Sunday, May 11, 2014

52 Ancestors #19: Celebrating Mother's Day

Ancestor Name: Dorothy Ailein (Lange) Jennings

I wonder how many of us in the U.S. are writing about our mothers today. I thought long and hard about it as my mother is still alive but she deserves a tribute on this special day. I hope I can do her influence on my life justice.

Mom and Dad on the day of their marriage 15 November 1957

Once many years ago my siblings and their spouses descended on Mom and Dad's for a holiday. My youngest brother had recently taken some sort of personality test at work that consisted of 50 questions. We all had a good laugh when we discovered my husband and my mother had the same personality. They had answered 49 of the 50 questions exactly the same. The joke ever since has been I married my mother. And that's a very good thing!

She is stronger than anyone I know, but let Dad take care of her 55 years of their 57-year marriage. Now, during the last two years, she has become the caregiver. She has very firm ideas about wifely duties and child rearing that might make your hair stand on end if you consider yourself a liberated, modern woman. Yet she encouraged me to be strong, independent and be a partner not subservient in my marriage.

My middle brother, Mom and I at National Memorial Park in Falls Church
Virginia on Easter, visiting the grave of my paternal grandfather

She guarded her children as fiercely as a momma bear but never once blamed the teachers as many parents do today when their children get in trouble. We were punished if we misbehaved in school; the teacher was always right.

I was pigeon-toed as a child. Mom would fuss at me about it and even now at the ripe old age of 55, I look down occasionally to be sure I'm walking with my toes pointed straight ahead. When I see an adult walk the way I did as a child, I admit I wonder why their Mom didn't fix that!

Mom was sure I must have musical talent. Her father played a brass instrument in a marching band and the violin. I should have piano lessons. We bought a used piano and I began taking lessons with wife of our church's musical director. I had wonderful form, but absolutely no talent. I played the piece as well the first time as the fiftieth. But Mom wouldn't let me quit. Until one day, when I came home from school, she told a story on herself. She was in the kitchen getting ready to clean up after breakfast and she heard someone playing the piano. Since the only person in the house that played was me, she was sure I was late for school. She came in the room to tell me to stop practicing and get to school and discovered our Beagle walking up and down the keyboard, shredding a tissue. Quitting my lessons was only one of the very few battles I won. My argument was simple. If she couldn't tell the difference between my playing and the dog's, I had no talent.

Mom feeding my youngest brother; photograph taken in 1968

I was not only the tallest girl in elementary and junior high school, I was the tallest student in the entire school. In the 9th grade I met a girl who was almost as tall as me. She slumped so she would appear shorter. This seemed like a wonderful solution to my embarrassing height problem so I mimicked her slump. My mother disabused me of that behavior in short order.

We had our differences, especially when I was about 14 to 16 years old. I thought she had become a mad woman overnight and she thought the same about me! But for all the years since then she has been my best friend. There's nothing we can't talk about. But most importantly, she's my mother first. She still fusses at me and worries about me and wants the best for me.

A recent photograph of Mom and Dad taken in April 2014

I once told her I hoped I would die before her as I didn't think I could stand it without her in my life. I was totally unprepared for her reaction. She broke down completely and started crying. She said it's natural for a child to lose a parent but it is unnatural for a parent to lose a child. She begged me to stop thinking such thoughts. I have tried. Honestly, I have. But I still don't know how I will survive the deaths of my parents. They are the most wonderful people and gave my brothers and me an idyllic childhood and have been rocks to lean against as adults.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

It is here I usually provide the genealogical details about the ancestors I highlight for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, but I will not do that on this post as my mother is still living.


  1. What a beautiful tribute to you Mom; your parents.

    1. Thank you Tracy. They are wonderful parents and it is a pure joy to still be able to spend time with them.