Thirty-ish years ago Joy Pritchett, a young, beautiful, incredibly smart woman moved into a little pink house that her husband had built for her. And she became like a lighthouse keeper, navigating safe passage for the ships and they came and went.

One of Daddy’s repeat jokes is that when a woman has a baby she loses half of her mind, her sanity.  So with a second child, she doesn’t lose the last half, but she again loses half of what she has. And so a woman’s mind and sanity continue to diminish fifty percent with each child. Of course, with every re-telling of this, the men in the room roar and the woman with amused looks of disapproval towards their husbands and lovingly resentful looks towards their children, and almost always begin discussing how true it feels.

One afternoon, while I was away working on my graduate degree, a girl coming down the hall interrupted me halfway through a phone call,  “Ah! No one EVER says MAMA anymore! I LOVE hearing that!” My attention was immediately captured by the word I used everyday, but never thought about. Mama.

Sometime in the late 80’s, Joy Pritchett became Mama, changing her name and her identity.  She lost her sanity by half, two more times before the mid 90’s.  And with each of her three little girls born, she gave up her name, her identity, and her sanity. And so, became the woman she is today.

I’ve always loved hearing other woman say, “wow, homeschooling must have been really hard, I couldn’t do it.” Because sometimes they mean they wouldn’t do it or that it can’t be done well. But Joy Pritchett did it. And she did it well. And it was hard. And she did it for us.

She changed herself for us. She lost her mind for us.

She’s the hardest to write about, this mama of mine.  Five feet of tiny contradictions. But she showed up for us. Every moment, carrying every burden that we left in our little pink house, for safekeeping.

Many more girls than just her three have gone to the little pink house for safekeeping.  On behalf of them all, Happy Birthday, Mama.