Sunday, May 11, 2014

I'm Turning Into My Mother

Dear John,
I had a nice picnic with you after church today, and I believe I got a touch of sunburn. It's sunny and mid-80s, and I love it. After I left you I did grocery shopping, then came home and walked the dog, exchanged Mother's Day gifts with Jen, and called your mother.
I've been thinking about Mama this weekend, and how I've turned into her in so many ways. One trait she passed on to me is the tendency to talk to anybody and everybody, anywhere and everywhere. While I was mowing yesterday, I got to thinking about one incident in particular.
I know you will remember this. We lived in Lexington, and I was working second shift in CCU. There was a black guy that worked for housekeeping and came in every evening to empty our trash. The first time he came in I said hello, and we gradually started talking. I initiated the conversation at first. I knew the old racial protocols - there was no way a black man could initiate a conversation with a white woman - Emmett Till taught that even to people up north. And in those days all housekeeping people were black and all nurses were white. In spite of that, we got to be friends.
One night, one of the other nurses asked me if I wasn't afraid to talk to him. I said of course not - what was I supposed to be afraid of? She said he might follow me home some night. That was ridiculous, but I managed not to say so - she was from a part of Kentucky that had no black people, and had only known the television and film stereotypes. I did say that I couldn't imagine a lonelier job that going around emptying trash all night, with nobody to ever say a word to. He deserved for people to appreciate what he did and be nice to him.
The rest of the story came exactly a week later. She and I were going out for dinner after work and were going to take her car. When we went outside around midnight, we found that she had a flat tire. While we were looking at it, here came my friend across the parking lot - he'd seen that we were in trouble, and he changed the tire for us.
We never discussed it, but she stopped telling me to be scared of him. Maybe it helped her to be less afraid of people that were different from her. Maybe it helped her to understand that the great majority of people are capable of great goodness. I know it gave him a chance to do something special for me, and that made him happy. And I was glad to be indebted to him.
It was a thing of beauty, and one that I like to remember. And it was just the kind of thing that always happened to Mama. Please share this letter with her and tell her thank you for me. She certainly taught me a healthy caution. But from her I learned to be open to people and expect them to be good. And almost all of them are. Because of her, I've had some amazing encounters with strangers and have made some unexpected friends. Tell her that I'm glad I've turned into her. That will make her smile. Hug her for me and tell her how much I love and miss her, and how much I long to be there with all of you. She adored you - keep her company until I get there.
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,


  1. I am proud to say I am my mom too!

  2. It was startling when I first realized it, but now it's quite reassuring!