Bernadette Farnam of Hutchinson (left) and her mom, Helen (right). Contributed photos
My mother was a kind woman with big dreams. She loved to sing light opera and longed to record songs for children. What I know of her early years was like that of a person reading a novel. She often told me stories of her life: competing in swimming with her four older brothers and her days before marriage of singing in concert halls and competing in ballroom dancing competitions.
I was the unexpected little blessing that came later in life for her. She was 42 when I was born. There were six children before me, some had already left the nest, but most were still under mama’s wing.
My earliest memory of mother was hearing her voice on the radio. She was a pioneer of her day, being the only woman broadcaster in our area. She was known as “Your Girl Helen!” on the air.
I can still remember at the age of 3 or 4, sitting at the table with crayons and paper, watching her talk into the big black and silver microphone. The wall of huge reel-to-reel tapes turning round and round behind her. There was a thick glass that separated the “ON AIR” room from my little table, just on the other side. She looked like a movie star. Her shiny, golden hair waved just so—with bright blue eyes that lit up as she read the words off the long rows of paper from the ticker machine. Her golden necklace had shown so brightly against the backdrop of her soft black sweater. My mother… was my world.
Along about the same age, she played the rich young man’s mother in the play, My Fair Lady, at my oldest brother’s high school. I can still remember sitting in the front row, pointing to my mama standing up there on the stage, head held high, with the long eyeglass wand in her hand. Her hair was sprayed silver for the role, and she wore an elegant gown and soft white gloves.
I was so proud of her! My little heart just couldn’t handle all the excitement. Before I knew it, out of my mouth burst the words, “THAT’S MY MAMA!” The laughter that filled the room gave me such joy to know that everybody there loved my mama, too!
She was the kind of person who looked for good in others. Her favorite saying was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And then, there was the famous “Golden Ball,” that she told me would bounce back to me in whatever way I would bounce it to someone else. I know it now as the Golden Rule. She had a way of helping me understand it through the eyes of a child.
Her value of life was evident in the way she treated people. Compassion would be the word I would use to describe my mother—with a sprinkle of laughter added in, for good measure.
When times were tough for us, I heard the stories of how, in her childhood, the Great Depression was on, and how her family kept food on the table from the A&W rootbeer stand they owned. Mother was thankful for what she had, and quick to give something away if someone else had need of it.
I learned a lot about how to care for the feelings of others from watching my mother.
When I was grown and had children of my own, mother’s role in my life changed to that of me caring for her.
She came to live with us when she was 73. At first, it was a joy to have mother in our home with my four little ones all clamoring for her attention. But, soon we learned that “gramma” needed her own space. We found a lovely home with other friends her own age to share her sunny days and talk around the dinner table. They called it a board and lodge. Mother called it her new family. She loved living there. The lady, Ethel, whose home it was, treated each of them as if they were at home in her home, and so they were.
At the approach of Mother’s Day, along came the idea for me to gather resources from my older siblings, for the purchase of what mother had always dreamed of, and once shared with me, and that was for her to have her very own mother’s ring. And so it was my duty and pleasure to find the finest mother’s ring in all the land. We all chipped in from lands far and wide, but it was my great honor to present this gift to our dear mother.
As I watched her unwrap the soft tissue paper surrounding her delicate treasure, my heart went back to my childhood, when I saw her up on that stage; my heroine, my teacher, my mother.
Her eyes glistened with the tenderness that only true love can bring. As a child, I can remember the stories she told me of how her father would present her mother with jewelry for special occasions.
This ring was custom made just for her, with seven stones representing each of her babies, now all grown up with families of their own. Oh, how she marveled over its beauty.
Mother has been gone for 21 years now, having gone home to be with the Lord at the tender age of 78.
Though the treasures of heaven are far more beautiful, I’m sure, than those we have down here on earth, I know in my heart that my precious mama still remembers the love that we, her seven children gave her on that special day in the gift of her mama’s ring.