Tuesday, May 11, 2010


If I had a flower for each time I thought of my mother, I could walk in flowers forever. Thanks to all the moms who make life a field of flowers. Happy Mother's Day.

When I was a child, I didn't ever think of my grandmother as anything but my mother. I knew the facts of the story, that she was really my mother's mother, but the heart of the story was that I had a mother who was a living being. She cared for my needs, most of my wants and even some of my demands. She was as careful as most mothers that she did not spoil me too much so that my character would be irreparably ruined. But she was good and kind and loving, all at the same time.

My own mother, Jessie Elaine, had died when I was a baby. She died on my 11-month birthday, Nov. 24, 1941. I was born on Christmas Eve and she died just about Thanksgiving time. I know that, because she was buried on my grandmother' birthday, Nov. 26, 1941. My grandmother, Vivian, would have been 47 at the time. On some years, the 26th is on Thanksgiving Day. On other years, it is only close. Nevertheless, it was Grandmother Smith's birthday.

My mother was critically injured on the very corner where my grandmother later taught school. It was on the corner of Carbon Ave., Price, Utah, where the school, known as the Southside Elementary at the time, later as the Reeve's School, was located. It was the evening of Nov. 21, when a car, being driven much too fast for the time, well, for any time, at 100 miles per hour, struck the car my mother was riding in in a T-bone fashion. My mother was in the middle, my father, Howard Thomas Pitts, was in the passenger seat, my parent's friend, Ferron Gardner, was driving. The two men were thrown free on impact. My mother, in the middle, was thrown under the car and pinned there. My father, gaining strength from somewhere, pried the car off of my mother with the damaged street light pole that was still partially attached. She was still alive. She was taken to the Price Hospital where she clung to life until her Uncle Fred Smith came from Springville to give her a priesthood blessing.

Up until that point, she had been moaning about her baby, me, and who would mother that baby with her gone. She had severe head injuries, spinal injuries and many broken bones. She kept loosing blood internally. My grandfather, Thomas Vivian Pitts, had the same blood type and was giving her blood from person to person. Nevertheless, following the blessing, she died in peace.

The "Day of Infamy" was just 12 days away, Dec. 7, 1940, when Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States became embroiled in the horror of the war they had been trying to avoid. President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Dec. 8, declared: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

My father's family, like many in the United States, was immediately part of World War II. My dad's brother's, Morgan and Ken, and his uncle, Charles Edwards, who was a bit younger than my father, were all involved, at one time or another in the war. My father became a Seabee, which was a naval construction battalion (CB).

The action left me motherless and fatherless. I was about two years old by that time. It was decided that I should live with my mother's mother, a widow school teacher. While my father had been at home, he had been working on construction sites and I spent much of my time with either his parents or my Grandmother Smith. She was in the best circumstances to care for me and wanted to do so. My Grandmother Pitts still had children at home--my Uncle Bob and Aunt Pat. Uncle Bob is eight years my senior. Grandmother Pitts was a wonderful grandmother and she still did help out in that capacity. There were many visits to the farm they owned. I can certainly appreciate that I was loved and wanted on all sides. I even had a great-aunt and great-uncle who would have liked to have me live with them.

As it was, I ended up in a home with a mother-figure who loved me dearly. I remember asking her if I could call her "mama" because I wanted one. So that is what I did. I called her mama and was happy with the home I had. There were stories, books, songs, music lessons, dance lessons, art projects and cooking projects. There was sewing, writing, poetry and even girl scouts. There were the stories of pioneer ancestors and current relatives. There were stories of my mother, when she was little; when she was grown. There were church talks and scripture reading. There were trips and concerts. There were neighborhood playmates. There were relatives galore. There were also my cousins, Garth, David, and later, Richard Childs, the children of my mother's sister, her only sibling, Renee and her husband, Max Childs.

For day to day living, I could only be said to have had the best of childhoods. I believed that I could do anything I wanted to do if I did the necessary work to achieve my goal.

One day, when I was about five, I threw a terrible temper tantrum over a yellow helium balloon. I had wanted cotton candy but there was none left at the fair. The balloon was let go into the air and I was sent to bed. I remember thinking that, if I had a REAL mother, like other kids, I would not be treated so shabbily. Then my mother, Elaine, did come to visit me. She shone like the harvest moon outside my window. She was dressed in a sparkling white robe and her long dark hair fell about her shoulders. She stood off the floor and she bent, as though to touch my head, but she did not. She told me, in a quiet gentle voice, that I was where she wanted me to be and, that had I behaved like that with her, she would have done the same thing. "If I could be with you, I would but, since I cannot be, I want you to know you are where I want you to be." She said that my grandmother loved me dearly and that, when she, Elaine, had been small she had been punished in much the same way. That was how we learned to do good things. She told me that the church was important and that I should do the things my grandmother wanted me to do because she was a good woman and would help me to become one. She told me to always listen and to remember that I was loved. I remember the feeling of complete love that I felt more than I remember the precise words. Then she was gone, just as she had appeared, quickly and quietly.

Later, after telling my grandmother about the visit, I heard her discussing it with my Aunt Renee and wondering if it could be true. My Aunt was inclined to think it was all a dream. However, Grandmother was inclined to think I was reciting facts. The one telling thing about the whole story that convinced her was the fact that my mother had her hair down about her shoulders. "She has never seen her looking that way, with her hair down, because in her formal photos she always had her hair up because she thought it looked better." Apparently, my mother liked to wear her hair down at other, every-day times.

One thing I did know, through the years, was that I was loved. My grandmother, even though we had words now and again, were friends and she was a good mom. She was a particularly good mother for a headstrong girl. Because of her, I have good moral values and high ideals. But most of all, because of her, I learned how to love.

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