Mother—Hazel Margaret Summers Peterson—came from good stock. The Summers family of Heiskell, Tennessee, were special to me, and, although I don’t get to see them often any more, they remain so. Nannie and Paw taught their children well.
Mother was a woman of firm convictions and deep devotion to both her faith and her family. One of my most vivid memories of Mother is of an incident from my childhood. Just before the school bus came one morning, I suddenly remembered that I had a form that had to be signed by a parent and returned that day. In my haste and without thinking, I barged through the closed door of my parents’ bedroom to find her on her knees beside the bed that she had just finished making—praying. The words that I heard at that moment were her praying for me by name. That was her morning ritual—dress, make the bed, and pray for us kids—but at that instant was when it hit me just how seriously she took her need for divine wisdom in rearing two sons and a daughter.
Mother was a hard worker. She raised, cooked, and canned or froze all manner of foodstuffs to feed our family year round, especially during the winter months when Daddy, a brick mason, could not work because of inclement weather. In addition to laboring in our large garden, she found time to care for numerous fruit trees, grape vines, and flower gardens. And she quilted, sewed clothes for my sister, Gina, and herself (and even a sport coat for Daddy, but that was a different story!), and made myriad sorts of macramé items.
Mother was also capable of handling stressful emergencies with poise—until the crisis was over. Then she got as limp as a wet dishcloth. She survived my numerous bike wrecks; stitches on the back of my head (from hitting the edge of the concrete porch); stitches on the top of my head (from a too-close encounter with a sailing Wolf’s Head oil sign); stitches on my chin (from one of the bike wrecks); and my broken finger (from playing baseball in the dark).
Among her cooking, gardening, canning, sewing, dealing with emergencies, and engaging in various church-related activities, Mother also made time to play with us kids (and any neighbors’ kids who might happen to be in the yard with us, and that was often). In the winter, it was jigsaw puzzles and board games, especially Aggravation. In the summer—in spite of having worked all day in the garden or the kitchen—she enjoyed playing endless sets of badminton until it was so dark that we could see the birdie only if we hit it high into the air, where it was silhouetted against the fading sunset.
But my best memories of Mother’s playing with us were of when we played baseball down in the cow pasture near Pappaw’s old barn. One night, she hit a hard line drive that struck me in the chest with such force that Daddy heard the impact all the way up at the house. When I came to, Mother was kneeling over me crying. She thought that she’d killed me.
Mother’s own death came all too early at the hands of a drunk driver. But it was in God’s perfect timing. Only after my brother, Dale, published his book Leave a Well in the Valley did I learn that just before the wreck, Mother’s oncologist had told her that her cancer had spread. It was then only a matter of time. I believe that God spared her a lingering death by allowing the car wreck.
My only regret regarding Mother is that my own daughters never had the privilege of knowing their Gramma Pete. She would have love them and they her.