“Dirty old street all slushed up in the rain and snow
Little boy and his ma shivering outside a rundown music store window
That night on top of a Christmas tree shines one beautiful star
And lying underneath a brand-new Japanese guitar.”
These are the opening lyrics to a song called “The Wish” by Bruce Springsteen, my favorite artist. This is a beautiful song that Springsteen wrote years ago about his mother and how she positively influenced his life. Every time I hear this song, I think of my own mom, Billie Jean Warhurst. She means more to me and my family than she could ever imagine. When I think back to all the wonderful Christmases we’ve enjoyed together through the years, it was mom who made them special. As anyone who knows her can attest, my mom is a kind and loving person who genuinely cares about people and their well being. She’s always there to offer a kind word or lend a helping hand. And if that weren’t enough, she also makes awesome iced tea, delicious home-cooked meals and gives the absolute best hugs in the world!
While shopping here at the nursery over the years, many of you have no doubt met my mother. She’s been here since the beginning, right by the side of my father, Bob Warhurst, as he and the Williams family started Merrifield Garden Center over 40 years ago.
My mom worked and tended to the kids, just like his mom did. The song continues…
“I remember in the morning ma, hearing your alarm clock ring
I’d lie in bed and listen to you getting’ ready for work
The sound of your makeup case on the sink
And the ladies in the office, all lipstick, perfume and rustlin’ skirts
And how proud and happy you always looked walking home from work.”
My mom still works here every day, making the world a little brighter for all of us who come in contact with her. Even after all these years, I can’t think of anyone who works harder than her. Heck, even my dad will tell you that. And, so by default, I guess that makes him the second hardest-working person in the world! Mom’s always happy to do whatever needs to be done, whether it’s stocking shelves, ordering bulbs, assisting customers or sweeping the floors. And, of course, she always does it with a smile!
My dad’s a remarkable man with an incredible story. He grew up dirt poor in rural Alabama and saw first hand how tough life could be. So at the tender age of 15, he decided to leave home to build a better life. He came to Northern Virginia, got a job as a bricklayer, met my mother and started a family.
And just like in the song, it was a mom and a dad that worked together to build a life and raise a family…
“If pa’s eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true
You couldn’t stop me from looking, but you kept me from crawlin’ through
And it’s a funny old world, mama, where a little boy’s wishes come true
Well I got a few left in my pocket and a special one just for you.”
Although they were busy building Merrifield Garden Center from the ground up, my mom and dad always had time for us and made sure all our needs were met. We’ve always had lots of fun together, and we still do today. My dad often worked seven days a week, just as he does now. It was mom who was there to raise us, feed us, teach us, drive us, love us, guide us and inspire us. Dad’s loving but firm hand was perfectly tempered by mom’s sweet Southern voice and warm, loving embrace. Billie Jean is a great mother, wife, grandmother, sister, friend, co-worker and role model. She raised us to be good people – and in the process set a perfect example for us to raise our own children.
How can you even begin to express your gratitude to such a person and let them know how much they’ve meant to you?
“It ain’t no phone call on Sunday, flowers or a mother’s day card
It ain’t no house on the hill with a garden and a nice little yard
I got my hot rod down on Bond Street, I’m older but you’ll know me in a glance
We’ll find us a little rock ‘n roll bar and baby we’ll go out and dance.”
Well, I guess we must each find our own way of doing that. Since the song finishes with Bruce singing to his mom in the kitchen, I guess for him it was about giving back the gift of music that she in a sense had given to him. But for me – someone who doesn’t possess any musical talent – I guess a kiss and hug will have to suffice.
As we celebrate this holiday season and take time to appreciate all the wonderful blessings in our lives, I have many wishes that I’d like to extend. But my first Christmas wish goes out to my mother, Billie Jean. She gave us life, she gave us love and she always gave us her all!
We love you mom! All of your kids – Debbie, Rob, Larry, Donny and I – wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy future that continues to be filled with all the things you love.