East Texas Moms Blog is taking some time in 2018 to shine the spotlight on some moms in our East Texas community. We hope these stories continue to shine a light so bright, that it brings us together and let’s us know we are not alone in this journey! This month is a unique look at two women who made an impact by simply being present.
Growing up I lived a couple of houses down from the most fabulous retired neighbor lady, Mrs. Judy. She had been a career woman, was married to an eclectic fella who had a penchant for fruit trees and was well-traveled (at least in the eyes of this kid who’d barely left the county). My sister and I grew up biking to her house during the summer to play with her nieces. She let us run amok in her formal dining room and on any given summer day you could find us set-up running a bank, school or pediatric clinic – complete with sticky notes, pens, markers and all the transparent tape you could handle.
My dad worked out of town and my mom worked in a busy medical practice so, Mrs. Judy was the alternate adult on our “pick-up list” at school. We lived in a relatively small town and on the random sick day, when she arrived to pick me up, we’d always get asked how we were related. It became easier to just say, “oh she’s my grandkid/grandmother” than go through the “we’re-neighbors-but-more-like-family-and-yes-I’m-allowed-to-leave-with-her” bit.
Mrs. Judy, for reasons unknown to me, did not have children of her own. My own grandmother, while pure in her intentions and present in our lives – suffered from dementia, so Mrs. Judy + my mom + we kids agreed that we needed each other even though we’d arrived in each others lives by untraditional means.
Mrs. Judy was my mom’s walking buddy for 12 years. Always in a bright white jogging suit, she could hustle out a 15 minute mile well into her sixties. My mom and Mrs. Judy would meet halfway between our houses every weekday morning at 5:45am. As a kid, I thought nothing of this, but
after I was a grown-up girl I began to realize what a jewel my mom had found in our grand neighbor, Mrs. Judy.
Mrs. Judy seemed to know when my mom needed an afternoon with an empty house. She could tell on the days that it was just too much for my mom and would take the blackberries we picked along her fence line and turn them into a cobbler. Braver than brave and clearly a glutton for punishment – Mrs. Judy would haul us kids to one of the only burger joints in town and let us order a Coke. Upon leaving, she’d order the largest take-out Coke they had and deliver it to my mom when she dropped us off. In my high school years, after I started driving – I’d catch mom and Mrs. Judy, half way between our houses, talking about who knows what (husbands, kids, family drama and town gossip).
When something big happened in our little lives – us kids couldn’t wait to tell Mrs. Judy. When her husband passed away, we were all crushed. His desk, from his days as a West Texas wildcatter, is where I find myself sitting down to write. It’s huge and heavy and doesn’t match the contemporary decor of my home at all – but it’s perfect.
Mrs. Judy is at every family function. She was elated when we told her we were expecting and then promptly gave me instructions on how to “get a savings bond for that baby!” I still see her weekly and she’s never without an update of the obituary column, a leftover container from Cotton Patch and the biggest take-out Coke she can carry for me.
Years later my husband and I moved into our first house together. It was a lakefront property situated on a small cul-de-sac. We joked with co-workers and friends and said we had moved to a retirement community 30 years early – as all our neighbors were empty nesters. The first years in that house involved equal amounts of working and water sports. What more could a couple of DINKs want out of life?
At first, my next door neighbor Maxine and I made small talk about our husbands and gardens and the neighbors. I learned that she, too, had been a career woman, was well traveled and married to a hysterical fella with a penchant for sweets and spinning stories. We had things in common – such as aviator husbands (they are a breed all their own), current events and cooking.
My husband worked out of town for long stretches of time and I found myself a stay-at-home mom in a new stage of life. Enter, my neighbor.
She was elated when my husband told her we were expecting – and understood why I wasn’t. She kept me stocked in ginger and peppermints and any other thing she could find – in hopes of making a difficult pregnancy (shout out to all my HG girls!) easier.
She has seen my house in all states of disaster. She knows how to make anything and always has the ingredients I’m missing. She somehow knows the days I need a Tupperware of brownies or pot of beans – because she can sense from next door that fixing dinner will send me over the edge.
When my son was diagnosed with ankyloglossia Maxine was the first to tell us that things would be okay. She, of course, had a friend who’s dad was a retired dentist and… well, the rest of the story is a moot point, but Maxine was on the horn to find out all we needed to know.
Last spring, she envisioned and executed “Easter Egg Bootcamp” for my oldest kid. Being the Grand Neighbor that she is… she knew my oldest would need several training runs before the big day and so, every morning she’d hide and egg or two on our back porch. (it worked, by the way – kiddo performed beautifully on egg hunt day!)
The Grand Neighbors are who we meet-up with for a cocktails after the kids are in bed, run all major Amazon purchases by and can always count on for the most up-to-date rain gauge status.
These women, caring for children that are not biologically their own, they are the best mothers. While Grand-Neighbors aren’t the typical mother you would read about – they are mothers in their own right.They are present and inventive and resourceful. They have lived more life than you and I can ever imagine and if they haven’t experienced it – they know someone who has.
Grand-Neighbors have chosen to mother those of us that need it the most: grown-up girls who are in over our heads in life, love and housekeeping.
I, for one, am grateful.