Celebrate Mother Departed Mother

2023 Mother’s Day Special Michele Stowell remembers Norma Plumb

She was just totally hundred percent devoted every starring moment. These sweet little granddaughters that she had and grandsons as well if they were over. Everything was about them from start to finish. Everything was about them being happy and them having fun and being involved in doing things together. That was a very cool space for her and for the kids.

“You are that even if I wasn’t your mom, you’re really that incredible.”

[ Editor’s note: This interview occurred in 2020. Michele T. Stowell died of cancer in October 2021. Her mother, Norma Plumb, had died over a decade earlier. Love never dies. Happy Mother’s Day to All Mothers Living or on the Other side.]

I am Michele T. Stowell. I was born five decades ago in Seattle, Washington.

Michele T. Stowell smiling by pink flower tree.

When I was born, my father, Michael Plumb, called my grandfather and said, “Michele Theresa now has arrived.” Then my poor grandfather, who was a salesman, did not know who Michele Theresa was or where he was supposed to pick her up or what he was supposed to sell to her.

He was freaked out because the secretary told him I had arrived. That’s how I was born.

I have two brothers that came later. We lived on 44th West in Lynnwood, and we moved to this house in Martha Lake where we grew up with Mom and Dad until we went off on our own.

Side view of the house in Martha Lake where Michele and her family lived.

I’m assuming my Mom was born in Seattle as well, but I can’t remember. Maybe it was Kirkland wherever the hospitals were back then.

She lived all her life in the same house in Bothell, in a little house that was built during the war, by hand by my Grandpa. My Mom was an only child and she lived a pretty quiet and a parent-focused life.

She didn’t know about people fighting because her parents didn’t fight and she didn’t have anybody to fight with. Fighting children was kind of a surprise to her when she had her own.

When she first had me, she didn’t drive a car. Wherever she was going, somebody must have taken her there. She had been a school teacher who taught in a Catholic school. They didn’t allow people to keep teaching when they were pregnant. You couldn’t show that you were pregnant. I don’t know if she must have retired from it.

They had a baby shower for her at that school. That was kind of funny that they knew she was pregnant, but there was some limitation.

Then she raised kids for a long time, which was us. We were an overwhelming three little tiny kids. We were all within four years.

The Plumb family.

I remember talking on the phone a lot back when they were cord phones. I would run around the kitchen and I would be on this cord and eventually the cords got longer, which was good. And then I was able to run around the whole room.

Mother as Love

I think for me, it was just that there really wasn’t anything she could do that didn’t exude love. No matter what you did, her love was always there.

No matter what you did. She always had your back and everybody felt that way. It will make no difference whether it was people who weren’t on two sides of the same issue and they would all feel like no matter what their position was, Mom had their back.


I don’t remember anything specific that she would say.

My power is different than my mother’s. She was more subtle and behind the scenes.

She wasn’t quiet. She focused on a person’s value really well but not on how they lived their life. Things were kind of scattered because they were not things that mattered. She did the things she really cared about, like a beautiful Christmas.

She made a difference in many people’s lives. Many people would say that they made it through because she was there. It’s a long list.

She would listen as they talked about their traumas and dramas and to them it again was that she had their back. She loved them. She really loved them and she didn’t try to change or fix them. She just loved them where they were at.

The Downside

There’s a downside to being who she was. It was self sacrifice. If you were in looking at a life over view, you’d have to wonder did she get what she needed? She forgot herself. You saw it in the last couple of years. I mean, there were no responsibilities at that point. She dropped everything. She didn’t clean the house. She still had all the family events and all those wonderful things happening like that. But it didn’t matter. She read tons of books for enjoyment. And if you came in the house at that point, she’d be on the couch, maybe watching television and she’d be reading a book.

I mean like she really enjoyed things like walking. Taking her walks with Helaine and they would walk for miles down that trail and into Bell Creek and walk and loop around and come back up. She did that all the time.

She loved her time with the grand-kids.

She was very artsy and craftsy and she can sew and do all these things.

The stories go that I would be the little girl who went to get the diapers or I would be the one to “go get your brother, “ that kind of stuff. That’s my own story, not her story. She was in a space where she was taking on too much. I should have been playing and having fun. But I was herding children.

From seven to fourteen, I ended up in school and I’m fending for myself. As far as my role with my mother, I mean we would bake cookies together. We had things to cook and chores to do. I probably always was helpful helping people folding clothes or cooking. I remember sitting at the counter. They had the apples from Grandma’s apple tree. We would all be sitting there peeling the apples and making apple sauce or packaging the apples for the year for the freezer. Grandma and mom and I would all be working on it.

Norma, Grandma F, Michele and Nyassha
Norma, Grandma F, Michele and Nyasha

Mom was definitely more of a support as far as if I wanted to do something that was an after-school program. Mom would be the one that was driving or she would be the one that was making sure I got back. As far as being an older teenager, Mom and Dad were really good with the older teenagers as a group.

It’s how I raised Nyasha and Shanté. It’s almost like, “well, you’re done. You’re free, you’re free to go ahead and emerge however you’re going to emerge. You don’t need a lot of a straight up guidance.”

I couldn’t help with homework. I mean I can’t do high school math anymore. There’s no assistance like that but the assistance is in the social part. They were making sure we did dance group and making sure we had spaces for social environment and they were great representatives of adult life. Just loving teenagers at that age was huge because people don’t love those kids. There are tons of adults that teenagers resent and don’t like.

It’s not like saying, “Well, you really probably shouldn’t be drinking or smoking.” That’s just the rules, but it wasn’t that type of thing.

It was more like why would anybody want to do that near mom and dad? Only If you were a total jerk and you wanted to do what was rebellious against them.

I got married at 21. Actually at that point I was working with Mom. She was my coworker and we taught together. That worked really well because we very much complemented each other. What she didn’t do well, I did well and vice versa. It was pretty obviously advantageous to do that. She would know what I was going through. For example, if I were sick she could compensate for that even in the workplace and then hopefully vice versa so that the balance worked out.

Norma, Michele, Nyasha, and Shante
Norma, Michele, Nyasha, and Shante

Then the next stage was grandparents. She was just totally hundred percent devoted every starring moment. These sweet little granddaughters that she had and grandsons as well if they were over. Everything was about them from start to finish. Everything was about them being happy and them having fun and being involved in doing things together. That was a very cool space for her and for the kids.

For me, that was just useful because then I get laundry done. I got the laundry done in one day in their house, because we didn’t have water in our new house in Granite Falls in the early 1990s. You’d have 10 loads of laundry and go straight through it, one after another after another and she would play with the kids and cook dinner.

That was a form of weird break, so that was good. Mom was just like a friend that came and she helped in the classrooms and with the kids. I saw her that way independently. Then also, you know, probably matriarch of the family, of course. Really leading the way and everybody getting together, as you know, those last years, way more involved, in Helaine’s world at that point, because she did want to take care of somebody and help somebody.

Writing letters

She wrote me lots of letters in college. She always wrote letters and cards and told me how wonderful I was and, and how much she loved me. It was on all of them.

Michele in a Garden in Oakland, Ca, June 2018.

I would always laugh and laugh and say, “You have to say that. You’re my mom.”

She would say, “You know, really you are, you are that even if I wasn’t your mom, you’re really that incredible.”

I would just roll my eyes at her, you know, like okay, you don’t have a choice. The nice thing is that, that it’s true. She’s my mom and she should say those things. That’s the right way for a parent to see their child. But on the flip side, that isn’t how many mothers see their children.

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