Finding Meaning


Happy 100th, Mom

By Skip Hellewell

My clan is gathering: it’s our mom’s 100th birthday. Could I tell you her secret for living to a hundred? Mom had the Great Depression version of a fairy tale life. Her father was a hard rock miner in the boomtown of Eureka, Utah. He went down to the mines at 16 to support his family when his father, the town sheriff, died. He, in turn, died of pneumonia when my mom was just 2 years old. The void left by her father’s death has been a sadness in her life.

Mom had a wandering childhood without a father to provide, but her little family settled down in Roseville, California, just as she entered high school. She had skipped several grades and was only 12, but she won the school spelling bee as a freshman. This was during the Depression and her wardrobe was a homemade skirt and two blouses, one worn while the other was being washed. Life was simpler then.

Christmas of 1934 was memorable because her mother was gone caring for a sick relative, and mom was looking after her two brothers under the watchful eye of a nearby aunt. They had a little tree which they decorated with homemade ornaments, and mom found simple gifts for her brothers. She went to bed content, though sad there wasn’t a gift for her. In the morning, there was a never-to-be-forgotten surprise—a box with her name on it. She opened it to find a green taffeta gown suitable for a nice dance, a perfect fit to her developing figure. She later wore it to the big church dance, which was the night she met our father. That surprise Christmas dress launched a love affair that never ended, surviving the hard times common to life.

The young lovers married, started a family of four children, and built the home she still lives in. Actually, they had three families. My father’s brother, who had survived the Battle of Okinawa as a Marine, was killed in an accident on the way to work one morning. His wife died of cancer a few years later. The three orphaned children, reeling from the deaths of their parents, became part of our family. About this time our folks, feeling their oats I guess, had three more children, all boys. If you’re counting, mom reared 10 children.

The secret to mom’s longevity? Healthy food, faithful church-going, and a meaningful project to work on. The healthy living started with our dad, who kept a vegetable garden in our large backyard. He was a believer in freshly-ground whole wheat and he baked bread once a week using flour from a hand-grinder attached to the kitchen table. Mom was a good cook and though we lived simply, we ate healthy. She still cooks for herself.

Mom always has a project or two to work on, whether crocheting something for a new baby, or putting her thousands of photos into albums she’s preparing for each child. We’re a big family now; we count her descents and their spouses at 134. Each gets an old-fashioned card in the mail for special events, often with a photo from years past and a note of motherly advice. The great-grandchildren delight when mom includes an old photo of their parent when they were that child’s age.

What do you say to your mom at her hundredth birthday? “Thank you,” would be a good start. With a promise to work as hard at building your family as she did for you. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish). Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.



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