Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day, 1973

My first Mother's Day wherein I celebrated my own motherhood took place 39 years ago.  Emily turns 40 this year....oh, my.....

We were in church. A tiny little Methodist Church in southern New Jersey.  Rob was stationed in the Navy across the Delaware River in Philadelphia, and we chose to live off base in a tiny little town called Lindenwold. One mile down the pike was a beautiful, idyllic, Brigadoon-ish type church, called "Gibbsboro Methodist." We joined it our first Sunday after we arrived in NJ, newly married, full of hope and anticipation of our joined lives.

Right away they gave us some cast-off furniture which had been buried in the attic of the parsonage.....We had nothing except a bedstead and a dining room table. They saw our need, and with the help of some strong men of the church, they filled our tiny apartment with their old, unused, antiques. We are still using them today, 41 years later.

The congregation quickly enveloped this newlywed couple into their fold, assigning us jobs and bringing out our inner gifts to serve the Lord. They smiled indulgently at my thick Southern accent, were duly impressed at Rob's job as Lead Trumpet in the Admiral's Band, and treated us like family.  Family that we had left behind thousands of miles away.....We were no longer alone in the big sea of the metropolitan throng.....We were now intimate and close knit with our Church Home.

Oh, yes.....Mother's Day, 1973. Emily Ellen was 6 months old. We were in church.  Rob was the choir director, and sat up front in the loft. I was in the congregation, Emily close by my side (because I was young, and very unsure about leaving this baby with anyone else in the whole she played quietly beside me during the service).

Emily began enjoying the service a bit too much (never, Ever a fussy baby, just very happy and very vocal---SOMEthings never change.....), so I inched down the aisle with her to the back of the sanctuary.

Gibbsboro United Methodist Church was housed in a very old, beautiful building, built sometime in the early 1900's.  Their stained glass windows on either side of the pews displayed Bible stories and also the names of the folks who had long ago paid for their beauty.  The bottom portion of the windows actually swung down, on a chain, to allow the fresh air to circulate. No air conditioner. Southern New Jersey weather, at least back then, was balmy, even in the summertime.

Towards the back of the sanctuary, right before the vestibule, were some stairs, probably 20 of them, leading down to the basement and our Adult Sunday School classroom.

I took baby Emily down those stairs, put her on a blanket on the carpet, tossed some toys around, then climbed back up to the top of the stairs where I could continue to view the service and hear the music....and also watch my baby one flight down......

I stood singing beside the 6 ft+ tall usher, Russ Burk, my eyes ever assessing the child downstairs, agreeing with Russ (her surrogate, New Jersey grandfather) that she was, indeed, the Most beautiful baby in the Whole World.

As the Worship Committee acknowledged the "oldest" mother, the "youngest" mother (that would be me), the mother who had the most children, the mother with the oldest child, etc, I stood in the back, vigilantly watching my baby girl downstairs, while trying to pay attention to the activities in the front of the church as well.  Emily was happily playing on her tummy, and then it happened......

The little bitty human looked up at me, grinned in recognition, slipped her leg under her tummy......and sat up for the Very First Time!  Smiling triumphantly at her achievement, she collapsed to her prone position again, then succeeded again in sitting upright.

I wanted to scream and yell and tell the Whole World of my baby's accomplishment, but Worship was going on, and it was a time of quiet and introspection.  I looked over at my friend Russ, who had also observed our Emily's incredible attainment.  I mutely looked up at him, my eyes full of tears.  He looked down at me and softly said, "Happy Mother's Day."

It is a moment I shall always remember.

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