“Remembering Mother,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, 52–53
“I remember when Mom …” the story begins. A child’s face lights up, even if he’s now a grandparent himself. Only the details differ, for everyone’s memories reflect almost universal feelings for those somehow tender dynamos, mothers.
To each child, his mom is number one. The story of his childhood is the story of a mother who taught him faith, who was there when he needed her, who prepared him to eventually be independent. That’s what every mother teaches: how to live in a way that matters. And that’s what these children know.
“I remember my mother giving birth to my little sister as her eldest son lay close to death in another part of the hospital,” recalls Sherri Zirker, whose mother, Sister Lora Magnusson, was Mother of the Year in the state of Washington. “I was only six years old, but I joined the family and friends who knelt time and again in our home praying for the recovery of my brother and the return of my mother.
“I experienced a feeling of great faith at the time as I watched our prayers being answered. It was Christmas, and the reality of Christ and the power of the priesthood supported by a little girl’s fasting and prayer took precedence over the tinsel and glitter that year.”
She remembers her mother telling stories “either from the standard works or from her pioneer heritage … stories of her polygamous grandparents fleeing to Chihuahua, Mexico, to escape the choice of giving up part of the family; of the subsequent settling of Arizona after being forced to leave during the Mexican Revolution.
“As she told her stories from the standard works, one of her favorite comments would be, ‘I’ll try to tell it like it happened, but whenever you get the chance, read it yourself right from the book. It’s twice as exciting.’ She would tell the stories in such a way that I could almost see them in front of my eyes.”
American Mother of the Year, Sister Phyllis Brown Marriott, is remembered by her son, Russell Marriott, Jr., for “her own Law of Moses. It was her philosophy for success and it included a devout respect for integrity and honesty, to the point of accepting failure rather than compromise.” His wife, Margo, enjoys her mother-in-law’s efforts second hand. She recalls when her husband told of Sister Marriott finding a bird with a broken wing. “Russell kept the bird until it died and told about burying it solemnly and putting flowers on its grave. No one but a tender mother could have instilled in that young boy such a devotion and love for one of God’s little creatures.”
Another son, Douglas, says, “Most importantly, she taught me to pray early in life. Thus I know there is a God in heaven. This faith has given me ability to have faith in myself and in others.”
J. Boyer Jarvis pays tribute to his mother, Sister Mildred B. Jarvis, Arizona’s Mother of the Year. “My mother and father gave me a second chance to live when, through their love, faith, determination, and sacrifice, they helped me survive a long and desperate illness during my thirteenth year on earth. Thereafter, they supported me with endless patience and kindness as I struggled to regain my health and adjust to the limitations imposed by a crippled leg.”
Her daughter Susann remembers, “If some unkempt man came to the door asking for food, my mother would have him do some needed chores in the yard and then would feed him a hearty meal. Frequently my mom would have me accompany her while she distributed some fresh homemade bread to the neighbors or elderly people, or take some dear elderly woman for a ride, ‘just to get out,’ because otherwise she wouldn’t have the chance. …”
Todd Britsch, son of Utah’s Mother of the Year, Sister Florence Todd Britsch, recalls that “Mom was effective (sneaky, we called it) in getting us to do our work. After drawing attention to the length of the grass for some time, she would go out and start pushing the lawn mower herself, mow a couple of strips, then quit. Somehow a partly mowed lawn looked bad enough, even to teenagers, that we would finally be motivated to finish the job.”
While Sister Britsch’s husband was studying for an advanced degree, she tended her large family in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment in campus housing. She read to them in the evenings so her husband could study in a quiet house. Daughter Merlene Roberts says, “I’ve read Black Beauty and The Wind in the Willows since, but they haven’t had near the meaning or enchantment they had in our family reading time.”
Younger mothers are appreciated, too. Each month Sister Claudia Porter Black, Utah’s Young Mother of the Year for 1974, paints the windows of her home, with her children’s help, in decorations appropriate to the season. When they moved from California recently, Sister Black received a letter from a woman she had never met who had been driving her own children past the Black’s home each month to show them the windows. She says, “You never know when others are watching your example.”
Sister Darla D. Anderson, Ohio’s Young Mother of the Year, is also devoted to good motherhood, a career she ennobles. Her desire to be a mother has brought both heartbreak and joy to her and her husband, Ray. Three of their four children lived only a few hours after birth. Her daughter, Rachel, is now a year old, and they have adopted Katie and Kelly.
Through it all, she has been a devoted Church worker and wife. Her husband recalls an example of how she has encouraged him to honor his priesthood. “It started with the premature birth of our first child, who lived only about 24 hours. Darla wanted me to bless this child and give it a name. Since then I’ve gone to the ‘premie’ nursery three other times to bless and name our children.
“Her quiet acceptance of the deaths of our three children, along with her faith that these children are not lost forever, has given us both the courage to adopt two others and plan for an even larger family both here and in the hereafter.”—Susan H. Aylworth, mother of two sons and a freelance writer, lives with her husband in Bridgeport, Connecticut.