Before Pinterest, We Had Mary Daw

In 2014, the Internet was flooded with mothers who posted pictures of their child's birthday cake,

their pristine laundry room,

and what they were going to make for dinner.

As a harried homemaker, I feel like everyone looks like this:

and I look more like this:

What this world needs is a Mary Daw.

Who is Mary Daw, you ask?  I'll tell you.

Mary Daw is a mother who rarely wears makeup.  She doesn't care about the latest fashions or trends.  When trying to remember how her house was decorated, I can't think of a single piece of furniture.  The only thing that comes to my mind is the color avocado green.  

Maybe that was the color of her fridge?

Or maybe it was her washer and dryer.

Her house was cluttered and full of stuff she bought at garage sales.  I remember in one room she had stacks of games and puzzles that almost went to the ceiling.  

Even though I don't know what her house looked like, I do know this.  She is amazing and I love her. 

Our family moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico when I was three years old.  After living in an apartment, we moved to a house on Corley street.  We shared a backyard fence with the Daws.  I still remember my mom telling me to go to the fence to meet a little girl who was my age, Ramona Daw.
I had no idea that day that I was meeting my future maid of honor.

She obviously didn't know about the rule about not being more beautiful than the bride.

After meeting Ramona, I was invited to her birthday party.  Her mother, Mary, sat all the kids down at her kitchen table, which seemed to be more like something you'd find at the corner booth of a restaurant.  It was 40 years ago, I can't remember exactly.

I was sandwiched between other small kids wondering why we are all sitting at a table for a birthday party.  Mary comes in with a huge bowl of sugar cookie dough.   I had never seen that much cookie dough before.  She gave each of us a big ball of that dough and threw rolling pins and cookie cutters on the table.  Then she told us that we could do whatever we wanted with this cookie dough. 

I remember sitting there playing and playing with my dough.  I'd roll it out, cut it into different shapes, then ball it all up and do it again.  My only experience before this was turning cookie dough into cookies, not to play with it!  But even better, Mary let us eat it!  That's right, we got to eat the cookie dough, BEFORE it went into the oven.  

I shudder to think what would happen today if a woman let other people's kids eat cookie dough.  

The dough was delicious.  It had these small brown flecks in it.  Years later I would eventually figure out that it was nutmeg.  Finally we played with the dough long enough that it was barely recognizable.  I can't remember if she baked that dough or just threw it away.  But I do remember thinking that Mary Daw was this incredible mom who let me play with cookie dough.

As the years went on, I loved going over to the Daw's house. Mary seemed to have an endless supply of purple popsicles.  That's because she made them herself.  She filled Dixie cups with grape Koolaid and put popsicle sticks in each one.  After they froze, she pulled them out and told us to peel the paper cup off the popsicle.  I thought these were the best tasting frozen treats in the world.  

 Ramona used to love jigsaw puzzles.  Being the youngest, she didn't have any younger siblings who could scatter her pieces. She would work on a puzzle for days and not have to put it away.  As the oldest in my family, I always thought Ramona was the luckiest girl in the world because she got to leave stuff out in the living room.  My little brothers would have destroyed the puzzle and run outside to pee on the peach tree within minutes of me leaving the living room.

Besides creating a home where I could spill stuff, I loved Mary for another reason.   She taught me music.  Every Tuesday after school all the Mormon kids would pile into the chapel for Primary.  Mary Daw was our chorister meaning she taught us how to sing all of the Primary songs.  Thanks to Mary I probably know the words to every single song in this book. 

Singing time during Primary was the highlight of my week.  Mary Daw knew how to make it special.  She taught us all the songs and always taught us every verse.  She used lots of visual aids to help us remember the words.  

When she taught us Smiles  she would have some of the children wear foam puppets over their hands (sort of like foam fingers at basketball games) with a smiling face on one side and a frowning face on the other.  We'd all begin with  "If you chance to meet a frown..." and the kids up front would show us their frowning puppets "Do not let it stay.  Quickly turn it upside down..."  the kids would put their puppets down by their side and flip their hands over "and smile that frown away." and reveal smiling puppets.

I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me a long time to figure out the kids were flipping the puppets over.  I thought that the frowning puppet faces magically turned to smiles.  Mary seemed to have those kind of powers.

Another song she taught us every word to was Oh What Do You Do in the Summertime?  She had pictures of each activity mentioned in the song.  The last verse says

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky?
Is that what you do? So do I!

Whenever we sang about counting all the stars, I would picture myself lying on the green grass looking up at the night sky.  That song made summertime seem like a magical time of year when all of our cares went away.  Now summertime feels busier than the school year with camps, rehearsals, trips, reunions, lessons, and all the other activities that make us too busy to march in a neighborhood parade or drink lemonade.

To this day I can't hear the song Heavenly Father Loves Me without thinking of Mary Daw's poster of a bluebird and a rose.  

My most favorite Tuesday of all was once a month when Mary Daw did something called Choose Time.  This was when different children were called to the front and got to select a picture off of a poster and we would all sing the song written on the back.  I always wanted to get picked for Choose Time.  My heart would pound as she would reach for the jar where each pencil had one of our names written on them.  Then my heart would sink when I'd hear someone else's name called.  Oh how I loved standing beside Mary and singing a Primary song.

During Spring Break of my Senior year in high school,  my family went on vacation and I couldn't go because I had a big debate case that weekend that I need to prep for.  I was able to stay with the Daws that week.  I don't remember too much about my stay there because I spent most of the time researching and writing, but a couple of things from that week stand out to me.

First was Sunday dinner.  We had a roast, potatoes, and peas.  She put the peas in an old margarine tub and microwaved them to heat them up.  This was back when microwaves were still a fairly new gadget and could be quite powerful.  When she pulled the peas out of the microwave, the tub had melted and was ruined.  When I saw Mary pull the warped tub out of the microwave, I held my breath.  What was she going to do?  Would she get mad?  She just shrugged her shoulders and threw away the tub and said, "Now we know margarine tubs can't go in the microwave." 

I learned a powerful lesson.  We really shouldn't get upset about events that we can no longer control.  The best thing we can do is just figure out what lessons we can learn when things go wrong so that we don't do them again.

The second thing I remember was Sunday dessert.  After dinner she brought a cake out of the oven.  I remember it was a yellow cake.  I was waiting for her to frost it when she said, "The cake is ready."  I thought, "No it isn't, it hasn't been frosted."  She then explained to me that on Sundays she bakes a plain cake and everyone can have as much as they want.  This blew my mind, almost as much as the idea of playing with cookie dough.

I learned that sometimes as mothers we spend too much time trying to serve our family by doing things they wouldn't really appreciate anyway.  We can make our child a cake that looks like this:

But maybe they would be just as happy with a plain yellow cake from a mix and a not-stressed-out Mom to go with it.  Sometimes I get caught up in the "Pinterest World" and think that I need to go all out doing something for my kids so that it will make a cute picture, or a fun memory, but I need to stop and ask myself, "Who am I doing this for?"  I think we need more plain yellow cakes in the world.

I think one day a year we should put away our cameras and phones and just play with our kids to honor Mary Daw and other mothers just like her.  Day after day they cleaned, cooked, and loved their children, and no one was there telling them how cute or clever they were.  No one took pictures of what they did.   They didn't get "likes," "shares," or "comments" for their decorating skills or birthday party themes. But they did leave a lasting impression on their kids and neighbors' kids who learned what it felt like to be loved... and the joys of playing with cookie dough!