Those phrases are thrown around a lot. If you’ve ever wondered who has won the title of best mom in the world… it has been bestowed upon me by my children in almost every homemade, handprinted, Mother’s Day card for the last 15 years. Wait. You too? Dang, I thought I was the only one;).
Really though… have you ever met a mother that truly deserves the title of “One in a million.” I have… it’s my mother. BUT, I promise she isn’t one in a million just because I’m biased. If you don’t believe me, you will after you are done reading this. In fact, you might think she is one in two or three million; or perhaps “one of a kind” because I’ve never met anyone that has a story like hers. Her story involves dirt floors, sponge baths, an outdoor kitchen, 13 children, and love, lots of love. And just in case you are wondering, this story does not take place in the 1800s where those things were typical. It all started in the 1970s.
Ruth was raised in an affluent home the daughter of a gifted pediatrician and loving mother. Though her every material need was met there was no affluence when it came to religion. Her father was an atheist and her mother’s motto was, “I’ll keep my eyes open when I die.”
Ruth went against the grain of her upbringing since the day she was born and by the time she left home the term “free spirit” had been invented especially to define her. She backpacked by herself across Europe and did what every “good” hippie is supposed to do. You weren’t a real hippie unless you were at Woodstock, so yes, she was there too. (Not that she or anyone else who went remembers it).
With all the things her free spirit wanted to do she knew from a young age that she would love being a mother. She had an innate ability to nurture. Not just the normal “nurture” quality that many women possess. Hers was a gift, her strength.
Her travels landed her in a hippie commune in Placitas, NM… nope, not quite the place to start a family or even the best stepping stone but it all worked out.
“I’m going to spend the rest of my life with that man.” Those are the words that ran through her head shortly after moving to New Mexico and seeing Robert for the first time. She was inspired, determined, or both because they were married shortly after.
They built their first make shift home. When I say make shift I mean….
Yeah, make shift. They called it “free form” and considered it a piece of art. I’m not sure if the neighbors agreed. At any rate, they loved their home, dirt floors and all. There was one
small big problem though. They were surrounded by drugs and the lifestyle that comes when living in a hippie commune. Though LSD/acid trips made for interesting art inspiration and counterfeit “spiritual highs”… she started to realize some changes were needed.
She had her first child and it was love for that child along with a seed of desire to get to know Christ better that gave her the strength to take action. She was terrified that they risked having their children taken from them by living in a community that was being infiltrated by illegal drugs. They felt their best option was to leave their lifestyle behind, move to another state, and clean up their lives once and for all.
Their resolve proved adequate. In less than a year their life was turned around. They were free from all their addictions… drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. They found a home for their a faith in The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints and Ruth was baptized at 9 months pregnant with their second child. (I tease my mom that if she ever wrote a memoir, which she easily could, she should call it “from LSD to LDS.” Ha! Another story for another day I suppose.) Oops, where was I? Oh yes, they started on the path to grow closer to each other and their Savior. Robert obtained a journeyman’s license to become an electrician and better provide for his family. Life was looking good.
Through the strength their faith provided they felt they could return home to NM. They found a new house that wasn’t quite art and still didn’t have plumbing or electricity, but it would do for a while. So no more drugs, no more commune but…
What’s that saying? You can take the hippie out the commune but you can’t take the hippie out of the girl? I don’t think that’s quite it, but it applies here! (Really, don’t ask me how I learned to shave my legs or do my hair and makeup because that was all so foreign to my mom.) Ruth left a lot behind but she kept everything that served her children well from her hippie lifestyle.
Homemade bread and cheese, chickens, a garden… living the all-natural life. She provided opportunities for each of her 5 little ones to be creative and explore their talents. She let us express ourselves in however we chose without judgment. Her every joy was spending time with her children.
Reading, telling adventurous bedtime stories that challenged the edge of imagination,
camping out in nature at every chance, art,
fishing, hiking, rope swings,
homemade capes and life-size dolls,
staying home “sick” for some extra mom time,
a bed that was always open when nightmares came,
FIERCE momma bear that would strike fear in the hearts of anyone that dare hurt her children. (When a teacher told her that her child didn’t have a bright future, she looked her straight in the eye and said, “Well, I guess she could always become a teacher like you then.” She turned and walked out the door, head held high.)
Motherhood suited her well but her ability to have children ended too quickly. She was told she couldn’t have anymore children after the birth of her 5th child. That didn’t stop her.
Ruth and Robert applied to adopt though I don’t think they were quite expecting what would come next. Ruth got a phone call asking if they would be interested in meeting a sweet baby boy. He was 5 months old but adoption had not been an option. With his multiple physical and mental disabilities the doctors weren’t confident he’d live to leave the hospital until that point. Ruth had never considered adopting a child with that many disabilities, but she was willing to go meet him in the hospital. The rest of the that beautiful story must be told in my moms own words to do it justice. She has written it and it will be posted here soon; you will love it.
To put it briefly. They adopted a baby boy (Billy) after being warned that he would most likely never walk, talk, and may not even live past the age of 5. I can’t even imagine the faith it took to do what my mom did especially when her plate was already full with five children ranging in age from 1 to 9. Just so you don’t have to be in too much suspense… Billy defied all odds.
Shortly after Billy arrived my parents decided it was time for their family to leave Placitas completely behind. They moved to a very humble mountain home. It was a rectangle of about 1200 square feet with a loft to sleep in. It had no running water or electricity. When it comes down to it I guess those things aren’t essential to raising healthy, happy children; I’m proof of that.
I’ll divert for a second here because as a child, to me my life was normal. As an adult, and especially as a mother, I’m blown away that my mother did everything I do, except…
without an indoor kitchen, but with a wood stove
without indoor pluming, but with an outside spigot, a fluorescent green outhouse, and a horse trough to bathe in.
Nope, I can’t imagine living that way as a mother though I loved it as a child.
Yep, my mom was amazing. The house was NEVER clean, but she was still amazing. (Thought I’d throw that one flaw in there just in case you were starting to feel mom guilt.)
I would have looked at my mom’s life at this point and said, “You get a gold star. You’ve taken on enough. All done!” Not so much. Her heart had more love to give and she especially wanted to help keep siblings together that would otherwise be torn apart to be adopted. Maybe a brother and sister.
Before they could adopt there was work to be done. Four bedrooms were added to the house. We got indoor plumbing! Yay! I HATED that outhouse. We also needed something other than gas lanterns for light so the house was wired for electricity and my dad hooked up a generator so we could at least have power at night.
Then came the call that there was a group of five orphaned sisters from Calcutta, India who needed a home. FIVE? My mom’s number of children was going to double overnight. When they arrived they told my parents about a boy cousin who was also orphaned. Of course my parents couldn’t leave him behind.
Other children were in and out of our house as they needed a loving place to stay. My mom got her degree to be a teacher so she could have the same hours as us. She started teaching once we were all in school and she loved her students. One in particular was in foster care so why not add more to the family? He rounded out our family as the 13th child… 8 girls, 5 boys.
Not only was Ruth a mother to 13 children, she also obtained a master’s degree in counseling and continued helping children by working as a school counselor and providing family counseling. Though she recently retired from school counseling she still counsels individuals. Oh, did I mention that she has never charged people for her services? She wanted to make sure anyone that needed help could get it without worrying about the cost.
So do you agree with me now? One in a million or one of a kind, I’m so grateful to have known this incredible woman. I feel lucky to call her my mother. You’ll be reading more stories about her and my crazy blessed childhood!
If you enjoyed this story I’d be so grateful if you shared it on your social media accounts! What do you love about your mom? Tell me in the comments! 🙂