Sunday, May 8, 2011

Neighborhood Mom

One of my first recollections was the PTA meetings I attended with my parents. PTA meetings were big events in the post war 1950's. A mix of school information, fundraisers and social events. Like most kids, my focus was on the social events. The pie sales, carnivals, box dinner auctions, skits and entertainment drove my desires to attend.

My favorite memory of those special days was my mom organizing and participating in a Minstrel Show with other mothers from the school. What a strange and humorous evening for a child to experience. Mom dressed up as a popular character on the old radio/tv show Amos and Andy.

Blackface makeup, baggy suit, soiled white shirt with wide colorful tie, prominent suspenders and a well chewed cigar complimented her persona that evening. We all rolled in laughter as act after act paraded across the stage. I gained a new insight to my mothers abilities to make all people comfortable around her.

We were a poor neighborhood in the belly of Oklahoma City.  Blue Collar young families whose mothers and fathers were ten years removed from the horrors of World War II and twenty years removed from the dark years of the Great Depression. We lived on the very edge of survival, teetering between paycheck and poverty.

My Mother was the safe haven for all the desperate children who I counted as friends. Lonely, poor kids trying to find a rock to stand on. The Wheeler community in south Oklahoma City was a close knit, desperate group of parents and children all trying to escape the past and move on to happy futures. United by hope and encouraged by each other, most emerged from poverty through hard work and a supportive school ready to assume their roles in the Great Society of the sixties.

My mother took the leadership role of neighborhood Mom. She cooked, cleaned and nursed all the young children who ran to our house because no one was home at theirs. She lived at the school, helping teachers and kids with whatever needed to be done. I never heard her complain about the cost, the time or the effort it took to be the mom many were missing. At the time, I was completely unaware of her sacrifices. I thought a had the same mom everyone else did.

Most of those kids have been down separate roads in different directions throughout the ensuing fifty years. Usually, we lost contact with each other as our lives unfolded.  We all shared those early years and the experiences together gave us the strength to create our own families. That, I think, is what makes families and communities so important.

My mom mothered many children. She loved to hear about their successes and worried over their failures. Hug your mom today, I have no doubt my mom will be remembered by many children.