The 70273 Project

with a side of Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

Tag: mother (page 1 of 4)

May I Have The Envelope, Please

High School Sports Awards and  Letters: We’ll never know whether she would’ve lettered or not because her parents refused to let her play basketball because she would’ve had to wear shorts.

High School Clubs and After School Activities: “We didn’t have clubs back then,” she tells me when I asked what she did in high school, “but I was the first editor of The Hi Times, our high school newspaper, and the man who was Editor of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution was my advertising manager.”

Post High School Education: She didn’t go to college ’cause having only enough money to send one child to college, it was my mother’s little brother who has the college degree.

Jobs: Though her best friend, Harriett Dean, tried and tried and tried, my mother steadfastly refused to take a higher paying job in Atlanta, choosing instead to spend her career in her hometown of Fayetteville, Georgia. As secretary for the Baptist Church, Mother held all the power as it was she who selected the hymns we sang every Sunday.

When the county got big enough to hire a second person, my mother left the employ of the Baptist Church to become Clerk of the County Commissioners. She cleared out a little space for herself in the courthouse, and using the file cabinet that somebody gave her and the desk she brought from home, she set about helping Mr. Jimmy White (the county Ordinary) separate the files, dividing them into 2 piles: County Ordinary and County Commissioners. “It was a nasty job,” Mother told me, “some of those files were covered in tobacco juice.” After a few years, Mama Opal Howell lured Mother to work beside her at the Fayette County Board of Education where, with the exception of the few years she took off to build the business infrastructure while Daddy build the golf course, she worked till her retirement.

Service to the Community: Trustees from the jail – prisoners who’d proven themselves trustworthy enough to go out into the town and empty trashcans at the Fayette County Board of Education – were regularly “adopted” by my mother and the other women who worked at the Fayette County Board of Education, Mama Helen Voyles and Mama Opal Howell. After counseling the men on how to stay out of trouble, the women sent the Trustees out into the world in a new suit, fearing that prison stripes would be detrimental to their success. And though they’d sometimes look out the office window to see a Trustee being returned to his jail cell, these women never gave up hope that the next Trustee they took under their wings would be rehabilitated for good.

These days, if you fall ill, my mother will see that your family is fed in your absence, and if you’re in the hospital, not only will she drive your spouse to be by your side and back home again every day, she’ll see that your family is well-fed until your release from the hospital or till you’re back on your feet in the kitchen, whichever comes first.

As an Ambassador for The 70273 Project, Mother works tirelessly making blocks and delivering materials to others so they can make blocks.

Every year for the past I don’t know how many decades, mother plans, organizes, and hosts the Class of 1945 high school class reunion. They come together for a luncheon at Mother’s house, and though attendance was down to 6 last year, Mother is already looking forward to this year’s reunion.

