RECOLLECTIONS OF MY MOTHER
Richard Stirling Summerhays
My earliest recollections are of our home at 519 South Pleasant Street in Independence, Missouri. My folks moved there shortly after their marriage in the Salt Lake Temple on August 7, 1907. Dad had been asked to work in the Zion's Printing and Publishing Company. This was a church owned establishment that printed the Liahona, Book of Mormon, Missionary Tracts, Song Books and any other material needed by the church.
My earliest recollection of mother is sitting on her lap on the back porch, with her singing and Dad playing on his mandolin.
I remember when I got my first pair of skates, mother took me out on the front sidewalk, held my hand, gave me instructions, and displayed incredible patience until I was able to go on my own. Then she provided me with a broom handle that I could sit on when I was going down hill and wanted to slow down or stop.
Before I went to school I had a color book, and set of crayons. She encouraged me to color within the lines, choose appropiate colors, and learn something about the objects that I colored. She taught me to be equally painstaking whenever I cut out anything with the scissors to stay on the lines, and how to turn the corners.
She was anxious that I learn to read well, to read good books, and enjoy reading. We were limited financially but she used the library to see that I had the types of books that met with her approval. She taught me to sound out the words phonetically, so I could spell them as well as read them. I remember one day when I was riding with her on the street car from Independence to Kansas City. She pointed out that the sound of the electric wires were like the sound of the letter L, and had me rehearse it. She took the time to read with me. She would read a part then I would read a part, and then we would discuss what we had read. She had me reading before I went to school which was largely the reason for my skipping kindergarten and the second grade. She was responsible for my love of reading, and for that I will always be grateful.
I was taught that anything worth doing was worth doing well. During 1919 when I was ten years old our Sunday School had a concert recitation each month, which we were encouraged to memorize. Mother would help me with it, and point out the advantages of knowing the scriptures well. Thanks to her encouragement, at the end of the year, I was one of nine persons in the branch who was awarded a certificate for being able to repeat all twelve of them from memory.
In November of 1914 we moved to 418 North Grand Avenue. This was a real event in our lives. We called our new home, "The Rock House", because it was built largely of stone and had a large stone fireplace. Mother enjoyed this home more than any other in which she lived. My brother Don had reached his second birthday on October 6, and was receiving the same love and attention I received. Some of the most pleasant memories of my childhood are associated with this home. Mother saved enough from her limited grocery money to buy a croquet set, then took the time and patience to teach us how to play and then to play with us. Not far from our home was Dodd's Pasture which had a number of black walnut trees on it. The neighborhood children were allowed to gather what we could, bring them home and remove the hulls, which covered our hands with a brown stain that was more than a little difficult to remove. Mother put up with the mess, taught us how to do it, and then how to properly crack the nuts. I was the only Mormon (Brigamite to the numerous Reorganite pupils) pupil in the George S. Bryant school. Mother taught me what to say and what to do to overcome that obstacle successfully.
In February 1920 we moved to 1373 Browning Avenue in the Wasatch Ward in Salt Lake City, Utah. I turned twelve in December and joined the scout troop. Neil White was a good scoutmaster and we had an active troop. Mother invented the word stick-to-it-tiv-ness. If I started a worthwhile endevor, or commitment, it was to be done promptly and well. She would couple that with don't go up like a rocket and come down like a stick. If the going got rough I did not think in terms of dropping out, but only how I could overcome the obstacles to accomplish what I had set out to accomplish. My Eagle Badge is a perfect example. I understand now why when an Eagle Badge is awarded a scout, that an Eagle Badge is also pinned on his mother. She would encourage me, but not do it for me, and she would never suggest that corners be cut in fulfilling the requirements. I could relate endless examples, but one is typical. One of the requirements for First Class was to bake bread over an open fire on a stick. She showed me how to make the dough, but did not give me the dough she had made. I made four batches before it met with her approval. I practiced with a fire in the back yard. My first try was burned on the outside and not cooked on the inside. I finally learned how to create coals instead of flame, how close to the coals to place my stick, to turn the sick slowly and how it should look when done. Three more batches later I produced some bread that passed my mother's test (and incidently later the Scoutmaster's).
She continued to encourage me to do well in school and to remain active in the church, until May 1928 when I received my call to serve a mission in the Northwestern States Mission. I did not live home after that time. When I was released my parents were living in California. I lived with my grandmother in Salt Lake City until my marriage on May 23 1932.
Mother and Christmas were synonymous. She would start in the middle of summer to get ready for it. Limited circumstances made it necessary to make most of the decorations which she accumulated over the years and carefully put away for the next year. She started our family tradition to have all her children, and their families at her place on Christmas Eve, for Christmas Dinner, a program, and gifts. Miriam and I continued this tradition until we moved to Provo.
All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother.
Last modified: November 10, 2000