A Mother's Love
In honor of my mother’s birthday this week, I’d like to share a little bit of her fabulousness with you. My mother has been mother, father, and hero. She's the one constant in the meandering path that has been my life. She’s the consistent melody that’s played throughout the years. She is the place I call home.
I’m a writer because one of the greatest gifts she shared with me is the love of a good story. Growing up, our home was filled with books, and all of us could typically be found with our nose in one—and this is still true. When we were little, we would gather around my mother as she read to us; however, it wasn’t your typical children’s stories she read. Nope, not my mom. She read from a collection of Alfred Hitchcock’s short stories. I know . . . Alfred Hitchcock. It explains a lot about me and my writing to this day.
In addition to books, there was and still is always music when my mother is around. She is always singing—when she cooks, cleans, gardens, just about any activity. Our home was always filled with music of nearly every genre. Music is still a gathering place for us all.
Don’t let this petite woman’s beauty and grace fool you. She’s tough as nails. After my parents divorced, things were a bit complicated financially. There were moments and struggles when a lesser woman would have walked away. We lived in southern West Virginia, right smack in the middle of the billion-dollar coal field. Coal was king and pretty much the only industry in the area paying a living wage. In the late ‘70s, my mother got tired of scraping by trying to raise four daughters. So, she applied for a job in the coal mines. In the late ‘70s, women didn’t work in the traditionally male-dominated coal mining industry. It simply wasn’t done. She applied anyway.
When she went to US Steel to apply for the job, the superintendent called her into his office. He chuckled and asked, “Why should I give you—a woman—a job inside that mine when I have men with families needing jobs?” She asked him why she—a woman with a family—wasn’t worthy of the job? He then told her he would slip her a few hundred dollars, in exchange for some sexual favors.
She left his office furious and more determined than ever. With seven other women who had received the same treatment, she filed a class action suit on the grounds of sexual discrimination. In 1978, they won!
From my mother’s relentless pursuit of her rights, I learned anything is possible. That you sometimes have to fight for what you want. Sometimes you have to go against the grain, against tradition, against the current. And more often than not, you win.
I’ve learned many things from this woman: how to be strong and independent; how to make things work, when everything screamed it wouldn’t work; how to be a woman who is fierce and gentle, strong and soft. She taught me that life’s sharp edges will try to cut into my spirit, but I should keep pursuing my dreams anyway.
My mother is love, strength, determination, beauty, fierceness, joy, and music. My mother is many things, but mostly she’s a warrior full of grace.
I love you, Mama!
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