Mom was a strict disciplinarian. “You had better not misbehave at school. If you do, I’ve told your teacher to spank you and when you get home I’ll spank you and if what you did was bad enough I’ll tell your Dad. There’s no telling what he’ll do. But you don’t want to find out. Do you hear me?”
On a few occasions she added, “Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t you disrespect your teacher. You tell me and I’ll take care of it.” She meant it too.
I was in the seventh grade when I missed a day of school. That was a rare occasion. Mom had a simple cure for sickness. “If you’re sick enough to stay home, you’re sick enough to go the doctor and get a shot.”
It seems to me it was about nine o’clock when the call came. I heard Momma’s side of the conversation. “Hello.”
“Yes, this is Mrs. Johns.”
“There must be some kind of mistake. My son don’t skip school.”
“Well you had better check again because I tell you he is there.”
“I’m coming down and I’ll find him where he is supposed to be.”
“Jackie, get dressed. We’ve got to go find your brother. They say he’s skipping school.”
Now I didn’t much feel like getting dressed. After all, I was sick enough to stay at home. But she didn’t give me a choice, and even if she had I would have yanked IV tubes out of my arms to see what was going to happen at that school.
When we got to the office Mom was polite but direct. “I know you said you checked and he was missing, but I want to know where he is suppose to be. I’m going to check for myself.”
“Well Mrs. Johns we’re just starting a pep rally in the stadium and he’s suppose to be there, but he’s not. I’ll take you so you can see.” He was confident.
Momma marched through the gate, scanning the bleachers as she went. Sure enough, about a third the way down and two thirds the way up there he sat with his friends.
“Jimmy, get down here.”
“That’s my boy. I told you he would be here. If he skips school or does anything wrong, I want to know about it. But don’t accuse him of anything unless you’re sure he did it. That’s all I expect.”
Rumor has it that Jimmy had been skipping and made it back just in time. I don’t know. What I did discover that day was that my mother would fight for her children. She had my back, unless I was in the wrong. Then it was another part of my anatomy she had.
It was all confirmed a few years later after we had moved to Alabama. As I wrote in an earlier post, the church in Birmingham had a little difficulty adjusting to my sister Shirley and myself. In their eyes, we looked like parolees from juvy or something. Shirley with her short hair and me with my long hair – it touched my collar.
It all broke loose when we incited lasciviousness among the innocents by suggesting to our youth leader that showing some Christian movies might be a way of attracting other young people. -- He asked. We answered.
A few days later my mother over heard the pastor telling some of the members, “I’m not going to have no Stokeley Carmichael’s taking over my church.” (Look him up.)
Mom, walked around the corner, looked him straight in the eye and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you’re talking about my children there’s something you need to know. If my children aren’t happy, I’m not happy. And I can find a church where they’ll be happy.”
Now I don’t think she would ever change churches just to make me happy. But he didn’t know that. I am confident she would die to protect me, under most circumstances. But that’s a different story.
March 1, 2010