On this International Women’s Day (3-8-2018), I say THANK YOU to those who give so much to so many. First, I recognize and thank my mother (in Heaven), to whom I owe not just life, but a life filled with determination, and with respect and love for others.
From a very early age, my mother instilled in me values that have served me well, and challenged me to look and reach higher. After my father passed at the very young age of 40, it was my mother who maintained a home and stable environment. Her strength of character and compassion set standards and examples that encouraged my younger sister Jean and I to grow in wisdom and maturity, and to have respect for others. I would describe my mother as a “no excuse” mother.
When I used my wagon to help people take their groceries home from Fisher Foods Store, some gave me as much as fifty cents, and some as little as a nickel. My mother taught me to be happy for the “big money”, grateful for the nickel, and she taught me to say “Thank you” for either. If I was unhappy with how someone treated me, I was taught not to resort to “I will teach that blankety-blank” a lesson, but instead consider the mistreatment as a learning experience, and try to think of a way to avoid similar situations in the future.
With the unexpected and untimely passing of my father when I was ten years old, my mother made certain I understood that I needed to do more to fulfill wants and needs, and in the process, also give consideration to others. A favorite recollection of my sister is the Christmas Shrimp Story. At Christmas time, I would take some of the tip money from my paper route and buy about a half-pound or pound of Fried Shrimp. That was my annual treat that I would share with my sister; a true special occasion. Strangely I can’t remember if my mother had any of the Shrimp. If she did, it was only a taste. She probably wisely saw it as a bonding experience between her children. As much as I loved fried shrimp, I can’t imagine not sharing it. I am certain that hoarding it would have destroyed the taste, and certainly would not have created fond memories.
As I grew and wanted to do more, I decided I was ready for heavier papers, bigger routes, an earlier starting time. I was ready for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. When I announced to my mother that I had a 2nd paper route, she reminded me that it was all mine. She made it crystal clear that whether I felt like delivering papers on a given day or not, she would not be delivering them. She announced that if I felt as though I might need backup, I had better pre-negotiate arrangements with my friends. She felt, and rightly so, that the challenges of raising two children while battling Multiple Sclerosis were more than enough, and she did not need additional challenges.
My mother’s insistence that I be independent and dependable served me well not just on newspaper routes during the snow storms of the 1950’s, but in many of life’s “storms” since. Those lessons taught me that responsibility was not always convenient or fun, but it was necessary in the development of character.
Having a “no excuse” mother, meant it didn’t matter what “all my friends” were doing, but what I did had better be on her approved list. Having a “no excuse” mother meant that it did not matter that I was outnumbered and outsized by many schoolmates at the old Cleveland Trade School who did not like the color of my skin. What mattered was that my “skin” and my behind had better show up at school. Having a “no excuse” mother meant that despite the yearly racial problems and the April 1970 attack on City Buses carrying black students from Collinwood High School, where police lines were challenged, windows busted out, etc.; my sister Jean was still required to show up and get an education.
This and so much more was required to prepare my sister and I for the challenges that we would encounter. In all our lives, there are people, many of them women, who sacrifice and sometimes suffer silently to create an environment that builds our character and resolve. Please reflect and take some time to say “Thank You” to those in your life who have helped you navigate the minefields around you. You won’t be able to thank them all, but at least you can begin!
To view our Women’s History tributes in the March-April issue of VISIONS Newsletter, please Click Here.