Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

My mother was born in 1925 to a very wealthy family.  They had oil money, and plenty of it.  Mom's father was a chemist who knew how to crack petroleum.  The family had their own oil wells, refinery, gas stations and truck line.  Mom's grandfather owned four airplanes and taught himself to fly.  Then the great depression came along and wiped the family wealth away in a very short time.  Mom's father (my maternal grandfather) lost his job when the refinery closed, and discovered that the demand for industrial chemists was as low as the stock market.  Mom's family lost their home and were forced to move in with their maternal parents; my maternal great grandparents.  Mom's father was given a job by a relative who was the general manager at a local department store: dishwasher.  He could have made the chemist a clerk, but it's said that there might have been a little resentment there, coupled with a vindictive spirit.  Sadly the chemist had a weak heart from a childhood bout with rheumatic fever and his heart couldn't keep up with the physical labor required.  He worked that job until it killed him several years later.  My mother is about 12 years old when her father dies at home.

Mom's mother became the sole breadwinner for the family.  Her options were limited due to societal prejudice against women in the workplace.  She taught herself to play the piano (a job requirement back then) and became an elementary school teacher, like her mother before her.  My great grandmother taught nine students of various ages in a one room school house.  My grandmother taught third grade, and in 30 years of teaching she only had to paddle three students.  I had a chance to watch her teach once, and she worked hard at it.  The students were busy every single minute they were in her classroom.

In the middle of all this mom and her three sisters graduated high school and put themselves through college.  I'm devoting one sentence to four years of hard work and very frugal living, but all four managed to achieve a baccalaureate degree, and one continued to get her master's degree.  Mom graduated and eventually became a high school teacher, teaching business subjects at a local high school.  The school used to give mom the problem students because mom never had trouble with them.  I asked her about this once and she replied that she treated the students with respect and courtesy, and they responded to that.  Mom was also something of a holy terror.  On one occasion there was a fight in the hallway between two girls, and when one girl would not quit fighting mom tossed her to the floor and pinned her, then held her there until she settled down.

Eventually mom got married and a few years later a cute little baby arrived.  We'll skip most of the era immediately following this happy event, as the joys of raising a low maintenance, intellectually gifted and talented child will strain the willing suspension of disbelief to the point of spontaneous fracture, the backlash of which has been known to cause permanent injury to the cerebral cortex and is still the source of several ongoing liability cases.

I have a lot to thank my mother for, but today I'm going to thank her for teaching me to read.  Thanks to mom's time, effort and devotion I could read and write before I started elementary school, and in spite of the school's determination to make me conform I continued to learn to read, mainly through the efforts of my mother and my maternal grandmother.  Neither of these women were afraid to call a spade a spade, and when an egotistical pseudo-pedagogue employed by the public school system wrongfully criticized an essay I wrote, both women tactfully stated that the critic had delusions of mediocrity.

If it hadn't been for my mother I'd never have learned to read past the first grade level, and that's the truth.  Thanks mom.  You done real good.


Momma Fargo said...

Wow. Your mom sounds like a very strong and wonderful person. So glad she was a positive influence on you as a child. See how good you turned out? Mom rocks!

Mad Jack said...

Thanks Momma Fargo.