My mama turns ninety today, and I want to honor her for it. She is an amazing woman. And not just because she is my mother. Although, that would be enough. I mean, she had to raise me, for crying out loud.
Out of respect for her privacy, I can’t tell a lot of stories about her. But oh, how I would love to. One of the things that always impressed me about her is how fast she got through high school (just downright smart) and after working as a bookkeeper at Grandpa’s gas station (I think it was Standard Oil), Sears Roebuck & Company hired her. I don’t want to make stuff up, but according to my understanding, she was the first woman the company had brought in as a bookkeeper. This would have been around 1944. She was quite a looker. Hubba hubba!
Fast forward 17 years. When our dad got a job at Mercury, Nevada we moved from Santa Cruz, California to live in Las Vegas. Yeah, Mercury, Nevada. Think Area 52. So cool. I can’t talk about that, either. Rats!
Anyway…Mom was not one to stay home and keep house and raise children. She got fidgety and depressed, so Dad told her to do what she needed to do to cheer up. She decided to open a Christian bookstore—the first one ever in the State of Nevada.
I have to tell one story about that. She opened her first store on Fremont Street. If you know Las Vegas, you will also know that street is an enigma. Part of it is where some of the first hotels and casinos are situated. Other parts can be kinda sleazy. Methinks that is the part where she was. This is 1962.
One day, a robber walks in. Packing heat, I might add. “Gimme all your cash, lady!” Well, I don’t know if those were his exact words, but he did come in to take everything she had in the register. The business was just getting off the ground, so that didn’t amount to much. But still.
So, Mom, smart cookie that she is, knew it wouldn’t do any good to fight the guy. It wasn’t like she could’ve wrestled him to the ground and wrenched the gun from him. She had to comply. But she had a request. “Okay, but would you let me count what’s in the register before you take it so I can record it and balance the books?”
Imagine the scene. The guy cocking an eyebrow, maybe scratching his head with the barrel of his gun and thinking (in a Jimmy Cagney voice), what’s the deal with this dame? I want her cash and to smoke outta here. And she’s worried about her books? Why ain’t she worried about her life, for Pete’s sake?
What he said aloud was, “Fine. Count it and then hand it over.”
While she was doing this, he told her he wasn’t a thief by trade, that he was out of work and desperate to feed his family. She never told me this part, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she got into her pocketbook and gave him what she had there, too.
I could tell so many stories.
Like being honored as the first woman on the committee for the Billy Graham crusades in Las Vegas. I don’t want to give false information. I am not sure if that is in general, or in Nevada. But the honor still stands. She was a first in so many things, and I know she would be appalled if she got wind of the fact I am sharing this stuff.
One last thing about her work.
When we moved to Las Vegas, we helped establish what is now Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada. We started with seventeen, and now thousands attend. Today, it is a solid, Bible-teaching congregation.
When it was necessary to start keeping track of the funds, guess who was called upon? Yep. Mom held office as church treasurer and then financial secretary through many, many pastors. Her heyday was during Gene Appel’s ministry (now at Eastside Christian Church–amazing pastor), but she continued on staff through Jud Wilhite (present pastor and awesome guy) and then as a volunteer until Dad died and she relocated to Montana. I wish I had the picture to show you her in a hard hat while during their big building program.
Mom still lives with my sister in Montana. She continues to be independent (which can sometimes be a trial!). She drives, volunteers at the Lutheran library, does Seniorcize, and…last but not least….is the church treasurer. Oh, yeah, Mom’s part of the brain where numbers flow will be the last to go, if ever.
It does seem apropos that today is the day I read Proverbs 31, where we all know we can find the passage of the Woman of Noble Character. No, Mom didn’t knit for us, or sew much (although she did some), but she did make sure we had coats on our backs and did her best to instill in us what she thought were traits of good, Christian character. She was tough. And even kinda scary at times. But she did what she thought best.
She must be the most surprised of anyone she is turning ninety. And it must be kind of painful to have outlived her parents, her siblings, and her husband. She always told me that she thought Jesus would return before she died. I always kind of pooh-poohed that because I figured she didn’t want to die at all. But now, I am wondering…I mean, ninety years is a lot. And Jesus is going to come in the twinkling of the eye, when we least expect it, so….. who knows? Happy Ninetieth Birthday, Mama! You’re the best!