Encountering My Own “Once Upon A Time”

Birthdays are times of celebration–sometimes. Planned moments of thoughtfulness-on occasion.

But when you’re 90, a whole new ballgame is put in play2013-08-31 15_11 - p1

We celebrated my Mom’s 90th birthday this past weekend. The real date is September 8, but at 90, who’s going to quibble about a few days?

It was family time–my two sisters and brother, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandkids and a great-grandkid thrown in for good measure. We talked, laughed, ate till we thought we’d burst, then laughed some more.

And we looked at old family albums. Mom reminisced. We heard stories for the first–or twenty-first–time. And we all got a little better picture, a larger piece, of the story of Mom.

She was a woman before her time. A young girl during the Depression, she was the youngest of six, born to German parents who immigrated to the U.S. Her oldest brother died in infancy. Her father died when she was two–an inebriated doctor operated on him for appendicitis, and Grandpa didn’t make it. Her mother worked long days in the bakery the family owned in Chicago.

And through it all, Mom was determined to make something of herself. A bit of a wild child, she wasn’t afraid of trying new things. Didn’t hesitate to go where no woman had gone before. Mom had drive and imagination. Passion and hope.

I soaked up pictures of Mom as stories were told. Her stories. I could see the young girl playing behind the bakery as her mom and siblings worked. The teenager dating guys she identified as ambitious. The young woman wanting a career. And meeting and marrying my Dad.

photo-1I looked at the woman sitting before me. Tears running down her cheeks as she drank in the family sitting before her, celebrating her.  Full of gratitude.

I’ve not always gotten along with Mom. (There’s a surprise–a daughter not living in agreement with her mother. How do I not appreciate this? I’ve got five daughters. and a son, none of whom have always agreed with my perspective.) I’ve not always appreciated what her life has been like. What she has had to go through to become who she is. The price she’s paid for her choices, often for our sakes.

And I realized how story overlaps story. We’re all stories in progress, each day adding a new page, a new chapter. But no one begins reading in the middle of the book–you’d never get the storyline. To appreciate the value of the story, you have to start at the beginning.

We’re all co-authoring our stories with the Author of Life. God knows all our chapters, and they all have value to Him. The beauty of life is that our stories bump into and blend with so many others. Sometimes we lose sight of where the story starts. Or we forget about what happened in chapter 8. Or we’d really like to rip out chapter 13. But our stories are who we are.

You’ve written quite a thriller, Mom. I won’t say it’s been an easy read, but it has helped me appreciate who you are. And who I am as a result.

Happy Birthday, Gorgeous. Thanks for helping me appreciate the value and beauty of a bumpy ride.

3 responses to “Encountering My Own “Once Upon A Time””

  1. Thanks Dayle, for reminding me too, that this kind of servant leadership is indeed not my way all the time, but it is His and definitely the BETTER way! [Just returned from Ukraine and you gave clarity to what we experienced, as well]. And your Mom sounds GREAT! I hope I/we don’t hesitate to go where no one has gone before in our next 10 years – with drive/imagination/passion/hope – and God Himself leading the chapters that unfold!


  2. I love what you said about story overlapping story… so true my friend. I love to see you discovering the beauty of your story … even the chapters you’d like to “rip out.”


  3. I love the pics and the vulnerable sharing, Dayle! Thanks for sharing this intimate glimpse of your heritage. Makes me love you even more.


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