May ninth was the day we set aside to remember and honor the women who gave us the greatest possible gift of life itself and guided us through all our formative years. My Mom was Edith Chapin Caughey, one of eight children born and raised in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Dad’s first wife, Marion, died giving birth to their daughter, Nancy. Mom often cared for Nancy while Dad worked. They became close, soon married, and I was born a year later.
We moved west to Northampton, Mass., when Dad took a job teaching in a trade school. We lived in a two-story house next to a gas station. The first floor had been a fish market when Dad bought the building. He remodeled it into a rental apartment, and we lived upstairs.
Mom took a job as a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Over the years, she interviewed Frankenstein actor Boris Karloff and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote news articles of all kinds, and reviewed plays at a nearby mountainside theater. Dad began a woodworking shop in 1945 in half of a rented two-car garage, designing and making prototype store displays for products like Ace Combs and Wearever fountain pens.
In 1949, when I was ten, Dad and my maternal grandfather, John, built a home for us in the village of Williamsburg, Mass., and we moved that fall. Mom retired from her reporter job and began freelancing for New England Homestead magazine and other publications.
Mom, Dad, and sister Nancy all taught Sunday school in the village church. I remember Mom preparing lessons using an easel and a felt board, cutting out biblical scenes from different colors of felt. In her lessons, she’d change the story scenes by laying up onto the tilted board different cutouts of landscapes and palm trees and silhouette people. She often baked for the church suppers that were some of the finest I’ve ever had.
Mom kindled my early interest in books by reading to me Heidi, Brer Rabbit, and other engrossing tales, as she did for other village children in our small stone library. Later, with her encouragement, I devoured the Zane Gray books and the works of Mark Twain. Early on, she urged me to write the best I could for English classes, and she always gently corrected my grammar in conversations at the dinner table.
She always stood by her family until her death much too early at 59. She’s an ineradicable part of who I am, and I’ve been proud to follow her excellent example as a lifelong freelancer myself, which has given me many rewarding experiences and enriched my life.
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