A Woman of Her Times, For All Time
Memoir By Bill Ingold
May 25, 2006
What can I say about Momma that you don’t already know? How do I sum up her life, capturing over seven decades of complex and varied experiences? How can I neatly define a woman who had so many varied and fascinating relationships with those around her?
As I fought with this problem over the last few nights, I seemed at a loss of how to find a common thread that defined the essence of Momma’s existence. Finally, I realized that there was no single characteristic that captured who Momma was. Instead, there exists a core of values that she lived by that most clearly defined who she was to all of us.
To me, Momma was a woman of the 1950’s and the 1960’s, the time in which she reached adulthood, married, and raised a family. I think that she reflected the values of those times and of her generation.
First of all, Momma believed in her religion. Born of Quaker lineage, she later became a charter member of this church. She was an every-week attendee, both of Sunday school and worship service. It never crossed her mind, or ours, that you could be anywhere else other than Church on Sunday morning.
But she was not just an “hour-a-week” Christian. She joined circles, committees, just about any group in which she felt she could serve others. In recent years, she became a part of this church’s prayer wheel, receiving a phone call every morning in which she learned of the needs of others that required special prayer. She was especially devoted to this opportunity to help others; the last entry in her prayer log was only a few days before she became too ill to interact with others.
Momma believed in devotion and loyalty. I mean, what else could explain her marriage to a guy like Daddy for over half a century? Her devotion to him was genuine, and a driving force in her life. Her biggest fear when she was sick was who was going to take care of Daddy? She simply had to get well to look after him! I think that her devotion to Daddy’s well-being was one reason that she was able to fight her cancer for so long.
Momma believed in celebrations. To her, celebrations were a chance to bring joy to others.
Family birthdays mandated a full meal, cake, and gifts. Everyone else in her world got cards every year. In fact, no holiday, anniversary, or other special event passed without her sending a card. And not just any card would do. She would spent forever selecting just the right card for each person.
Christmas was the biggest celebration of all for Momma. Decorations, including a wonderful 1960’s aluminum Christmas tree, were always special to her. She loved shopping for others, picking gifts that she felt others would enjoy.
In 1950, she and Aunt Edith started the tradition of gathering all of the extended Ingold family together for a meal on Christmas Eve. In over half a century, not one single Christmas has passed without this celebration. We intend to continue Momma’s tradition.
Of course, Christmas morning was always special for her. She took more delight in watching her children, and later her grandchildren, on Christmas morning than anything else.
Momma celebrated her children and grandchildren at other times, too. She was always the first one to get down in the floor, play silly games, read out loud, and generally act the same age as Joan or I, or later Will or Jennifer. Can you ever forget her laughter once you have heard it?
Momma valued and respected friendships. To her, friendship was a sacred relationship, not to be abused or taken lightly.
When I tried to get Momma & Daddy to move to a condo or townhouse over the last few years, I would always get stonewalled for one simple reason: she was absolutely not going to move away from her next door neighbors of 49 years, Jean & Jennings Helm. Being physically close to these dear friends meant more to her than moving into a more comfortable house.
If you were her friend, she was often your counselor, too. She kept your secrets, and gave you solid advice. In fact, as my daughter entered her early teen years, it was always her Grandmother with whom she would share her worries and fears. Momma kept those confidential, and Diane & I never worried because we knew Momma would always steer our children right.
Momma also made and kept many friends from Jamestown. Many of you are here today because Momma kept you in her life long after you first met. Not a mall in North Carolina was safe when the Jamestown ladies arrived! She really loved those times with each of you.
In addition, until very recently, she made it a point to meet with a group of women who were former Blue Bell or Burlington Industries employees for Wednesday lunch. To you ladies, I have a new assignment now that Momma is gone: be sure and add my sister to your circle. I think you will find that she will provide a strong reflection of Momma’s values.
Momma was dedicated to her family, always putting herself second. Her husband and children came first, period.
When we were young, she would cook three full breakfasts every weekday: one for Daddy when he left for work, then one for me before I left for school, and finally one for Joan when she got up. Only then would she slow down enough to eat.
I can remember watching Momma iron Daddy’s white cotton shirts. We couldn’t always afford to have them done at the laundry, so she would iron them by hand so he would look sharp. No matter that we didn’t have air conditioning in the house; she would work over a hot iron in the summer simply because she felt that it was one of her obligations to Daddy.
You saw in Momma’s obituary that she worked during her life. What is not written is the timing of her three decades of employment. Momma’s dedication to her family precluded any thought of working until we were old enough to go to school. Only then did she begin part-time work, working from 7 – 11 PM so Daddy could watch over us in the evenings. Fulltime work was out of the question until we reached our teens.
Momma believed in teaching and educating her children. Joan & I saw most of the historical sites on the Eastern coast when we took vacations in our childhood. Momma also read to us, a habit she got from her mother, and as a result reading is a big part of both of our lives today.
Momma stayed on top of our schooling, always urging us to do our best. She joined the PTA, and saw to it that we had all the support we needed in order to excel.
Of course, Momma also believed in discipline. She taught us to be polite, to always “act right.” Now, being normal children, however, we didn’t always obey. Then, the dreaded switch bush would come into play. Joan & I may have made Momma’s hair gray, but she could sure make our legs red!
So who was Momma? A complex woman with simple, bedrock values, developed and honed by her over 50 years ago, and passed along to everyone through her relationships with us, and by the model of her own life.
Momma was a woman:
- Who believed in God, and in practicing her religion on a daily basis;
- Who was devoted to serving the man she married;
- Who sought opportunities to celebrate with others;
- Who was dedicated to her family first, putting herself second;
- Who respected friendships and valued social interaction; and
- Who felt her children needed both discipline and education.
Now, some modern thinkers might deride the generation of women that Momma was a part of. They claim that the role women played in the 1950’s and 60’s was unimportant and marginalized, and that Momma and her beliefs would not fit the definition of a “modern” woman, wife, mother or friend.
But the things Momma believed in seem to me to be not outdated values, but instead timeless ones. Indeed, I submit to you that if more people demonstrated the values that Momma lived by, principles that are tough to live by in any generation, the state of the family and the community at large would be far stronger today. By any definition, Momma’s life’s principles have had a positive impact on everyone in this room.
So, when you ask how you should remember Momma, a woman who was so complex and led such a full, long life, maybe the answer is easier to find than it might first appear. Just remember how her values touched you through your relationship with her.
Because, in the simplest of terms, Momma was indeed a women of her times, for all time.