I am button-busting proud that my mother devoted much of her working life to making the school system she is proud to call her alma mater a better place for all of us to learn, and that she spent all of her adult life working to make Fayette County the best place on earth to call Home.

~~~

These are some of the things I told the Fayette County High School Distinguished Alumni tonight when I nominated my mother, and it is with great pleasure that I tell you that in October, mother will be inducted into the Fayette County High School Hall of Fame.

Moving Mother: Relationships

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The move is hard for both of us
in different ways
for different reasons.

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I never lived here, so I feel no emotional connection with this house.

But my mother does.

This is the house she lived in when she retired, ending her working career.
It is the house she lived in when Daddy died
the house she lived in when Walter (her second husband) died
the house she lived in when Clyde (her cat) died.

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She’s held many parties here
Sunday school class parties where her friends did the hula in the backyard,
annual high school class reunions
where friends gather to congratulate each other on being here another year,
family holiday dinners,
annual Kentucky Derby parties,
to name a few.

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As I make lists, assign chores, and push to meet deadlines,
eager to get back to my own home, my own bed, my own life,
I remind myself to be patient and kind
because Mother lived her Second Life within these walls and under this roof.

She and this house have a bond.

diary of a birthday: waking thoughts

NewDaddyCrawford

how many times did my daddy tell me the story about how it was snowing in atlanta the day i was born. how he made the long distance phone call to his daddy in fayetteville, how it was hard to understand each other because of the static on the line. he told that story not with the defiance and antagonism and one-upmanship that dressed later stories starring daddy and his dad. the story of my birth was told with the same excitement i heard in my son’s voice when he delivered a fistful of dandelions picked ‘specially for me. daddy made it sound like he was delivering a gift to his daddy, a gift more precious than the new fedora or the 35 mm camera he gave granddaddy in christmases yet to come. and perhaps he did feel like he, the sole surviving son of five children, was delivering a gift to his parents. another important thing? he never even hinted that he or grandaddy was even a smidgeon less excited because i was a girl and not a boy. in face, my gender never came up . . . except in the spelling of my name.

i wish i could ask granddaddy about it, too, but he died on the day of the christmas party when i was in fifth grade, when stories were something endured after the initial telling.

MomWBabyJeanne1

when i look to mother for a genesis tale, i get a recapitulation of daddy’s story . . . probably because daddy was the source of her information, too, given the effects of general anesthesia and all. then last weekend, quite by accident, i discovered a little something new and sparkly. i was talking to mother about her work during world war 2. she worked at atlanta general depot, doing a host of various jobs as she progressed through the field and up the ladder, eventually landing a supervisory position over 3-4 other women. i came upon a form granting her request for maternity leave beginning on 25 september – months before my birthday. i thought i was onto something. did she have toxemia like i did with my firstborn, also a daughter? or were pregnant women required to take leave, in effect being banned until after? or, given her beauty and keen sense of style, was she reluctant (read: embarrassed) to show her ever-protruding body for months on end?

i was on a feminist-fed roll.

“mother, here’s your leave form,” i said. “why did you start your leave on september 25? you were granted six months’ leave, most of it spent before my birth.”

“oh,” she said as she speared another piece of fried egg, always proud of the lacy effect she was able to create in the cooking, always apologetic when the lace did not materialize as she’d hoped. “some officer whose name i can’t remember asked if i wanted to work for him. when i told him no, he said well, he’d just put in an order and there was nothing i could do about it. i really did not want to work for him, so i just took my maternity leave and there was nothing he could do.”

and with that little story kernel, i see my mother – a lifelong secretary – in a new light. i completely forget to be disappointed that i wasn’t the center of her answer, i don’t even consider till now, turning over the stone of feminism, the possible prejudice i showed attached to her being a secretary . . . there wasn’t room for any of that on account of the pride i felt at her spunk and resolve to be in charge of her own life by whatever means necessary.

and it was certainly more than thrilling to discover that even at this age, there’s something new to learn about her, about me, about us.

altars, altars everywhere

Momscookery

it may be a ceramic skillet
she keeps out
because she loves cooking
and she loves the way
food tastes when
cooked in this skillet.

it may be flowers she
picks from her yard
and arranges in a container
using the glass frog
she’s had all my life,
setting them on a tablecloth
she embroidered
as a young woman.

it may be four small, colorful glass ducks,
lined up on her desk,
replicas of the ducks at
the peabody in memphis, tennessee.

Souvenirs

it may be a poem i wrote her
so many years ago
to dress up some
crazy, inexpensive gift
i bought her,
and a postcard i sent her
from a trip we were on,
written, stamped, and mailed while she was
standing right beside me.
it may be a piece of granite
she decorated
at the quarry in
barre, vermont,
an impromptu side trip
