There is one Debbie that I can never forget, and that is my niece, the eldest offspring of my full siblings. Mostly she goes by that name. Her husband Rick calls her Deb. Some of her cousins call her Debbie Jo (because there's also a Debbie Jean). My mom, her grandmother, called her Debra Jo when she was in trouble, which I usually caused. No matter what name she is called, she can always answer to the title of strong, thoughtful, sentimental, loving, honest, straightforward, and loyal woman, friend, mother and wife.
I was four years old when my oldest sister Jane, at seventeen, delivered into our midst the cutest, sweetest little roly-poly baby girl. She was my baby doll and the adults had to watch me carefully or I would try to pick her up and carry her around like one. I was allowed the grand honor of holding her while she drank her bottles. They lived with us for quite a while, because Debbie's dad was in the military and was stationed in Okinawa. Unfortunately, the marriage didn't survive the first year, and my sister became a single mother, while also finishing her senior year in high school.
Debbie was always a little lady. When she was not much older than a toddler, she would be concerned whether her "undergirt" was showing from beneath her dress, and her hair had to be fixed just right, and she really hated getting her hands dirty. We called her "Miss Priss".
As you can probably guess, Debbie and I were very close as we were growing up. We giggled over boys and TV shows, and we fought like sisters as well. Once we had a fight over a new jar of peanut butter. We both wanted to be the first one to stick the knife in the fresh surface. Well, I did it and she got mad and smeared peanut butter all over my leg. Mom gave her a couple of swats on her bottom while I smiled devilishly from behind Mom's back. Debbie has never let me forget that one!
That same summer, I think I was 13 and she was 9, we were allowed to stay at home alone one evening while my mom and stepdad went to visit some of his family. We had plotted and schemed all day that while they were gone we would ride my bike half a mile down the road to the old-fashioned general store and buy a Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pizza and bake it. Problem number one--we had no money. So I, being a consummate petty thief (ha), was to steal seventy-five cents from mom's purse while Debbie made sure she was distracted. Okay, we pulled that off without a hitch.
As soon as the car left the driveway, we were on that bicycle heading to the store. Nonchalantly, we chose the cheese-pizza-in-a-box and paid for it with the purloined coins. As we pulled into the driveway, I think I slid in the gravel, Debbie fell off the bike and I ran over her head. Okay, it's not quite as bad as it sounds. I think I mostly ran over her hair and caught a little scalp in with it. She cried and I cried and begged her forgiveness and we went inside and baked the pizza. That was one delicious cheese pizza! We cleaned up the mess, and with innocent looks on our faces, sat down to watch television as we heard them pull into the driveway.
Problem number two occurred when my stealthy mother with a great sense of smell sniffed out the evidence. DUH! Have you ever smelled one of those things when you're not eating it? She walked over and looked into the trash can and poked under the cover-up we thought had been so clever. Mother was a little unhappy with us. Not because we made a pizza, but for lying and stealing money from her purse.
Debbie's life was peaceful for only a short while after her mother and stepfather were divorced. My sister hooked up with an old boyfriend from her early teen years, a career Army recruiter who was returning from overseas. They were quickly married and he moved them all to Florida for his next job assignment. Far away from everything and almost everyone who Debbie knew and loved. He turned out to be a miserable sonofabitch full of sweet talk and promises and he was also an alcoholic....who later on became physically abusive to my sister (it seems she was destined to choose the same kind of man more than once). He hated Debbie because she saw right through him from the beginning. Debbie's stay in Florida didn't last long, only a few months. She came back to Ohio to live with her real father, who until then had not been a big presence in her life. She was thirteen and became the oldest sister to three younger siblings by her dad's second wife, a wonderful stepmother named Mary.
Things were okay at her dad's, but the house was small and crowded and Debbie didn't like him telling her what she could and couldn't do. And she missed her mother terribly. She and Debbie had always been extremely close, and then it was almost like she no longer had a mother because my brother-in-law effectively shut off communication between them (and all of us who loved her). He knew a troublemaker when he saw one.
