! Hawaii, Nepal, Singapore, Indonesia, Borneo, Japan, Vietnam, Israel, Scandinavia, South America, and traveling down the Amazon River brought more incredible memories. So did her cruise to Australia and New Zealand.
Some other exciting travel adventures were commandeering a Chinese farmer’s wagon when she and I got stranded on a mountain and almost getting robbed in Bali. In Madagascar, the black and white lemur monkey falling down on her head and chewing on her ear, that’s a story she would like to delete! Floating down the Nile and parasailing over Bora Bora at age 82, were unforgettable, too. Visiting exchange student Anita Sapunar Ponce in Bolivia and climbing Macchu Picchu in Peru added treasured memories. Her last trip? At age 88, walker in hand, vertigo her only companion, she traveled to stay with us in Puerto Vallarta. Amazing!
Though she would never toot her own horn, Louise was and still is a radio star in Manitowoc, WI, where she appeared on my radio shows. Even the year she became deaf, the radio Christmas show went on, as staff wrote out the questions, and she answered! Can you imagine? She couldn’t hear one word. The year before her deafness, she also appeared on my Chicago nationally syndicated radio show. To this day, I can go nowhere in Manitowoc without people asking, “How is Grammy Louise?” Mom has that kindness, that feel, and she always warms hearts.
Mom is an even bigger star to my 3 kids and 4 grand kids. Memories of Mom’s visits are some of their most treasured; especially Christmas and putting jigsaw puzzles together. They would exclaim, “Grammy Louise made her famous fruit salad!” and “Grammy sure does love your cheesecake!” Happy Mom, always cheerful and game.
If you asked Mom what she enjoyed and treasured her whole life, she would tell you lickety-split, “Flowers!” Want to guess what I put on her tombstone? “Flowers were her passion.” And for Daddy, “Publisher, Harrington Journal.” I surprised Mom with the polished dark green granite tombstone as a gift for her birthday a few years ago. My best friend in DE, Cheryl Nash, took pictures of Mom and I dancing around it. Mom said it was her best gift ever. Those photos are some of our favorites. What a great juxtaposition, joy at a cemetery. Now you know why you see this photo here!
“Family, home, and job” Mom says, made her life happy, along with life’s simple pleasures like going to the beach or eating fried chicken, Grotto’s pizza, and happily schlurping mocha frappes. Still steadfastly independent in her wheelchair, Mom tells me all the time, “I don’t know what I ever did to get so lucky!”
More words of wisdom from Mom:
~ “Have the courage to accept your fate and make the most of what you can accomplish. Don’t look back.”
~ “Be grateful for what you have. Never compare yourself to another. You don’t have to look far to see someone who has it worse off than you.”
~ “Don’t ever sweat the small stuff. Just let it all go! Move forward.”
She also admonished me about writing this article, “Don’t make it mushy. I am just a farm girl at heart and don’t regret any of my years.” Yep, that’s my mom, humility, spunk, tenacity, and courage. I salute her. As she told my son after her cochlear implant surgery, “Sean, this horse is old, but it’s still kickin’ high!”
Do you want more travel adventures, too?
You can also take a peek at the book I lovingly dedicated to my mom,
Photo Adventures in Cuba ~ Unlock Your Power of Positivity!
Now a best-seller on Amazon ~ Kindle
I’d love to hear from you!
Just send me your questions, and I will answer in a future blog.
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