Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ruth Baird Shaw

We will celebrate my mother's birthday ten days early on February 9th -- this coming Saturday -- with a party at Trinity Methodist Church here in Rome. 2-4 p.m. Y'all come. 

(Edited February 10, 2013: We had a great day celebrating our mother yesterday. Each of the seven siblings took part in the program. Our brother-in-law Chuck Roszel added some heartfelt extemporaneous remarks at the end as well. I sang two songs, "The Love of God" during my remarks, and "Amazing Grace" with the congregation joining in, at the end.  Here are (approximately), my remarks.

My Mother is an amazing woman. 

I’ve always known that.

Ruth Shaw is a very active woman -- creative, determined, dedicated, caring, independent, and sharp as a tack -- who will turn ninety-years-young on February 19. 

And I remember her thirtieth birthday, when I would have been almost six. I thought that sounded sort of old then. 

I remember walking hand in hand with her at about that time down Main Street of little Mackville KY from the Methodist parsonage to the elementary school for my first day of first grade. I remember the comfort of that hand.

And I remember the utter shame of having to walk the long blocks from Fourth Ward Elementary in Griffin GA toward our little parsonage on South Ninth Street carrying a note from Mrs. Giles about my third grade misbehavior. I would have to present that evidence of my black heart to my wonderful mother. I no longer remember the particular sin, but I do remember that I did not want to disappoint Ruth Shaw. 

My mother read to us. I can see the Bible story book in my mind’s eye. One of these days I want to find that book and buy one to have at my house. I loved those stories. Even more I loved the one who read them to us.

I remember Mother walking me and Carol and Debbie down College Street to Griffin’s Hawkes Public Library to load up on Hardy Boy books, and Jim Kjelgaard, and boyhood biographies of Lee and Washington, and such, AND stopping by the bakery nearby for gingerbread men on the way home.

I remember the pride and awe of hearing her singing beautiful harmony with my Daddy --  “The Love of God” --  at a Sunday night service at Midway Methodist. So in honor of that but without the harmony -- unless some of you want to provide it and feel free! -- I’d like to sing that old song.

  1. The love of God is greater far
  1. Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
  1. It goes beyond the highest star,
  1. And reaches to the lowest hell;
  1. The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
  1. God gave His Son to win;
  1. His erring child He reconciled,
  1. And pardoned from his sin.
  • Refrain:
  • Oh, love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!

  • It shall forevermore endure—The saints’ and angels’ song.
  1. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
  1. And were the skies of parchment made,
  1. Were every stalk on earth a quill,
  1. And every man a scribe by trade;
  1. To write the love of God above
  1. Would drain the ocean dry;
  1. Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
  1. Though stretched from sky to sky.

We thought we’d arrived in heaven -- at least I did -- in 1958 when we moved from the modest little parsonage in Griffin to the brick mansion-in-my-eyes at Ellijay. On the day we moved Daddy pulled the car onto the shoulder along Highway 5 as we neared Ellijay to soak in an amazing sight. The white clouds in an azure sky had nestled onto and around the mountains, allowing those magnificent  summits to peek out above them. 

I have many good memories from Ellijay, but a terrifying one occured about 1960. David a toddler decided to spread the ends of a bobby pin and poke them into an electrical outlet. Luckily the circuit he completed was broken when the pin burned in two and dropped to the wooden floor where it burned a permanent record of the event. Mother handed the convulsing David to me to hold while she drove us down Dalton Street toward the doctor’s office. Her calm calmed us then and often since, even when she was the one suffering and we should have been the ones soothing.

Like every Southern family at the time, our extended family members were not unanimously accepting of the tumult of the day. I remember with pride my bashful Mother defending Martin Luther King in some family discussions -- well before it was the popular thing to do.

I could go on and on. 

I love my mother not just for herself, but for those who loved her enough to guide her toward the person she has become. Those include my grandmother Ieula Ann Dick Baird, who as a widow raised her eleventh child to revere the father, Wilson Baird, she lost when she was only nine, to love the God who had guided him, and to love Ieula’s own grandfather, Bogan Mask, who had shown kindness to mistreated slaves and bravely stood for his beliefs as a licensed Methodist exhorter and took in Ieula, her siblings and her widowed, pregnant mother when Charles Ervin Dick died at 35. 

I love her for the the quiet bravery, dedication to duty, and love of God exhibited by her brothers and sisters, and the love of a young husband and his band of precocious, mischievous brothers, gregarious Daddy Shaw, and determined Mama Shaw.

I love her for my inspiring siblings, whom she reined in when needed, but to whom she gave the reins when they were ready.

And of course there are the “lemon fluff” frozen desserts she made in ice trays, snow-cream during our Kentucky days, the cinnamon yeast rolls on Christmas mornings, and the traditional little bottles of Welch’s Grape Juice in our stockings, banana pudding on other special occasions, the cornbread dressing with the big Butterball turkey at Thanksgiving, date-nut cakes on my birthdays... my mouth is watering.

Which brings us to some verse I wrote for Mama many years ago now. 

Dandelions in a Milk Carton

Thank you, Mama, 
For nursing me and diapering me,
for a dry set of sheets when I wet another,
for the Bible story book and Uncle Remus,
for all five sisters and my little brother,
And all the good eating stuff
Like biscuits from wooden bowls
and datenut cakes and lemon fluff,
and Russian tea and yeast rolls 
For Jesus-loves-the-little-children and Deep-and-Wide,
For walking to school that first day by my side
And for your loving smile when I came in a run
with dandelions in a milk carton for all you’ve done.

I remember with pride how as a widow in her early sixties my mother followed her heart, her calling, and her conscience, despite her bashful nature, to take over my father’s ministry, complete seminary, become an outstanding preacher, and successfully minister to several churches and many hurting people in the years since. Many times this was while she heroically faced one of the most debilitating and painful diseases known to mankind (Trigeminal neuralgia) and its resulting brain surgeries and medications -- and later facial surgery and cancer.

Everyone has always assumed Mother to be younger than her actual age as long as I can remember, and she still seems much younger than what the calendar indicates. I have always believed my Mama the prettiest, smartest, and kindest one around -- and, of course, also the best cook. Still do.

Happy birthday, Mama

1 comment:

  1. I don't know why it has taken me almost two years to find this post. The tribute is beautiful and well-deserved; the poem is cute!