May 14, 2017 – Washington Co., WI – A nice family photo for Mothers’ Day 2017. This is one of those photos from the church directory. My parents belonged to Holy Family Parish in Whitefish Bay.
My mother recalled walking into the school cafeteria and the photographer said, “Looks like someone raided the kindergarten.”
I searched for a poem, a saying or a verse to write as a tribute to Mothers’ Day and I just kept coming back to the story of Lucy Nigh from December 2013. It’s an impressive story of motherhood.
Remembering Lucy Nigh
A Memorial Mass was held last Saturday for Lucy Nigh of Kewaskum. She died with her large family surrounding her. Nigh and husband Nathan had 16 kids and during the eulogy her son Perry painted an impressive picture of how a young 22 year old went about raising her family. Below are a couple notable excerpts.
-Let me tell you about our mother. She was a great cook. Not only would she prepare a fabulous meal for all of us every day, she made those meals from scratch. Now when I say from scratch, I mean that the three huge chickens that were required for our Sunday-evening supper were still scratching in the yard Sunday morning. They had to be butchered and plucked and prepared before she could even start cooking. Or when she made beef stroganoff, the noodles were homemade. She would roll the dough out thin on the kitchen table, let it dry over the back of a chair and cut it into strips.
-Then there was laundry, every day. Try to imagine, on a farm, all those dirty clothes. And diapers – this was before Pampers – for years there were two or three babies at a time in diapers. And then the clothes were taken outside to be hung out to dry before being brought back in to be ironed. A lot of the clothes were so dirty they could only be cleaned by using the soap she herself made using eagle lye and home-rendered lard, which of course she rendered. And then in her free time she would make new dresses or curtains or patchwork quilts, or mend our clothes on her old Singer sewing machine or knit or crochet. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
-She was our chauffer, driving to town to take us to school and pick us up. I’m not sure how we all fit into the old station wagon, since in addition to all of us and the kids she was picking up; she also had to take our siblings who were too small to go to school.
-She was a bookkeeper. She was in charge of keeping the financial records for the farm and for Barton Dairy. At the end of every month she sat down with our Dad and together they did all the billing for the milk route with the old hand-crank adding machine.
-In spite of having a veritable army of helpers, she still probably ended up doing the bulk of the work herself. Keep in mind that while she was doing all of this, she was pregnant a lot. There was about a 20-year period when she was pregnant for a combined total of some 12 years. And she did all of this while mothering all of us.
-Our Mother did all these things with style and grace. This was back in the day when people dressed up to go to church, or even just to go to town to shop. I remember having her come to school for something and being so proud because she was so pretty and dressed so well. She even smelled nice. But she wasn’t flashy, she was just so classy.
-When my Dad became sick he was being admitted to the hospital and doctors were asking him routine questions and they asked if he had any valuables with him. Without missing a beat he took Mother’s arm and said, “Just this one.” Lucy Nigh was 88.
Post your favorite mom photo or memory.
By the way – in the above photo, 10 years after the youngest was born…. they had one more. Joan Steffes was 45 and Al was 55. She cried. He cheered.