My Second Mom  - -  until I was sixteen

Jean Miller


I am one of eight siblings.  Alice, the oldest, was ten years older than I was. Of course I never let her forget that.  I knew at four or five years of age that Alice was a special sister.


When I was four years old, Alice left home to live with our grandmother so she could attend high school.  How sad I was, as well as the other kids in my family.  After two years of high school in a small town (Ashland, Nebraska) our aunt in Omaha wanted Alice to live with her and our uncle.  She thought Alice would get a better education in a larger education system. So she moved to Omaha.


In Alice’s junior year I was stricken with acute appendicitis.  Because we lived in the country and it was in the middle of November, Dad’s car could not make the trip to Omaha, approximately thirty miles away.  An uncle was summoned to take me to an Omaha hospital.  After he took me to the hospital, he took Alice out of school and back to the farm to care for the other kids.  After five or six days (near death I am told) Alice returned to school.  I was hospitalized for sixteen days and Alice came to see me every afternoon by streetcar.  She told me how cold it was as she waited for the streetcar.  She told me daily how much she loved me. Her hugs were precious to me.  I was only six years old when all this commotion was going on but I remember vividly so many details.


Alice graduated from high school as an honor student.  In those days you were able to take a curriculum called “Normal Training”. This enabled a senior graduate to begin teaching in a rural school in September with the stipulation that she or he must enroll at the University of Nebraska during the summer.  Alice was hired at a school near Lincoln after graduation.  Her compensation was $60 per month.  I looked forward to her coming home on the weekends as often as possible.  Sometimes she hitchhiked. (How times have changed!)  She never forgot to bring goodies for the younger kids.  She dubbed me as being rebellious and having a mind of my own.  I never liked to be told what I should and should not do.  She hit the nail on the head. She was so right about me.

Several years afterwards Alice was employed at another school district closer to home.  How thrilled I was!  She now was making $85 a month.  I knew she would assist my parents during such a tough time.  One Christmas she bought a little stove with pots and pans for my younger sister and me.  She also got neckties for our brothers.  She wrapped each package very attractively and asked Mamma to hide them until Christmas.  Around Thanksgiving, those rascals located the gifts and wore them to dances. Then they tried to rewrap them before Christmas.  I thought this was hilarious but Alice surely didn’t.


When I graduated from the eighth grade Alice saw to it that I had a graduation dress.  She purchased the material and Mamma made a beautiful lilac and white dress.  I wasn’t exactly pleased because it was “home made”.  Alice was disappointed in my actions. She had every right to be.  If she had to grade me on deportment, I would get fat “D”.  After her lecture, I told her she wasn’t my mother and I didn’t have to listen to her.  Then I added, “you know you are my second Mom”.  She burst into tears and hugged me tightly and told me how much she loved “the brat”.  I don’t ever remember getting hugs from my parents. 


While Alice was doing her utmost for me, the other kids and Mamma had plenty to do.  I recall one summer Mom canned 1200 quarts of fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies.  Dad loaded the root cellar, (also used as a tornado shelter) with potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.


Teaching closer to home, while she was still taking classes at the university at night and on Saturdays, Alice got home on weekends as often as possible.  She took on the responsibility of taking me to Sunday school.  I was baptized at age eleven or twelve in a small Methodist Church.  Is it any  wonder I call her my “second Mom”?


Alice urged me to take high school seriously and stay out of trouble.  I was a good student.  I excelled in English composition and spelling, but as usual I found it difficult to conform.  I won a county spelling bee two years in a row.  I got $5 the first time and $10 the second. In my senior year my friend and I decided we should play “hooky” at least two times.  After the first time, that was enough.  My principal, Miss Kiger, did a good job disciplining, for which she was noted. Also my

parents were not very lenient.  That episode was embarrassing for my parents and Alice.


I graduated from high school at sixteen years of age, exactly on my sixteenth birthday. Alice bought me a beautiful light blue taffeta dress, “not homemade”. Back then we never knew or heard about caps and gowns.  After my graduation, Alice was married on June 27th to a man who was a seminary student.  She planned my graduation as well as her wedding.  It was the first wedding I had ever attended. I was her junior bridesmaid.  I was happy she was getting married but was also sad because she would no longer be my “second Mom”.  Her husband’s first pastorate was in Kansas.


Alice died three years ago after a long illness.  I was asked to give the eulogy. Half way through my remarks, I was unable to continue. 


Alice carved out the person I am today.  I had one daughter and I named her Marialice.


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