From age 11 to my departure for college, I lived with my younger siblings, Vanessa and John, and with my mother, Kim. My mom is many things, but cooker of large dinners, she is not. Our usual dinner routine was a phone call from Mom around 6 PM as she was on her way home from work, asking: What do you all feel like eating tonight?" One night, we'd opted for Popeye's. When she arrived home with the fragrant fried chicken, biscuits drizzled in honey, and greasy potato wedges, we were more than ready to dig in. Just as my mother was setting the table, there was a knock at the door. At the time, we lived in a community called "Little Africa" which is made up of primarily Black families, many related to each other, and many who had known each other for so many generations, we called them cousin anyway. So when my mother opened the door to reveal a middle aged man, who was more than a little dusty, I mildly recognized the face but couldn't quite place him.
She greeted him and said, "How you doing? You here to pay your water bill?" (My mother worked at the water company where she was known to extend credit so folks' water wouldn't be turned off. Some people who lived in our neighborhood preferred to stop by the house and pay her directly versus traveling to the office.)
He mumbled "Naw. Ma'am, I was wondering if you had something I could eat."
I told my sister to scoot over, anticipating that my mom was going to invite him to share our dinner. My mother did no such thing. Instead, she boxed up all the chicken, biscuits, assorted sides, grabbed some canned items, put it in a bundle and handed it over to him. She said, "Here you go, hun. This should hold you for a while." I don't know that I've ever seen such a grateful face. He accepted the food and headed on out the door.
I was livid. There were 3 hungry children in the house, and here she was just volunteering our dinner to some man that we didn't really know! How dare she?! She didn't even consult with us! Now before you start thinking I'm evil... I should share that I ran track and had the appetite of a linebacker. Furthermore, I knew my mom was struggling to make ends meet so I correctly guessed that PBandJ was in our immediate future. Also, I was a bratty, mouthy brace-faced teenager who was upset that puberty hadn't quite knocked on my door. Judge me if you must. I lashed out and said, "How could you just give away our dinner?! Now what are WE gonna eat? You're just going to let us starve?!?" (Did I mention that I was dramatic?)
The look of compassion left my mother's face just that quickly and she sharply said, "Crystal Marie have I ever let any of you all go hungry? Don't you dare say that again." And that was that.
At the time I didn't recognize it, but my mother was teaching us a lesson in compassion. Yes, you should work hard to get what you need and want from life, but extending a helping hand is what we as humans are called to do. Many people talk about how great their mothers are to them, and I can certainly attest to that. But my mother is kind to complete strangers, a character trait that I don't see too often.
- My mother's church attendance is sporadic; but I've never met someone more Christ-like than her.
- My mother never graduated from college, but she's more intelligent and keen than most. (Every piece of advice or admonition she's given me has always proven true. Every. Single. Time. It's scary, really)
But most importantly, my mother is a living example of who I want to be. I find myself doing little things that she always does, many of them the very habits that annoyed me most as a kid. As I get older, I'm increasingly more attentive to her perspective on my major decisions. When I get good news, she is the first one I want to share it with. When I get upsetting news, she's the first person I call for solace.
Thank you Mom for being a friend; for checking me when I'm wrong; for reminding me of my value when I feel worthless; and for being a role model that I can call at any hour of the day for a free master class.
I love you. Happy Mother's Day 2012.
P.S. She's also super bad.