Monday, January 5, 2009

Be a lifesaver

I've been pretty honest about my relationship with my mom, and I feel like a mention I made before needs some embellishment.
"My mom has saved lives."
My mom was born in Chicago, Il in 1944. Later my grandfather, Orville M. Running moved the family to Decorah, Iowa. My mom, Marjorie, grew up there in a very sheltered Lutheran environment.
When she wasn't married at the ripe old age of 21, (ancient I tell you) my grandfather let her know there were other options in life.
"Margie, there's one thing worse than not being married. That's being married to the wrong person."
She moved to New Orleans to pursue a master's degree in French, met my father, and was married a year later.
New Orleans was a different environment for my mom. I grew up in Decorah too. Things had changed by the time I was a teenager.. a lot. There were 2 black people in our school. One was the daughter of the local radiologist, the other was adopted. There may have been some others who floated in and out, but weren't there from elementary to high school.
My mom refers to Decorah as "Lake Woe-Decorah." It's a reference to Garrison Keillor's "Lake Woebegone," a fictitious town where all the "women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average." Decorah is also the home of Luther College, where all the students smile and say hello, are smart and blonde and attractive. The Viking strength is mirrored in the the town of 10 thousand and people who live and work there.
"Mom, we can't finish the dishes, Philip and I just don't know where everything goes."
My brother and I were warring over a sink full of suds and arguments about who was suffering the most. Both of us wanted to give up and go watch the Sci-Fi channel.
"Just think about where it would be if you needed it. You're both above average... you can figure it out."
Great. My mom gets her parenting advice from a local radio show. Yes, in 1982 Garrison Keillor was a local act on Minnesota Public Radio.
I distinctly remember walking into the kitchen another day. (The dishes mercifully, had been completed.) My mom was wiping tears from her eyes.
"Oh Garrison.. he's so funny."
I think it was the one about how the tomatoes take over your life in August.
The melifluous voice over the speakers..
"Remember how you would have killed for a tomato in June, now they are everywhere and you want to kill them." Too much of anything (except love) is a bad thing.
Before moving back to the land of milk and honey, Decorah Iowa we lived in suburb of New Orleans.
My mom had finished up her degree in French and she and my dad started a family. We were too young then to do dishes, but it wouldn't have mattered. We had a maid.
"Everyone had them. I feel awful. It was just so cheap." My dad still feels bad about it. Interesting, because he grew up in the deep south and this was just a part of life as he knew it.
Our maid was efficient. Thorough. Beautiful. Poor. Our maid was black.
She cleaned all the houses of the upper crust, Junior League of Mettairie Lousiana. The year was 1974. My mom was 30 and had a conversation one day with the maid.
"You know you don't have to do this for a living."
"What else can I do?"
This was what the maid saw as her plot in life. She wasn't bitter, just in an environment where cleaning other people's homes was all poor black women could do to support themselves.
My mom made a few phone calls and got her a job in an office as a secretary. A new path. A new life. Respect.
My mom seriously pissed off the junior league of Mettairie Louisiana. But perhaps left them with something to think about while doing their dishes.
I told this story to Emily Horn, aka Mud Doc on our run on Sunday. It was part of a larger conversation about how some pairings of people are more than just the sum of their parts. One plus one equals 7.
"Or one plus zero equals 3."
Emily was making an observation.
"I don't want to call someone a zero."
"Sophia, that's just you plus yourself."
I will write more on this equation later, but for now suffice it to say that that day My mom was a 3. Seeing potential in others and turning it into meaning.
As a medical doctor, Emily saves lives all the time. She also challenges herself physically and emotionally, taking care of her own life. My challenge to everyone is to search within and outward. Look around. Is there a life you should be saving? Are you taking care of your own?
My mom spent 19 years pursuing a doctorate in music. Pretty impressive. It's not a medical degree, but it saved her life. And at age 30 with nothing more than a master's in French, two small children and a heart that couldn't stand seeing a gifts wasted, she saved a life.
I love you mom and I'm so proud of you for this.


Lee said...

Great post Sophia.

Tom Moran said...

You know, there's still time to apply for a spot in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Hunter. That way you could be in New York and we could take classes together. Woo-hoo! :)

sophianchor said...

you are too kind. I know you hate modern lit.. and here you take the time to read mine. Ugh.. I need the rest of my NYC tour. I should bring the video camera next time and we could sell it online!

Bethany Maynor said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Mother. We should all take the time out of our self-consumed lives and write a tribute to each of our parents to honor their life's work. Well done, Sophia! Your Mother is most certainly proud of you!

sophianchor said...

Thanks Bethany! I sent her the essay. She was a little embarrassed but thought it was a nice Epiphany present. Our mom's are precious.