Mom was born on a little farm in southern Quebec. Her older brother and her were the seventh generation of Douglas' on that farm--a farmhouse, tucked behind some pines and maples, with a wide front porch, flanked by barns. That part of Quebec, the soil is highly variable, with some fields rich and yielding, while others were slight skims of topsoil over the unyielding and rocky Canadian Shield.
Wasn't she adorable? Those black bouncing curls! I have no idea where she was in this picture, but probably Montreal, since that was only 45 minutes or so away.
Her mother was older, 40 when she got married (She was 12 years older than my grandfather. A fact that fascinated me as a kid.) and 46 by the time she had Mom. When Mom was 6, my grandmother had her first bout with cancer. Mom remembers stopping at a traffic light, on a car ride with her parents, when they told her her mother might not be coming home again from the hospital. In those days, prognosis' were a lot more vague and they thought they should prepare her. As it turned out, her mother did come home. Weaker and with complications, but home.
Since they were the seventh generations, there were abundant relatives and cousins around. Her grandparents lived on the other side of the house, and her childhood was relatively happy, despite her mother's sickness.
Goldie, Philip, Mom, and Scott
Mom and Scott.
I just liked this picture.
The winter she was ten, Mom was skating with her Dad and she said something to the effect of "This is the best winter ever!" And he looked at her and said "I hope you remember it always." He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Within a year, he was dead, at 45.
I think this was just a few months before he died. The family with Uncle Arnold Brown.
That year, they lost their father, their grandfather (mostly from a broken heart over his son), and the cows, which had to be sold.
But life goes on for resilient eleven year olds who love elephant jokes.
I love this picture. A basket of kittens. Matching Twiggy sweatshirts with her best friend, Clarissa... It is just a good picture.
A fourteen year old Jill sat with her mother in the hospital, a few years later. And while the friends who had been with her went down to the cafeteria, she went from sitting with her mother, to sitting alone.
Her mother had died of the cancer that she had battled for years.
Her guardians were her aunt and uncle, Julia and Arnold, who were both in the work in Pennsylvania. After some discussion and sorting through things and selling the farm, Mom and Scott moved down to PA with some friends who opened their home to them. Mom talks about riding the school bus home, as John Denver's "Hey, it's good to be back home again" came on the bus radio. The line "Sometimes this old farm, feels like a long lost friend" made her heart ache. Losing her mother, the farm, and moving to another country was a lot to process.
But she did it. Somehow.
(She hates the color mustard now.)
At sixteen, she graduated from high school, two years early.
And promptly married Dad. I think it may have been before her graduation. They met when Dad was home from one of his trips to Alaska. Their honeymoon was a trip to Alaska in the Ugly Duckling, an old bread delivery truck that Dad had fixed up.
At Wasilla convention. Aren't they cute?
Yep, they're cute
A sweet picture, a smitten Dad took.
When Mom was first married, she didn't want kids. She was of course, only 16. But in Alaska, she babysat a little girl who changed her mind about kids. Mom and Dad were expecting by the time Mom turned 18.
They decided to move back to Pennsylvania to be near family, leaving all their friends and home in Alaska for another cross country road trip while Mom was pregnant.
The new parents and Clover
Then, quite quickly, there were four.
Mom and Tyler snuggled up for a Sunday afternoon nap
And then there were five. And then...
By the time Mom was 27, she had six kids. They were settled in Delaware and Dad worked shift work, so she was home alone most nights.
When she was 28, Mom and Dad moved from Delaware to Northern New York. They bought a dairy farm in partnership with her brother Scott and his wife Geri. This is just a part of my life story, something I don't think about a lot, but last year, Cody asked me "Did you ever think how amazing that was? With six kids? They just moved several hundred miles to buy an expensive farm and make a living doing something Dad had never done before." And when I think of that, of doing that now, with my family, I start to understand how major that was.
In addition to raising six kids and helping with the farm, Mom started a Daycare. In a few years, Mom started doing substitute teaching and started work on her associates degree.
When she was 36, Mom and Dad had Olivia, the seventh. Two years later, Victoria rounded out the kid ranks at an even eight.
When Tori was a little older, she went back to working in social work, where she still is. She has done nutrition, literacy, job placement for people getting off welfare, drug and alcohol abuse counseling, and now she is a case manager for people who have several serious diseases.
And somehow, in the midst of being a mother, working full time, and worrying about what needed done on the farm, she completed her bachelors degree.
She is amazing.
And through all of this life, through heartbreak, adventure, and hard work, Mom never lost her love of beauty. Even though money was tight, we had beautiful prints from artists Mom loved on our walls. Some from calenders, some from magazines, others from the artists themselves. Often they were tacked up with pins, but they were there. To cultivate a love of beauty in us kids. To show us that life could be beautiful, no matter how hard things seemed.
She has always loved writing and wrote several commentaries for the North Country branch of NPR. Commentaries so well received that they were taken up by the national NPR programs and friends in different parts of the country called to say they had heard Mom reading her writing on their local NPR station.
She still loves a good joke, but has expanded her appreciation to include things unrelated to elephants.
She still adores kids, particularly her grandkids. Who all think she is the bee's knees.
And, while I don't often talk about this sort of thing on my blog, the greatest thing she and Dad passed on to us kids was their immense faith in God. It was a constant in our life that made us kids seek out that same incredibly precious constant; the constant that gives our lives purpose and joy.
I don't suffer any delusions that Mom is some kind of saint. But she has done a remarkable job with the hand life dealt her. And somehow, she is completely convinced she did it all wrong. Despite raising eight (seemingly...) well adjusted kids to adulthood (well, Tori has a few more weeks of minorhood) she is convinced that she majorly failed us in some way or another. Despite being an incredible cook, she apologizes 14 times at every meal for the food's shortcomings. Maybe that is why she is so great. She doesn't take her self seriously and doesn't bring up all the things she has done and overcome when I am whining about some minor blip in my life's schedule. If you asked her, she would probably say she hasn't accomplished much and downplay all the things I just wrote.
So here's to her. On her 56th birthday. One of the most accomplished women I have ever known.
With her grandkids
One of the pigroasts, which stressed Mom out, but she was willing to have because we all wanted it. And because she loved them once everyone was there.
One of the most recent pictures of all the Lee and Jill Vaughan Family.
Mom and Dad with all thirteen of their grandkids last month.