Since tomorrow is Mother's day I thought I would take a few moments to recognize one of the greatest women I know, my Mom.
My people, for the most part were not what you would call upwardly mobile. We were tenant farmers, cotton mill workers and common laborers, with enough white trash tossed in to season the mix. All the men folk would serve a hitch in the "service" then end up in a dead end job for the next 30 years. The women would raise young 'uns and keep house, until the kids were old enough to be put in school. Then they would go out and find a job to help make ends meet with the household budget.
My mom, wanted to break that pattern. When she graduated from High School,(one of the first in her family to do this) she tried to continue her education so that she could become a nurse. Her father forbid her to do this, and told her to get married and get a job in the mill. Mom, the dutiful daughter did that, since her fathers word was law in the family.
For those who have never worked in a mill, let me tell you a little about it. The noise is almost overwhelming, the weaving machines never stop, from the time you clock in to the time you clock out. It is always humid, the thread works better that way and keeps the cotton dust down. (Never enough however, since brown lung was a big problem in those days. To show how bad it could be, of the members of my mother's family, her father, three of her brothers and one of her sisters died of emphysema or other brown lung related diseases) The work in the mill is repetitive and boring, management isn't very worker friendly,and you get a 30 minute meal break and a 15 min smoke break out of 8 hours. They had what was called a "dope wagon" a little cart that came through the weaving room, that would sell workers Coca-Colas in the small glass bottles (I think they were the little 8 oz ones) and either Goodies, or B.C. headache powders. Both the soda and headache powders contained a good dosage of caffeine which would help you get through the shift. In the summer time, the temps in the weaving room could get over 100 degrees for days at a time so it would just suck the energy and will out of you. But jobs were limited and the foreman could fire you on the spot so you tried to keep on doing what you had to do to keep that check coming in.
This is the kind of job my mom started out in. She met my dad and married him and they had my sister a few years later. Then a few years later, I came along. All this time, mom had started saving every penny she could get her hands on. You see, she had never gave up her dreams of going back to school and becoming a nurse.
My dad, never really had any plans, or to be honest, a heck of a lot of motivation or ambition. He had dropped out of school in the 8th grade and did manual labor until he enlisted in the navy in WWII. He served in the Naval construction battalion (SEE BEES) in the Pacific, building airstrips and bases for American B-29's to bomb Japan from. On his return from the war, he drifted from one job to another, and also started drinking. The alcohol took control of his life and weekends became rather rough around the house when he started taking out his frustrations on mom and my sister and I. He wasn't very supportive of my mom, but she never gave up and continued to scrimp and save. When I was old enough to begin middle school, my mom went back to school. Now here is this lady working a full time job, doing everything she can do to keep my sister and myself on the right path, and going back to school full time. To this day, I don't have the slightest idea how she did it.
Mom told me that she was proud of me, that I would need to become a man sooner than I should have, because there was going to be a lot of times that I would be on my own and left to my own devices. I grew up real fast that day and the key focus of my life was to never disappoint or let down my mom and her faith in me. Mom always tried to teach me right from wrong, no matter how tired she was, no matter how busy she was, she always found some time for me. She taught me to always have good manners, to respect everyone's point of view, to treat everyone as I wanted to be treated, but never accept a personal wrong or insult. She made sure to give me the mental tools and common sense that I could use to figure out what the right thing to do was in any situation I was involved in. My mom was the original "Steel Magnolia"
Not that isn't to say that I was a little angel, as a matter of fact, I wasn't. Most folks that knew me, thought that I was going to end up in the state pen, making license plates as a career. It surprised more than a few people when I went into law enforcement as a career. Like most kids, I went through a rebellious period where I was always getting into something. But my mom could always cool my jets with a sharp word or cut of her eyes. Now what makes that even funnier, I was a big tough kid, almost 6 foot tall and sorta wide. My mom is a little bitty thing, maybe 5'2" tall.
She did finally get through school and became a nurse so she lived out her dream. The extra money she earned helped keep the family together and I think that she made a real difference in the lives of people that she took care of in her nursing career. When I graduated from Basic Law Enforcement Training and took my oath of office, it was my mom who pinned my first badge on my uniform.
Mom is still alive, and close to 91 years old. The lingering effects of the mills has left it's mark on her and she needs oxygen to get around, but while it has slowed her, it hasn't stopped her. I am going over to her house tomorrow and take her dinner and celebrate the day with her.
So if someone accuses me of being a momma's boy, I guess I would have to say yeah, I guess I am. Because whatever I am or have accomplished it is due to her love, support and guidance.
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