April 2, 2008, is the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. She was one month short of 90 years old and died at home with her three children in attendance, just as she wanted. She said, “If life on the next planet is half as much fun as it was on this one, I’ll have a great time.” She said, “I did so much more in my life than I ever expected -- taught for a long time, went clear around the world, rode a camel...”
1909 - 1998 just about covers the 20th century, a most amazing time to be alive, not least because it was documented all along the way with photos. Here’s my mother on a postcard, which is the way people used photos in those days. The message was from her mother (my grandmother) to her prospective sister-in-law, Florence.
And here’s the entire family in the way that rural people lived in those days. I’d love to live in those clothes, that house, right now. In fact, I’m coming as close as I can.
John Pinkerton did the best he could with his oldest daughter: sent her off to college in Albany to attend what would become Lewis & Clark in Portland. But the Depression hit and the tuition money was just gone. One day John came home with this big mule and a sack of seed corn. “Lou,” he said, “I’ve leased a field for you and if you can use this mule to raise a crop of corn, it will pay your tuition.” She did it.
But it was only enough for another half-year. She’d planned on being a math teacher. Instead she ended up working for small businesses in Roseburg. She was a member of the Businesswomen’s Club and a “career girl” on a small scale.
One day she was working for the newspaper and a wool buyer came in to place an ad. He was a city man from Portland, or so it seemed. (Actually he was a homesteader’s kid from the prairie.) He had a Master’s Degree. (His thesis was on the price of potatoes.) And he had a house. Partly she married him (I believe) to live in Portland in that house, thinking it was moving to sophistication in the Big City.
It was less than that. I was born when she was thirty. Paul was born when she was 35. Soon there were three of us. And she was realizing that she’d married a bibliomaniac. (I’m the one who got that gene.)
The opinion of the time was that was old to be a mother and that three was an excessive number of children. Not because the pill was available, but because it was wartime and there was a certain amount of rationing.
By the time of this photo (taken at Wallowa Lake) she had survived a radical mastectomy and a broken arm and returned to college at Portland State University where she graduated at the same time I graduated from high school. It was 1957.
From then until retirement she taught elementary school, moving from classroom to library. One day she came home and said to my father, “Let’s go around the world.” So they did. The photo of her on a camel was her Christmas card that year.
A few years later, after my father had died, she went to the part of the world she had fancied since listening to missionaries as a little girl. Asia. This is in Singapore.
There was a lot more to it, of course, but this is a quick visual sketch of one woman and the distance she managed to travel in her lifetime. She died quietly, as she wished, in the house she had entered as a bride.