Debbie was just sixteen when she was married. Only seventeen when her first son was born nine months and four days after the ink dried on the marriage license. She was born to be a mother. For all intents and purposes, she had been mothering her sisters and brothers practically her whole life. It must have seemed perfectly natural to mother her own little one.
Nobody has ever handed Debbie anything. She has worked hard her whole life. Although she didn't graduate high school, when her sons were young, she studied and got her GED. She didn't want them to be ashamed of her for not having a diploma. That is only one of her many accomplishments. She has always striven to make a good life for her family.
Debbie's and my kids grew up together. They are very close in age. Her oldest son Ricky is ten months older than my oldest, Jaye. Then came my Josh, then her James, then my Aimee. We lived three miles apart. The kids all went to the same elementary and middle schools. That is when our next "excellent adventure" began. We
Debbie was also a successful direct sales representative for not just one, but three different companies. One of them for over thirty years! Then, because her husband became disabled and she no longer had insurance, she went to work as a cook in the same school district where our children attended. She loves her work there, but she wasn't satisfied with just that. Oh no, not our little workaholic! She decided a few years ago, after her youngest son opened his own barber shop, that she wanted to be a barber, too. So, while she was still working as a cook, she attended barber school for the required 1,800 hours and became a barber at the age of 50! She said it nearly killed her, but she never quits when she has a goal. I couldn't have been more proud of her if she had attained a medical degree. She joined her son in his barber shop, and they're still working out who is the real boss. :)
When we suddenly lost my mother, Debbie's beloved Grandma who helped raise her, twenty-three years ago, there was none among us who was more heartbroken than Debbie. It left a huge hole in her heart and in her life, as it did all of us. Debbie worshipped her then and she does to this day. We clung to each other and to my sister Judy to help us get through that time. And they were both there for me when I needed them the most. We survived another loss three years ago, when we lost Debbie's mom, my sister Jane, to cancer. Once again we sought each other out for comfort that only close family can provide.
After being separated from her mother for twenty years and after my sister's divorce from
Family is everything to Debbie. That is, and will always be, her credo. It is what drives her to be everything she can be. She is the matriarch of her family of a husband, two successful sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, three lovely granddaughters, and a cute and mischievous little grandson. They look to her for the way to go, because they know that she will always steer them in the right direction. She may be small, but she is the strong one.
"I was a "MEAN MOM"... I loved my children enough to ask where they were going, with whom, and what time they would be back.. I loved them enough to make them clean their rooms in MY house.. I loved them enough that doing well in school was not rewarded but expected and you were to respect your teachers...I loved them enough they had to eat whatever was on the dinner table...I loved them enough they actually had to ride the bus..I loved them enough to insist on knowing every detail about their friends...I loved them enough to buy their first car,but the insurance and gas was at their expense and they could only have 1 friend at a time in the car...I loved them enough that YES they actually got their mouth smacked if they talked back...I loved them enough that I BROKE CHILD LABOR LAWS, they had to wash dishes,take out garbage,mow the yard, wash cars, vacuum the house, cook... I loved them enough when they fought with each other, they had to kiss and make up...I loved them enough to insist they be honest, you may still get in trouble, but not near the trouble if you lie to me...I loved them enough they could not date until they were 16... I loved them enough they did not always have the best of everything, they had the best I could afford..I loved them enough to say NO more than YES...I loved them enough to set a curfew and ground them if it was broken....I loved them enough to let them see anger, disappointment and tears in my eyes... Because I was a "MEAN MOM" I have 2 sons that have never been arrested for shoplifting, vandalism, drugs, or any other crime. Best of all, they are now "MEAN DADS"...I guess its true what the experts say, things and lifestyles are carried through generations, my Mom was mean, I was mean, now my sons are mean parents..........I wouldn't want it any other way."And they wouldn't want you any other way, Debbie. Happy, happy birthday!
Love you always,