December 8th of every year during my childhood out on the orchard, my Grandpa D. would light up a star way up on a pole to commemorate my mom’s birth. It was only fitting. And since she has been shining light in my life for 38 years now, it seems fitting that I attempt to speak out in the gates, to rise up and call her blessed.
2 older brothers needed a sister to keep them humble and show them how to laugh, so God made a Marme.
3 younger sisters needed to know what cool looked like in their youth (you don’t have an older sister who is a Wheat Queen and not learn a thing or 2 about class and cool), to tell them Fatty Patty stories at bedtime, and then later in life, to show them how to die in the service of others. They needed someone to be brave when their own brave mother was struck down with a series of strokes, and their father would give his all to love his sweet baboo to the last breath, and so they needed someone to love him well, too. And so God made a Marme.
Her mother needed someone to fight to find her the right caregivers and doctors and facilities, and to fight in the smartest possible way — she needed someone who knew how to “spread the jam”, to be winsome and appealing and light in the midst of darkness. She needed someone whose heart beat strong for Jesus, who could give voice to the hymns that sustained her during the years of being incapacitated, who would sing to and with her all the way to the last and who would be there, singing, as she lost her final battle… and gained ultimate victory. And so God made a Marme.
Her father needed a favorite daughter (and in case he ever forgets that, she graciously reminds him), who shared his jokes and his ability to charm a room. When he lost his beloved to glory, he needed someone who would take him on long drives just because he enjoyed them and because he missed the years of driving with his wife, who could remember all the things that need remembering, who understood that we tease those we love. So God gave him a Marme.
My dad, the tall, quiet farmer, needed a dazzling, funny, beautiful (and it must be admitted, a bit short in the height department, thanks to her ancestor Granny Mums — the reason she and I can buy shoes wherever we want to) wife who would fill his life with laughter and his home with color (sometimes that color spread further than intended, like the time as a newlywed bride when she spray painted her kitchen cabinets red and the drift tinted his contact lenses, and there is really no need to discuss the accidentally pink basketball uniform, is there?). He needed someone who would trust him and look up to him as the capable and self-sacrificial man he is, someone who would always choose to play the radio loud when he never could understand why anyone would do that… and could love that about her. So God made him a Marme.
And then us kids, 3 of us, each as different as can be and each needing a mother who liked us (it is a profound gift, you know — not only to be loved, but to be liked, especially by someone who has seen you at all your worsts, your most awkwards, your most unloveables and unlikeables), who made home a fortress of safety no matter what happened out in the world. We needed someone who did not complain when we saved our hardest, most soul-troubling questions for late night, standing with a hand on her doorknob (as a parent now, I marvel at how graciously they always kept their door open to us), who gave us a love of music that has spilled over into our children’s lives, too. We needed someone courageous enough to homeschool us, even when that meant sending my younger sister, the Superchick, out for a bike ride before school so that mother could change into “teacher clothes”, who would go by different names for each subject to help her adjust to being the last kid at home. We needed someone who would always be right (and rarely believe us when we say it), even if it took us years to acknowledge that she was and that we were silly not to take her suggestions the first time. We needed someone who could admit her mistakes, and who could learn with us how to love God’s word, how to be forgiven and begin again. So God made a Marme.
The grandkids, 12 of them now, needed a grandmother who would be there, who would drop everything to come when medical needs arose, who wraps presents prettier than anyone else (not making that up, Marme, that is your reputation amongst the Quail), who gives the gifts that everyone actually wants (like the orange rotary phone, the shimmering whirligigs, the MadLibs). They needed someone to joke with them early and often so they would grow up knowing what funny is, and how to be lovers of good humor (they needed someone to introduce them to Jeeves and Wooster). They needed to never be a burden, and always be a joy, and they needed someone to sing with and for at every holiday so that they would know that it is normal to sing your loudest and best to the Lord, at all times and in all seasons and definitely when we are together. They needed to hear the alto part sung well. They needed someone to tape quarters into their birthday cards, one for every year — even during the covid madness coin shortages when she claimed (and who are we not to believer her?) that she had to go diving into the fountain at the mall to find enough. So God made them a Grandmarme.
And me. I needed a best friend, someone to cherish more and more with each passing year, someone to talk to every single day, who would introduce me to Erma Bombeck during my early years as a mother and teach me how to laugh at the daily foibles and upheavals of motherhood. I needed someone who would take me bra shopping after my eldest was born, because life is too short for badly fitting bras, and who would come every day to take care of my kids when I was recovering from surgeries, even when it meant driving 45 minutes each way. I needed someone who would buy my an overtly pink, girly diaper bag to carry to the hospital when my first Quail was in the NICU — so I could feel like a mom even when I couldn’t hold my child yet. I needed someone to pass on her good looks to me and to become the voice in my head every time I find myself in a social situation, someone who would model the sort of hospitality that seeks out the person who is detached from the group and makes them feel at home, whether you feel personally comfortable or not. I needed someone to teach me how to be a farmwife, how to bake pies and cobblers so the house smelled wonderful when my husband came in from long harvest days, how to be understanding of the long hours and the limitations that come with the gig. I needed someone to be on my side when I felt alone, someone to keep my kids’ hearts safe during the darkest days of my husband’s mental illness, someone to give my heart a place to be safe as well.
And so God made a Marme. Happy birthday, dearest Marme — you are loved beyond words (and as you know, that is saying something for us).