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Mother’s Day isn’t just about moms, it’s also a wonderful time to honor other women who influence our lives. Alice was one of those people.
I met Alice when my brother brought her to the farm to meet our parents. It was a winter night and I was seven years old. Glen, my nearest sibling in age, was probably 20 at the time. Alice was an 18-year-old beauty, with long dark hair and a pixie nose.
Other young women might have ignored the little waif who approached with a coloring book and crayons, but not Alice. She gave me her full attention, even coloring a couple pages in my book. I’ve adored her ever since.
She and Glen married and moved to Virginia, where he was stationed with the Army. A couple years later, they came back to North Dakota to raise a family.
Alice was kind, talented, and fearless. Fearless, except for one time. We had taken the BB gun out to the pasture to shoot gophers. For the record, I don’t think we actually hit any. However, we did draw the interest of some cattle. Suddenly a whole herd of bulls was stampeding over a hill toward us. We ran for our lives. Alice leaped over the barbed wire fence and then pulled me to safety.
When we told the rest of the family about our adventure, they just laughed. They said the “herd of bulls” were just some curious and harmless yearlings. (I’m still not convinced.)
For a while, Glen and Alice lived in a storefront building in LaMoure that had been made into apartments. By this time, Mom, Dad and I also lived in town. Both of my parents worked full time. I was nine and sometimes stayed with Alice.
One hot summer day she learned that I’d never had a chocolate malt, so she gave me a quarter and sent me up the street to the Dairy Bar. That malt was so good. I slurped it down and said I could drink another one, never dreaming she’d give me a second quarter and insist I get a second malt. And, no, that one didn’t go down as fast.
Eventually they moved onto the home place. At age 10, I was already sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Alice and my sister, while their boys played outside. Sometimes we’d pile all the kids in the backseat and explore an abandoned farm or go shopping at a nearby town.
One of my favorite memories is of Alice strumming her guitar and singing. She had a husky voice and perfect pitch. I never hear the song, “Me and Bobby McGee” without thinking of her. When I became a teenager, Alice was the one adult I could talk to. She listened to my teenage traumas and always had sound wisdom for me.
Later, Larry and I married and lived in the old house on his family’s farm. We thought we’d stay forever. We’d be just a few miles from Alice and Glen and I could imagine afternoons spent with Alice, tackling projects or just drinking coffee.
However, it wasn’t to be. After two disastrous farming years, we moved away so Larry could go to school and begin a career. When his family farm was sold, the new owners hired Glen to bulldoze down the old house. That is a poignant memory.
As time went on, their kids grew up and moved away. Glen died at age 59 and Alice was left alone on the farm. Her independence showed. She had some cattle at first. Kept a big garden. Lived through winter storms without electricity. Helped her neighbors and her kids. Was a fan of my books.
We’ve had family in Dean township since 1904, but for the last 25 years, Alice held the position alone. That ended in 2017 when, frail and on oxygen, she finally admitted she couldn’t live alone on the farm any more.
Alice passed away this month. She wasn’t much for anything showy and she didn’t want any fuss over her departure, such as being written about in a blog. However, she is likely playing a heavenly guitar right now and won’t care what is happening back here.
So happy Mother’s Day, Alice. I hope the story of your faith, kindness and strength will inspire others.
“Serve wholeheartedly as though you were serving the Lord and not people.” Ephesians 6: 7 NIV
Many other women have also encouraged, influenced and guided me along the way–enough to fill a book! Do you have a special “Alice” in your life? I’d love to hear your story.
I’m busy working on Chapter 23 of “Amber’s Choice” and the poor girl is really up against it at this moment. Have you ever had to make a decision that will alter your life forever? That’s what Amber is facing and I can’t wait to see what she decides.
On May 21, I will talk about my writing at St. Gabriel’s here in Bismarck. Also looking at some other engagements and craft fairs this summer.