My mother is simply an amazing woman. She grew up in a poor family and attended Central High School in Little Rock right before the Little Rock Nine. Mom married very early in life and had two sons in a single year – before she was old enough to drink legally – and a third four years later.
Family lore holds that on the day Mack, her third, was born Mom rode the city bus across town to a beauty salon to have her hair done. She terrified the stylist when she responded to “When is your baby due?” with “Any minute.” Her contractions had begun on the bus ride over, and in the Thanksgiving tale version she points out that Mack was not her first, she knew what she was doing, and she was determined to look her best when they finally met.
Mom took classes at night while working days at a Mad Men – era advertising agency until she earned a fellowship to do graduate work. About the time I turned ten she packed us up for a move to Ole Miss as a single mom with no job and little money. Mom edited and typed papers for other students to pay the bills and saved on babysitters by taking us with her to the library. I still love to read. In only three years she earned a doctorate in English Literature after writing a computer program that compiled data on syntax in William Blake poems for her dissertation – in 1973.
Mom never showed any give-up of any kind. She did what had to be done and never quit. Every day she demonstrated an inner strength and moral courage unmatched in anyone else I’ve ever met. She taught us to respect women – and with a Mom like her we could come away with no other lesson. She taught us to believe in ourselves and by her own actions showed us that we could often grasp things that looked beyond our reach. And she taught us to love unconditionally and without reservation by loving us unconditionally and without reservation.
Yes, Mom, you certainly knew what you were doing. Thanks for everything, and Happy Mother’s Day.