Aunt Rowena recently died, leaving my mother, Ruth, as the last Baird of her generation. With the passing of the survivors of the Great Depression and World War II, a whole era of our nation’s history is fading from our collective national memory. The life experiences of that generation of Americans are almost impossible to imagine today when things are so very different. Mother and Aunt Rowena grew up in mill villages in Georgia where nothing was taken for granted. Education was a privilege, and faith was vital in enduring the hard times that they lived through.
The two women were quite close sisters-in-law. They shared their World War II experience. Uncle Tom, Mother’s brother and Rowena’s husband, was sent to Europe and my dad was sent to the South Pacific; both men left young wives back home in Georgia. Aunt Rowena moved in with my grandmother, who was a widow, and lived there during the time that her husband was overseas. She had her son, Jack, there in Mama Baird’s house and nearly died during the very difficult birth. While my dad served in the Marine Corps, mother lived in a small house near Mama and Daddy Shaw, my father’s parents.
The two women, Rowena and Ruth, were also close because they were both warm and gracious women with complementary personalities – Ruth more timid and Rowena more outgoing. Both women were acknowledged beauties and exuded Southern charm and inner strength. They were both devoted wives and wonderful mothers. They were also both Godly women who lived out their deep faith and commitment to Biblical values in their everyday life experiences. Tom and Rowena’s faith never wavered, even when both their son and, years later, their grandson were killed in tragic accidents while they were young men.
Both women married young and had happy marriages; neither remarried after being widowed. Mother and Daddy had very different personalities that frequently conflicted. Daddy was smart, impulsive, dynamic, and temperamental, though very generous and unselfish, while Mother was an introverted intellectual with infinite patience and a very calm disposition. We lived a chaotic life with Mother as the emotional anchor and Daddy joyfully propelling us forward to the next thing in his calling as a minister. Tom and Rowena were both easy going and faced life with humor and patience. They lived a peaceful life with their daughter, Jane. Uncle Tom had an unexpectedly sharp and quiet wit that kept folks chuckling when he was around. Happily, Jane inherited that wit. Both families were deeply spiritual and totally devoted to Jesus Christ, with a home life that centered on their Christian commitment, Biblical priorities and values.
At Rowena’s funeral, her long-time pastor commented that he often came into the church during the week to find her kneeling at the altar fervently praying for Jane and her husband Warren. She would ask her pastor to join her in praying for her son-in-law, a well-known and successful preacher.
Mother says that her brother Tom was one of the fastest (probably THE fastest) runner in the school they attended. Mother noted that he always ran in his regular clothes rather than the shorts and sleeveless tee shirt that the other runners wore. Even with the heavier clothes, he won local fame for winning races. Mother explained that Tom would report to school and then rush home to lift their disabled father out of bed and into a chair. Then, he would hurry back to school. Later, he would return home to put his father back in bed. Thus, on Field Days, he ran races in his regular pants with his shirttails flying rather than the shorts and sleeveless tee shirt that was the usual attire. Tom was also a baseball player of local renown. In fact, he was drafted to a farm team for one of the major leagues. After a few weeks, he returned home because, he said, he got homesick. Others thought he realized he was needed at home.
In those days, family members did what had to be done. As young brides and young mothers, Ruth and Rowena were housewives in the fundamental meaning of the term. Mother made almost all of our clothes as we were growing up. Cooking was done “from scratch,” meaning no mixes or easy-preparation dishes. There were no dishwashers or washing machines for clothes. Yet, family gatherings were fun-filled, and even hog butchering time was an opportunity for family and neighbors to gather together, helping each other as well as enjoying each other’s company.
I am so grateful that my mother is a gifted writer who is recounting those days for her children on her blog.
Each succeeding generation needs to understand that God is faithful and just, that He is there for us in the good times and bad times.
Each of us needs to be inspired by the stories of the hard times when God’s faithfulness was all that sustained believers and that He never fails.
Truly, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Praise His Name.
To read Mother’s comments at Aunt Rowena’s funeral click here.