Reprinted. Latest article over at Madame Noire.
As Mother’s Day rapidly approaches, I find myself reflecting fondly upon the woman I will be eternally grateful to have called mother. As I grow older, I appreciate her more and more, and even her antics become more endearing.
My childhood was probably not the most typical for the time period in which I grew up. You see, my mother was 44 when she gave birth to me. Which means that while I was busy growing up in the 90’s, my mother was comfortably settling into her 50’s. My friends had young, urban parents who were still trying to find themselves—not to mention most were also trying to figure out what the mom thing was all about. Me, I was being raised by a woman at least 20 years their senior who had already raised most of her kids (I’m the youngest of a large family) and knew the major pitfalls to avoid. Let me add that my mother was from the South. Now, I’m a city girl and would not have it any other way than to be born and bred in my native Chicago all over again. But, I’ll be the first to admit that there are probably a few pointers that us Northern women can take from our Southern sisters. But I digress. I said all of this to say that despite growing up in the 90’s in the inner-city of Chicago, I had an old-school Southern upbringing. For that I am tremendously grateful and this is why…
My mother’s rules were sometimes ridiculous, but all the time purposeful.
She made it clear that what I chose to do as an adult would be my own business but while I was in her home, we’d serve God. The one of the Black church persuasion. If church was in session, we were in attendance. Sunday School, first service, second service, YPWW, Bible study, choir rehearsal, prayer night, Vacation Bible School, revival and on New Years Eve…watch night service!
My mother was intent on not only raising me to be a certain kind of woman, but to be a lady. She taught me to have such high respect for myself that it commanded respect from others. She taught me to depend on myself and not wait for others to do for me. BUT, now to each its own, my mama taught me that women also cook and clean. She’d say “you don’t be inviting nobody to your house and it ain’t clean,” and she was something serious about a woman knowing her way around the kitchen. She was the kind of mother who taught me to make everything from scratch. And ladies, may I just tell you that this cooking thing scores me mad points with the fellas when I’m not even trying to win.
I learned from my mother that ladies dress like ladies and not like, well, whores. She made sure that things were properly shaved, I wore stockings and a slip, and that she was never EVER able to determine what kind of underwear I was wearing. She taught me to work on the kind of inward beauty that draws people to you rather than attract attention by being scantily clad. I remember when midriffs started becoming really popular amongst my age group; I had this Calvin Klein number that I loved. I’d make sure to pull it as far down as possible when my mother was around, but I must have moved too swiftly one day and my mother caught a glimpse of my bare stomach. If she didn’t almost fall out! She promptly informed me that either my shirt was too short or my pants weren’t high enough. In fact, she added that any pants I owned should cover my navel! My navel???
I can imagine that we’ve all heard older folks talk about the days when they had to be in the house when the street lights came on. Try 1998! I have siblings who are much older than I am, and a couple of nieces who are about the same age as me. One of these nieces came to live with us when she was a preteen. Now, when she became a teenager, my mom gave her a curfew of 10:00 p.m. We were close but different kind of people, so we didn’t always hang out together. She had her friends and I had mine. But, I vividly recall this day we decided to kick it. We had all kind of fun in the sun and made it home in time for “our” curfew. I walked in the house and my mom appeared out of nowhere and hit me with the “just where do you think you’ve been?” I explained that I was with my niece, who’s a year and a half older, and that we weren’t too far away. She promptly read me my rights and informed me that while Trice’s curfew was 10, she fully expected me to be on the block the minute the street lights came on.
I should also say that my mom did NOT play when it came to boys. I was 15 before my mom let a boy CALL me! And probably a year older before she “allowed” me to have a boyfriend. As a grown woman, I still remember the day she first let my boyfriend darken our front door. Both he and I thought that there must be some kind of ambush that lay in wait. Luckily for us, she was just trying to cut us some slack.
I know not everyone’s parents were as strict as mine and realize that this kind of upbringing is not one that everyone would relish. However, I am so appreciative that I was raised the way I was raised. I’m not knocking young and more progressive mothers who successfully raise balanced kids. But…if you had an old school mama who didn’t play and you’re a better woman because of it, will you join me in a standing ovay for that right there?
And if you had an old school mother, then I know I’m not alone in these embarrassing my mother didn’t play that stories. Do tell. What was your mother simply not having when you were growing up?