What in the Sam Hill…

Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, Janet and I were visiting someone who was recounting the story of Sam Hill, a wealthy American, presumably from the Pacific Northwest, who became the impetus for the phrase, “What in the Sam Hill is that?” To be perfectly honest, there are several stories about where the phrase came from, including the possibility that it relates to a mercantile store owner from Arizona who carried all sorts of various items that were considered out of the ordinary. When people saw something incredible, it elicited a question about what the item was and whether it came from Sam Hill. Many folks, especially younger people, have never heard the phrase, and in my own life, I only recall one person who used this phrase frequently – my mother.

And I haven’t heard it in many years – Mom passed away back in 1998 and she didn’t really reference Sam Hill in her later years. Of course, back in the day when I was growing up, I don’t know how many times she asked me, “What in the Sam Hill are you doing?” or ‘What in the Sam Hill is wrong with you?” That last one usually happened when I was doing something wrong or got a bad grade in school. Undeniably, yesterday brought back tons of memories of Mom and my early childhood.

The timing was odd – tomorrow, Oct. 5th, Mom would have been 91 years old and I have been thinking about her as it is – let alone the re-introduction of the Sam Hill references so common in my early years. Those thoughts led to remembrances of when my youngest brother, Ken, was born back in 1960, and to the many things that our family did together as we were growing up.

More than 17 years after her death, the memories of Mom are starting fade a little. Just like the references to Sam Hill that I haven’t thought of in years. Oh, I remember the birthday parties she and Dad threw for me and the special dinners we used to have to celebrate special occasions. Or how Dad loved to work in the yard and Mom would assign each of us a section of the rose garden that we had to weed several times each summer.

Then there were the times that Doug and I had to cut the grass and change the height of the wheels on the lawnmower because Dad wanted the front yard grass longer than the back yard lawn. And none of us kids could forget Mom’s cooking. Each evening, precisely at 6:00 p.m., we sat down to dinner – as a family. There was none of this preoccupation with soccer or baseball or anything else infringing on our family time at dinner.

We were required to eat what was in front of us – like it or not… And we took our dirty dishes into the kitchen where we were on dish duty helping Mom with the clean-up from dinner. I even remember when we finally had a dishwasher installed in our home. We thought it was the greatest invention that we could possibly have. And then there were the special times that we would be upstairs doing homework and could hear Mom downstairs playing the piano.

When she was a young girl, Mom took classical piano lessons for twelve years – she was quite accomplished but when we were growing up, Mom didn’t continue to find time to play. That was a shame – it was special treat to hear her still play the way most of us only dream about. She was a gourmet cook – having studied at the Pope School of Cooking. And how could I forget the times that I accompanied her as she visited a seamstress to order clothes.

Mom loved to pick out fabrics and it was rather rare in those days for Mom to shop in a store. She had always had her clothes made and that’s the way I remember her – not a hair out of place or an ill fitting outfit – ever. Before I was even born, she worked downtown for Marshall Field & Co. – and I can’t even begin to recount the great times I had growing up knowing so many of my mother’s friends from her days at the store. Christmas under the tree in the Walnut Room – visiting Don Moet in Interior Design or Helen Pelling in TV’s and fine furniture. It was almost like we had our own special relationships with most of the employees of the store! And Mom hadn’t even worked there for years…

When I was a youngster it was quite difficult to keep up with Mom. She walked fast – with intention and purpose. Later, as MS took its toll, she slowed down and stumbled here and there. It’s all a part of growing older. And now, years later, there aren’t any folks left from the generation before mine. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and extended older family members have all gone on ahead of us.

The verse for tonight reflects the biblical mandate from Proverbs to remember the teaching of our mothers and fathers. We are told, in Proverbs 6:20-22, “My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.”

That’s how it has been with my parents – especially Mom. As I get older, I still remember so many of the things that she taught us. I guess they are ingrained in me – permanently. My encouragement tonight is that parents are a treasure. I know there are times that they drove me crazy and I am sure that our children would say the same things about Janet and, especially, me. My prayer is that you will honor the memory of your folks and all that they taught you. Because the day will come when you won’t have them around – maybe that has happened already – and yet you will carry around the lessons they have taught you for the rest of your life. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

 
 
 
 

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