on one of the best
trips we ever took
together,
and it may be
the inexpensive plaque
about family
i gave her
when we moved away
last march.

she calls them
“centerpieces”
or
“arrangements,”
my mother.

i call them
altars.

~~ :: ~~

i love her. i seriously love her.

MomWBabyJeanne1

Artist and writer Frederick Frank wrote: “I know artists whose medium is life itself and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel, or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life. They see and don’t have to draw. They are the artists of being alive.”

She wakes up each day
to a blank canvas of 24 hours,
and she fills it with strokes of
love and laughter
and
nourishment and beauty.
She is a creator of relationships.
Friends, family, strangers,
flowers and food . . .
those are her paints.

Her muse may wait for her
in the kitchen
and in her garden,
but her life is her canvas.
Her life is her art.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
I love you.

AlisonAndAda

early out

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we came home 4 days early – probably because i’m just not that much fun.
or maybe she’d had all the fun she could stand.
nah, i’m going with what’s behind door number one.
anyway, i’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

sign of the times

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with no men around,
the girls are in charge of the scepter tonight,
and we’re watching legally blonde 1
followed immediately by legally blonde 2.

i love these movies.

love the messages they send – the very important messages they send.

and i wonder how my mother’s life would’ve been different
if she’d had someone who believed in her
and kept telling her to listen to her self,
to use her own voice,
to do it her way.

she wanted to go to college,
and the high school guidance counselor
once asked her about going to college,
but she’d always been told that
there was only enough money to send
her little brother to college,
so she told him no, she wasn’t going
and he (the guidance counselor) didn’t pursue it further.

she did run for office once,
but my dad,
who’d held many political offices,
didn’t support her,
so she was the only candidate
with a teenage campaign manager.

i wonder what else she would like to have done
in her life.
last time i asked, she said
it was more than enough being
mother to her three j’s.

and i don’t doubt that she’s telling the truth.
but i still can’t help but wonder
how her life
would be different
had she been born
in a decade
when it was okay
for women to start sentences with
“i want,”
when women had a voice
to call their own.

pretty

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personal appearance is important to mother and alison.
both know how to throw an outfit together.
both know what looks good on them.
both know how to talk to hair dressers
and know their way around a makeup counter.
both are beautiful, beautiful women.

did it skip a generation?
that would be the easiest explanation.

but actually, there was a time when
i was pretty
when i threw together
strikingly novel
and interesting outfits
effortlessly.

but then responsibilities grew
while finances shrunk,
so i learned to
focus
on things other than my appearance.

i told myself
that being pretty was
superficial
and unimportant.

and that’s true

but

i still want to
lose weight
and feel
comfortable in the
beauty parlor
instead of feeling like
i should apologize
and explain my presence
and be grateful that the
hair dresser doesn’t
see my name on the book
and put a bag over her head.

i want to feel
pretty.

but there’s an important difference:

before,
i cared most
about what other people
thought about me,
felt like my appearance
defined me
and was the sum total
of what i had to offer.

now, though,
it’s, well,
it’s all about me.
i want to feel comfortable.
and confident.
i want to feel pretty –
not because of what others think,
but because i want to smile
when i see me.

and i’m finding that as i
make time to write,
as i dare to speak what’s
true to me,
the weight slowly
slides away
and regardless
of how my hair looks
or what i’m wearing
or whether i’m wearing makeup or not,
i begin to feel pretty
again.

taking 10

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okay, folks. i’m taking the night off cause honestly, i’m getting tired of hearing myself talk.

plus i need time to immerse myself in my everything-you-need-to-know-about-how-to-write-fiction magazine cause i signed up for the nanowrimo challenge (it starts in 4 days) and plan to try my hand at fiction.

not that i don’t indulge in a little fiction every now ‘n then, memory being what it is and all. and of course now that i’ve put my name on the official dotted line, i’m wondering if my idea is more like a short story than a book (i can’t bring myself to say “novel”) – shoot, it may be little more than a blog post – but i have committed to penning some 2000 words every. single. day. in november . . . okay, that’s enough. i’m starting to glisten with the enormity of it all.

tomorrow, though, tomorrow i feel another story time coming on.

how can i love you better? (day 22)

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despite my loud and plentiful protestations,
she held my hand
tightly
and dragged me into
in the moon-lit ocean
at the bewitching hour
of 3 a.m.
standing knee-deep
in the frothy waters,
the red flag
warning us of riptides
that just might
pull us under
and tumble us into a
place we’ve never been before.

we talked in
mirrored likeness
of the waves
that broke on top of each other
and crossed at angles to each other
until
i was no longer her mother
and
she was no longer my daughter,
until we were, instead, simply
two women
who cherish,
cheer,
and console
each other,
alone on the beach,
holding hands while
standing knee-deep in the ocean
basking in the moonlight
and
magic of this
wondrously beautiful moment.

(this is what my daughter and i did last night while my mother/her grandmother slept.)

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