Part 2// Where I'm From (Mom's story)
This past week has been really hard.
My heart is heavy. So many tears have been shed this week between me and my NYCUP sisters. Next week's blog post will be a reflection of all of the things going on in this country right now.
Interview with my Mom
Where/When were you born?
I was born in Heidelberg, Germany on April 18 while my dad served as a computer specialist in the US Army. When I was about a year old, my mother and I flew back to the states. We flew into New York and after holding me for the entire flight, apparently my mother’s first words to my grandparents were, “Take her!”
Where did you grow up?/ What was your neighborhood like?
I have no memory of living anywhere other than 73 Woodland Rd., but I don’t think we moved in there until my mother was pregnant with Uncle Mark. Nanny and Grampy Hover lived in the next neighborhood over from ours and up the hill. Aunt June and Uncle Dick lived in Bedford the next town over. The Montagues lived across the street from us and we did everything together. They had a pool and we spent our summers in the pool and playing kickball or some other game in the street. We were at the top of a hill and if there was a lot of snow we’d go sledding down the street. Karen, Kathy O’Keefe, and I used to spread out an old bedspread in one of our yards or in the Montague’s basement and play Barbies. All the kids in our neighborhood got along for the most part. Everyone was middle class and white. The only diversity in our neighborhood was protestant or catholic.
Where did your parents work when you were young?
My father worked for an electronics company as a computer specialist. My mother didn’t work outside the house. She and her friends were all housewives and stayed home while we went to public school.
What were your favorite hobbies/sports/ classes in school?
Karen, Kathy O’Keefe, and I used to spread out an old bedspread in one of our yards or in the Montague’s basement and play Barbies. When I was in high school I really loved writing my "novel" and English class.
Any important stories that defined your childhood?
When I was fifteen I went to summer camp at Camp Wilmot for the first time. We had a guest speaker one night at camp who had served as a missionary. I was very moved by what the missionary said and I just felt overwhelmed with emotion. I went back to the cabin crying and Pam, my camp counselor, followed me. I was sobbing and said I feel like God is trying to talk to me, but I don’t know what he’s saying. Pam asked me if I had ever asked Jesus into my heart. I had never heard anyone talk about such a thing before. She told me all the steps and quoted Bible verses and I prayed that Jesus would enter my heart. I was on such a high after that and I felt so strongly connected to Camp Wilmot because of that experience.
How did you view your parents as a child/teen/adult? What did you admire the most about their character?
As a child, I loved and feared my father because he would have fun with us and chase us around the house playing hide and seek, but he was also the disciplinarian and gave the spankings. As a teenager, I always felt like a disappointment to my dad. Although I worked since I was 15, I never earned enough money according to him. My dad didn’t graduate from college, so I think he was proud when I did as I was the oldest and first to graduate and he had provided for my education. As an adult, my dad and I grew closer. He moved to Florida before my mom was able to move down, so we went house hunting for them and we met for dinner and things during that time. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease the week before your dad and I got married. His greatest joy the last couple of years of his life was you. He just adored you and giggled as you learned about the world. His last visit to our house, he couldn’t remember the way to the bathroom and you would take his hand and say, “Come on Grandpa!” and lead him to the bathroom. I think you were only 2 ½ at the time. My Dad was a very passionate person—quick to anger, but also quick to laugh. He grew up in Massachusetts and lived there most of his life, but what he really liked about Florida was how friendly everyone was. He loved talking to people. My mom was the kind of mom who cut sandwiches into hearts for Valentine’s Day. As a child, I don’t think I realized everything she did for us, but as I became a mother, I realized it more. As a teenager, we were buddies and would watch the soaps when I got home from school. When I was a teenager, my mother had several injuries and broken bones and I learned a lot of cooking and cleaning skills as she gave directions from the couch. As an adult, we have gotten closer as I married and had children. My mother taught me how a good meal can be a gift and from her I learned how to become a wife and mother. Both my parents were always active in church as I was growing up and they encouraged my faith and my own church involvement from choir to bell ringing to teaching Sunday school and other roles. Both of my parents grew up in the Boston area of Massachusetts and they met at church youth group.
When did you know what career you wanted to pursue?
As a young girl, I went to school with my Aunt June who was a teacher and that planted a seed. I would play school with my brothers during the few years that they were young enough to listen to me. I went to college as a creative writing major, but switched to education during my freshman year. (My dad convinced me I’d never earn money as a writer, so I became a teacher instead, thinking I’d have summers off to pursue writing.)
Was race a factor in your decision to marry the other person?
No. When I met your dad, I met the nicest man I ever knew. He treated me with love and kindness in a way no other person ever had. I felt treasured. The shade of his skin just meant he tanned and I burned if we were out in the sun together. I never thought of us as any different in God’s eyes.
How do you feel about the current state our country is in?
Have you ever experienced/seen racism during your time?
I felt people staring when Dad and I were walking hand in hand in Atlanta in 1993, but no one said anything to us directly. When Dad and I went to his aunt’s funeral in North Carolina, we went out to eat and to the movies with Towanda and Forrest and I was the only white person in the group that night and at the funeral. I felt people staring at us while we were out, but again no one made any remark that I heard. At the funeral, I was the only white person there, but everyone was very welcoming and nice. It was the first time I had been the only white person in the room and it gave me some understanding how Dad must feel in some situations.
Do you believe racism is more prevalent today or is it just now being shown more in the media?
I’m not sure if racism is more prevalent or if the media has the power to bring people’s opinions to the forefront with the blank-faced audience of Facebook and other social media. There seems to be a lot of “sharing” of “thoughts” that don’t seem to have much thought behind them!
What is your definition of justice? How can justice truly be served?
Justice is the fair treatment of all people and correcting behavior when fair treatment doesn’t exist. Justice can only truly be served by people getting involved and watching out for one another.
If you could be remembered for one thing you’ve done in life/ one thing about you what would it be?
I would like to be remembered as a good teacher, but the most important teaching job I ever had was being Mom to you and Kayla—so I pray I’ve done that well.
What is the most important thing in your mind that you have taught and/or have yet to teach Kayla and I?
I hope I have taught you to use good manners, say “I love you” to the people you love, and cling to God in all you do.