My Mother, My Hero

18581815_10210594503636521_5233969730884670004_n[1]I’ve been working on this piece for a while. I meant to post this yesterday, because it was  the 43rd anniversary of my mom’s 36th birthday*, but Life had other plans

A while ago  I talked about how I always wanted to be a superhero.

My aunt responded with this:

You are a superhero … Doing the right thing is not easy sometimes. You’re so like your mother. I wish Mom or Dad was here to tell me the specifics of this story because I was a kid and can’t remember the details.  Anyway It involved your Mom and race relations in the 50’s.  The local newspaper was interviewing students to get their opinions and they interviewed Karen.  I remember Mom and Dad being so proud of her, but concerned for her safety.  So you see…you’re a chip off the old block.  I’m enjoying your writing. Keep it up!

Love, Aunt Sally

I remember that story very well, but I’m not sure where I heard it. My mom was not one to brag. I probably heard it from my grandfather, who loved sharing family stories (I wish I’d been willing to listen). Or maybe mom told me the story when we had one of our many discussions about racism (I would say that I was raised to be colorblind, but evidently colorblindness is the new racism). I couldn’t understand why we were still struggling with racial inequality in the 70’s. It pissed me off, and I frequently came home, ranting and raving about something I’d seen/heard/read. My mother, who grew up in the Deep South in the 50’s and 60’s, would laugh.

This is the way she told the story –

I went to school at the height of the fight for integration. My father  (who was superintendent for the Oklahoma City school district) met with President Kennedy regarding the issue (I wish I had that picture/newspaper clipping, because it was REALLY cool), but I can’t say for certain that that’s why they chose to interview me. They asked me “What do you think of busing/integration?”. I told them “People should be allowed to attend whatever school they’d like to. They should be allowed to come here or stay at their old school, if that’s what they prefer.”

Needless to say, the newspaper quote did not go over well with some (most) of her neighbors in Tecumseh. My mom never knew about the backlash. My grandmother and grandfather handled the calls calmly, responding to suggestions that they “beat some sense into (her)” with “Thank you. We’re taking care of it.” I love this example of “creative truth telling”. They didn’t LIE, exactly. They just never said how they were “taking care of it”.

This, then, was the woman who raised me. My mother. My hero. Don’t get me wrong – my mother wasn’t perfect. She battled inner demons, she smoked and drank too much, she talked too loudly and snorted when she laughed. She didn’t fit in with the Perfect PTA Parents and Suburban Soccer Moms**.  She may not have been perfect, but she taught me many things. My mother taught me:

  • to be kind to everyone you meet.  (well, she tried to, at least. There are some days when the best I can manage is “not hateful”).
  • that there is no such thing as a stranger. She believed that strangers are just friends you haven’t yet met.
  • the importance of family, and showed me that “family” includes both family by blood and family of heart.
  • the value of shared grief (I used to mock her for crying when a friend suffered a loss because I was a lousy know-it-all teen, but I get it now).
  • and the value of shared joy.
  • the importance of keeping a secret
  • and the destructive power of gossip
  • when to speak up when necessary
  • and when to keep quiet
  • to respect others – that I didn’t have to agree with them, but that everyone is entitled to their own opinion (and that yes, opinions are like assholes)

Most importantly, she taught me that (almost) everything about anyone else is “Noneya”. Race, religious belief, sexual orientation – it really is “noneya business” – as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else (An it harm none. I never realized that my mom was a Wiccan).

In a world that’s becoming increasingly divisive, with hate crimes on the rise and people attacking each other for differing opinions, we need more people like her. She may have been “just” a housewife, but she was as much a superhero as any caped crusader.

*While most women remain 27, my mother was eternally 36. “I can’t be 37 yet, because I swore I would get my ears pierced when I turned 37.”

**Holy crap. I AM my mother’s daughter. <shrug> There are worse things I could be.

My other hero was my grandfather, who always reminded me of Atticus Finch


I’m curious – who is YOUR hero?


14 responses to “My Mother, My Hero

  1. I’ve seen a picture recently of the mothers of Corby Street. I’ll have to see if I can post it on FB. I don’t think very many of those women were “typical soccer moms”! Great article on a wonderful woman!!

    • ooooooooo! I would love to see a picture of all the Corby moms. You’re right – they weren’t “typical soccer moms” – they were a group of amazing women who raised some pretty incredible kids (if I say so myself).

  2. I love the message across this text. Heroes are not perfect but they do the right thing in their hearts. My hero was my grandmother, she has taught me so much and I’ll always remember the lessons I’ve learned from her.

    • Thank you. You’re right – we think that heroes should be perfect, but flaws are what makes us human. I love that your hero is your grandmother – so much better than a soccer player or reality star.

  3. I love the lessons you’ve learned from your mother. Sure, she wasn’t perfect, but she’s a great model for you! I posted something similar about how I felt about my father during his funeral, so I appreciate your post.

    • I am so sorry for your loss – the loss of a parent is devastating. I’ve had so many people tell me that I’m just like my mom – I consider it a huge compliment.

  4. It sounds like your mom was pretty amazing! Something we can al aspire to be!

    • Yes, despite what my teenaged self thought, she was awesome. I appreciate her so much more now that I have a teen of my own -and I know she’s laughing somewhere, because the mother’s curse is real. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Anshuman Agrahari

    Well written article, I started missing my mom now. 😐
    Will be meeting her after 6 months.

  6. Oh, Love…She was on my mind the other day, and I was remembering when she turned 23…driving in her red and white Chevy convertible, (yes, smoking and knowing that she didn’t have a serious care in the world) and looking in control of what life had for her.
    Well, she was usually on her way to work when we were employed by PT&T in San Mateo. We both worked the swing shift after a while do that we could go to the beach in the morning, go home, shower and head off to work around 4ish. On one such beach outing, I burned the tops of my feet and had to go barefoot at work. She was so-o-o supportive…laughing at my misery. You besmirched your mom’s habits “…smoked and drank too much!” Honey, that was part of what made your mom be who she was. Great times! Great friend!
    Great person!

    “Aunt” Judy

    • LOL I can see mom now – your memory made me teary AND made me laugh. As for besmirching her habits – it was not intentional. I didn’t want anyone to think Mom was anything other than human (although raising two kids and keeping a perfect house definitely makes her a Superwoman in my eyes). I can’t help thinking that, perhaps, if she’d indulged her habits a little less, she might be here still. Then again, she might have gotten hit by a bus instead (when it’s your time to go…). Love you. ❤

  7. I have always liked to read a family stories, and this one was really nice. Now I am far from my parents and such story makes me very emotional, Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Thank you so much. I’m always worried that my family stories are too personal to be interesting to anyone else. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and sorry you’re so far from your family.

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