It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got That Counts

Sometimes I get a little behind reading my favorite blogs. I was doing a little catch-up yesterday when I discovered this poem on Sandra’s “Add Humor to Faith…mix well”.

Sandra’s mother had written a book of her own memories and at the back of it had recorded songs and poems she’d learned as a girl. This one her father had taught her and it’s a very clever play on words.

One comment on the post mentioned that children don’t seem to commit things to memory as they did in past days. My own public schooling began in 1960 and we seemed to be at the tail-end of that method of learning. We were assigned to memorize the first bit of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg address. To my discredit, I don’t think I ever completely memorized any of these except the Preamble.

In this science fiction age of instant internet information (not all of which is accurate), some think that memorization is passe. I disagree.

My mother has been a good example to me all my life,- in the importance of memorization, as well as many other things. Even at 95, legally blind and suffering from Alzheimer’s, she’s still a good example.

She was always a great reader and I treasure that legacy from her. Sadly, her ability to comprehend started failing about the same time as her eyesight. Her memory has a lot of holes in it, but she has retained the songs and poems she learned as a child. The thieving Alzheimer’s may cloud her recognition of me at times, but she can still recite “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and praise God with hymns. It’s amazing and I rejoice at her memory which remains.

A pleasant childhood memory of mine, is hearing her singing hymns in her sweet soprano voice as she went about her housework. (She worked in a faded housedress and an apron because you took care of your better clothes and saved them for visiting or going to town. But the cotton work dresses and aprons were always clean and ironed.)

She was full of old sayings for every occasion. My sister recalls that they were sometimes contradictory. Mama would say “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” as well as “Out of sight, out of mind.”

The one that Mama always lived by was “It’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts.” Make the best of the situation. (I doubt she ever heard the phrase “if life gives you lemons – make lemonade” but it surely fit) Even if you don’t have what you need to do the optimum, do something; do what you can.

That attitude kept her going when her home in Kentucky was under water (up to the roof) for 2 weeks in 1937. She and her parents lost almost everything due to the severe flooding and they became homeless. She had recently married and her husband had gone to Indiana to find work. Shortly after the flood, he wrote her that he didn’t want to be married anymore. She brushed off the river mud and moved to Texas, which required a one year’s residency before filing for divorce.

She stayed with relatives until she found a job at a Mexican restaurant. A uniform was required, so she sewed her own and hand washed and ironed it every night in the room she rented. And even though the salary was only $1.00 a day + tips (and she always said that during the Depression you didn’t get many tips), her rent was $3.00 a week. After a year, she had bought new clothes, saved money and obtained her divorce and moved on to California. About 5 years later, she married my dad who had also been kicked around by life, but he had the same confidant, forward-looking attitude that she had.

So although Stella Sexton had lost all her worldly goods in the flood and was left homeless and rejected by her first husband, she didn’t spend any time feeling sorry for herself. She did what she could with what she had.

And that’s what my mother is still doing.

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3 Comments

Filed under 1930s, 1937, Aging, Alzheimer's, Faith, Family, Heros, Internet links, Kentucky, Making Do, Thrift, Using What You Have, Vicissitudes of Life

3 responses to “It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got That Counts

  1. What an admirable mother you have. And what a wonderful example she is of how to live your life with dignity, optimism and resourcefulness.

    When you described your mother’s house dresses it brought back fond memories for me and MY mother’s house dresses. I think our mother’s had alot in common and would have enjoyed knowing each other.

    Just like their daughters. 🙂

  2. Yes, Sandra, I think they would’ve. I feel enriched by our blogging friendship, and appreciate your insight and skillful writing.

    So many of the things you write about seem familiar to me, like naps and the sleep photos, although I don’t have nearly as many as you do.

  3. fran m

    Boy Carla you hit a nostalgic note with sis.
    That was great what you said about Moma and
    oh so true. Funny how in dif. parts of the country
    the housedress become a sundress etc.
    Growing up I didn’t realize all those things about
    Moma and how incredible she and Daddy were.
    I just thought that was the way people were supposed to be.
    sis

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