I'll Never Forget the Silk Corsage

Debby Thompson and her mother, Dorothy Faye, 1956

Photography provided by Debby Thompson


It must have been spring. The holiday must have been Easter. She was getting closer to her due date, and we were holding our breaths. Her previous miscarriages made this pregnancy especially precious. Being an only child of 9 years intensified my desperate longing to have a sibling. I would have done anything for her. At least I thought I would. 

There we stood, just the two of us, in the aisle of the dime store, the local Woolworth’s. It was hot and the store was empty. I still hear the quietness. Tall shelves were in the back of the store, but we stood near the short counters in the middle section. I held something in my hand and she held something in hers. Mine was a purse, and I will never forget, hers was a silk corsage. The floral cluster was a simple accessory for an outfit. It offered a touch, just a small delicate touch, for a woman who felt large, very pregnant. 

I did not understand that; no, of course not. I only knew that I wanted to walk out of the store owning the item I clutched in my hand. To me, it made sense that we would both get what we wanted. Both, not either/or. 

Without ceremony, without sermon, she said, “No. We can’t buy both. There’s not enough money. I’ll put mine back.” And that is what she did. We paid, we walked out and we made our way home in the brown and white Pontiac. No one even knew what had transpired. But I never forgot. On Sunday I carried a small white straw purse, and she wore a simple, undecorated brown maternity top. 

Now as I look back, I see that she made a lifetime habit of putting hers back. She was consistent in putting my wants before her own. This beautiful woman is my Mother. 

With seamless grace, she has made the transition from one generation of relationships to another. As mother, as grandmother, as great grandmother, she just keeps on getting it right. 

As a mother, she is a model. Ask me how I know that coffee with a hurting friend is more important than a to-do list. As a grandmother, she is loyal. Ask the teenager who needed foolishness to remain untold. As a great grandmother, she is generous. Ask the little one who opens a birthday card to find 20 dollars tucked inside. 

Her secret? Love – love for the Lord and love for people. Uncomplicated, simple, never-too-busy, straightforward love. Somewhere long ago, she calculated that love would involve sacrifice, putting hers back. Standing in the aisle of a store she modeled a message that words could never articulate. Her actions have stood the test of time. 

I wonder if she dreamed the day would come when we, her family, would all want to be with her, want to talk to her, want to get her advice, get her recipe, get her opinion, get her perspective. Somehow I don’t think so. That would have been too complicated. And putting it back isn’t complicated; it is a choice. 

Mama, thank you. Thank you for then; thank you for now. I left with far more than a purse; I left with a lesson. I love you dearly for all the times you demonstrated that love means putting it back.


Debby Thompson and her husband Larry have served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for 42 years, with 33 years living abroad in Eastern Europe. Debby is currently living in Cincinnati. She is a grandmother of five, a global ambassador to women, a writer and speaker. You can subscribe to her blog at DebbyThompson.com GPS for the Woman of Purpose and follow her on Twitter at @Debbythompson17. To contact Debby Thompson, email her at debby.thompson@athletesinaction.org.