Hey Mom: Happy Mother’s Day

The story of how my Dad met my Mother is a lot more entertaining than a sitcom, and mercifully shorter.

It was at an Oregon lake party put on by a Baptist high school group. Senior Bob Lott got there late and first laid eyes on this five-foot-nothing strawberry blonde of a freshman. He immediately tossed her into the drink.

Debbie Bailey came up sputtering mad. “You jerk!” she yelled. Turned out, it was the second time she’d got tossed into the lake that day. She didn’t have any dry clothes left to change into.

He felt bad about that and managed to find her enough garments to get her home dry. She thought, maybe he’s not so bad after all.

Fast forward several years. They were both at a hotel for some conference, again connected with their Baptist church. He asked to talk with her and seemed nervous and more serious than usual. He went on for about 20 minutes, talking of “purpose” and whatnot.

Finally, she cut him off when something dawned on her: “Wait, are you asking me to marry you?”

He was asking. She said yes.

They were wed not too long after and had three boys, of whom I am the first. He would become a pastor and she a mother, first and foremost, but also a candle seller, a bank teller, an Awana leader.

Mom and Dad both lived in Portland when they met, yet she didn’t start there. She was a country girl. Her father Max worked about 200 acres on the family farm in Colorado, which turned out not to be enough to provide for his wife and four children — a sister, two brothers and Mom as the baby.

So they struck out on their own. The Baileys moved to an 800-plus acre farm in South Dakota and leased several thousand additional acres from the Indians to graze cattle.

At one point in South Dakota, the whole family almost, well, bought the farm because of a natural gas leak. Grandpa Max came in late from doing something in the barn, immediately felt the effects of the gas and managed to rouse everyone and get them out of the house just in time.

The Bailey brood’s upbringing wasn’t as penurious as I’d imagined, but like most farmers they were cash poor. Life was hard, the plumbing was iffy, and never ask Mom about the rats.

One thing her brothers and sister remember about Mom was how utterly mischievous she was, and how much she got away with. Because she was the baby and because Grandma Shirley had a pronunciation problem. Gram would get mad and yell at “Nita! Dick! Dwaine! And Dwebbie!” and crack up so hard she couldn’t do much after that.

One morning before church, Mom listened to her brother Dwaine and parents talking at the breakfast table about baptism. Something came over her. She stood up in her chair, announced, “I baptize your head with orange juice!”, dumped a whole glass of OJ all over her brother’s Sunday best, and ran as fast as she could to avoid getting her butt paddled.

Baptists don’t believe in karma, but I’ve always connected the two stories in my mind, with the lake story being a sort of cosmic rebalancing for the orange juice incident.

This is a view she likely came around to. After all, she married the guy who was responsible for her anabaptism that day, and stuck by him and his sons for 40 years and counting. She’s now a grandmother as well, a role that she relishes.

I speak for all of the brothers Lott today in saying, Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. We love you so, and thanks for being so understanding about that garage door.

Jeremy Lott About the author:
Jeremy Lott helped found and manage four publications for the Real Clear Politics family of websites. He is the author of three books and an e-book, as well as the recognized ghostwriter of former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel’s memoirs. Follow him on Twitter @jeremylottdiary
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