I know that the majority of my writing is about fatherhood, but I’m going to devote this post to motherhood….more specifically, my mother.
Now before we get into this, let me explain (again) the geography of my upbringing. On one side of my house was a church. It wasn’t just ANY Church. It was St. John Missionary Baptist Chuhch. (Yeah…I know I misspelled “chuhch”, but that’s how we say it in the country. Say it slow…you’ll get it.) If I sit quietly, my mind will still let me hear the sound of all of the heels tapping against that old wooden floor when the choir sang. Even though I’ve moved on in life, have lived in MANY places and have been a member of many churches, I still call that place my home church. (See? Even without thinking about it….u said it like “chuhch, didn’t you? Just admit it!)
Now, on the OTHER side of my house was a bootlegger. (For those that are unfamiliar with the term, a bootlegger is one that either a) makes homemade liquor or b) sells homemade liquor that they buy from someone else . I’m sure, that in some places, there may have been an option “c) Buys liquor from the stores and resells it”, but hey, we were in a poor area and selling the fancy, schmancy, high highfalutin’ rust free, store bought stuff with its FDA safety regulations and quality inspections and things like that took MONEY. Besides….iron is good for ya, right? So the rust made it healthy. ( I have a similar philosophy about how you can eat as much as you want and as long as you eat it fast, the calories cant stick. too….sue me.)
So, on any given day, I could either see a bunch of staggering drunks drowning their hopelessness in mason jars filled with homemade liquor; tinted red with flakes of rust from some back woods still or I could see people filtering into the church to look for hope when they were otherwise surrounded by bleakness.
It all painted a pretty curious picture of the world for a kid like me.
But to my mother, it was pretty cut and dry. If I wasn’t suffering from Ebola, scurvy or rickets ( And you thought I wasn’t paying attention in Health class, DIDN’T YOU, Mr Ramseur???) ………..I would be going to church. It wasn’t JUST Sunday morning church either. There was Sunday School, Sunday Service, prayer meetings, revivals, Vacation Bible School, Youth Choir practice, usher board meetings (She was also the president of the Usher Board at one time, so guess who also had to usher?) ,and so on and so forth. So, church attendance was pretty much the rule of the house. And try as I might, I never figured out how to fake ricketts, so I found myself in the pews…….a lot. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t always pay attention….and sometimes, being that we lived DIRECTLY next door, I could sneak out and go home for extended periods of time and sneak back in without her knowing
But the fact of the matter was, Mama, in the only way that she knew how, ( and in a wisdom that she didn’t even know she had) was exposing me to hope when there was nothing but sheer hopelessness just on the other side of the house.
Mama was fighting for us…and we didn’t even know it.
All those cumulative weeks, and weeks, and WEEKS, and W-E-E-K-S of church that I was FORCED into gave me a belief that even though my CIRCUMSTANCES said that I was poor, that they didn’t control who or what I could become. It helped me to understand that even though many of those near us had given up, that I could still have hope for a brighter tomorrow, and when tomorrow came, if it wasn’t brighter, that I could continue to make THAT today’s tomorrow brighter. She taught me pride that even if I didn’t have the best clothes, (remind me to tell you about pants with rings around the ankles), that I could keep what I had nice, clean and pressed and be proud just the same. It taught me that even though there was a den of despair just a ditch jump away one side of the house, that as long as I had faith, and if I put my time in, that I could strive to be something greater than that; that I didn’t have to subscribe to the hopelessness there.
Faith can trump common sense, and sometimes…you should LET it.
I have to say that I’m grateful for where I’m from. I’m grateful that I had a mother that forced me to see a better way; not BECAUSE of me or because of what I could do, but DESPITE me and irregardless to what I did.
Now, I’ll admit…I do find myself drinking out of a mason jar from time to time, and I’ll even “pour a sip out for the brothers that ain’t here”, and let me tell ya…………it’s some of the BEST iced tea I’ve ever tasted.