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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published March 02 2013

Halgrimson: Women who have shown me the way

While going through one of the many boxes of memorabilia in our house, I came across the following poem, written to my mother on her birthday.

Our good friend and seventh “family member,” Ralph Engel, wrote it. Ralph was an English professor at North Dakota State University and spent a lot of time at our house.

Who is Phyllis, what is she

That all her friends commend her?

(The next two lines we’ll have to skip –

The only rhyme is “lend her.”)

Phyllis mows, Phyllis sews,

And also keeps the books.

She shovels snow and paints the pool,

And in her spare time cooks.

All this is easy; also she

Must put up with Hunter, G.

Merrily let us celebrate

March the twelfth, her natal date.

For Phyllis H. let’s give three cheers

And wish her many happy years.

Mom indeed mowed the yard, raked the lawn, sewed, tended the garden, vacuumed the pool and helped my father, “Hunter, G.,” care for the 500 rose bushes on the north side of our house.

And, yes, she cooked; usually three meals a day for a family of six, and often a guest or two. Until Mom’s mother died in 1968, Mom had help from her mother. Her name was Petra, but we called her Gram, and she lived with us after retiring from her job as a nurse at the Fargo Clinic.

My parents had several rental units, and Mom took care of those, cleaning them when someone moved out, and doing minor plumbing and electrical repairs when necessary.

At our house she was the only one who understood the two old fuse boxes – one in the basement and one on the third floor.

And on the third floor, which had once been a ballroom, she swept up a box of dead bees every spring. They lived in the walls of the old ballroom. You could see stains on the stucco outside from the honey they produced.

For a while we had a lovely black poodle named Sebastian, and Mom trimmed him when he needed it, since he didn’t like going to the beauty parlor.

Many women in my life have provided love and support other than Mom and Gram.

Sometimes they are called mentors or teachers or guides, but I prefer to call the women in my life who have shown me the way, mothers.

Not all of these women who have mothered me were mothers, but to me they were what mothers should be – warm, loving, caring, supportive and firm when necessary.

All were friends of my mother or grandma, and I loved them as I did my own mother and grandma. A few of them are still watching over me.

I list them without identification because there are so many and a column could be written about each of them.

Fran Borderud, Fritzie Bright, Catherine Cater, Mel Dietz, June Dobervich, Harriet Geib, Doris Eastman, Ann Gammell, Martha Gravdal, Frances Olson Hager, Pat Hieb, Martha Hook, Sylvia Hove, Margaret Inge, Barb Lindell, Virginia Jensen, Kathryn Kuhn, Hanna Malme, Miriam Murtha, Nora Ottis, Helen Pepple, Katherine Rogne, Beth Schickele, Enid Schoff, Isabel Thompson, Jean Thompson, Eiline Torguson Nelson, Lois Vogel, Irene Walsh and my mother’s cousins Eunice, Mavis, Lorraine, Corrine and Arlys Lunde.

My mother didn’t have such a long life as lives go today. She was born on March 12, 1917, and died on Nov. 22, 1991, which is also the anniversary of President John Kennedy’s death. I think of her every day but especially on the anniversary of her birth. And I am thankful.

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