Monday, August 22, 2005

Women We Love: My Mother

I know it's cliche for my mother to be the first woman recognized in this series, but what you may see as cliche, I see as pure fact. So here it goes...

My mother was born in Jackson, MS in the late 1940s. The youngest child of four, her early formative years were spent living in Jackson and in rural Learned, MS, where my great grandparents had a thriving farm. When my mother was young, her only brother, Selvin, drowned. Later, I was named after Uncle Selvin, thus my middle name. I never thought of the impact that the death of a sibling would have on anyone, let alone my mother. If we are fortunate, we don't have to deal with that kind of thing until later in life. But my mother dealt with it in her youth. I didn't think of its full impact until I read a poem that she wrote about him. Oh yes, my mother is a naturally talented and gifted writer as well...


Sixteeen years old
and drowned
just when he began
to wear his pants low
showing his bvd'.
drowned in the midst of
learning lyrics to
"Short Fat Fanny"
awkwardly attempting the
latest dance steps
on mama's front porch
a tall, lean body
silouetted in the moonlight
practicing perfect hoops
just after
meeting Debra,
an angel
come down from
Chicago to visit
kin folks
Debra whom he said
"looked like
an angel, baby!"
To know he knew
the love of a young girl
just before being
an angel came
for him
in some consolation.

- Hazel Lou

Deep wasn't it? That's my mother. After being a member of the National Honor Society, and graduating as the Valedictorian of Holy Ghost High School in Jackson, she enrolled at Jackson State College (later University). While at Jackson State, she was a cheerleader, pledged as a member of the Gamma Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and travelled on domestic exchange to take courses at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and SUNY Binghamton. After her graduation from Jackson State, she taught classes there in her field, English. She used to tell me stories about teaching members of the football team, and how they wanted to do well, but would give her a hard time. After she left Jackson State, she pursued her graduate studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. While she was pursuing her Masters degree there, she met an undergrad named Joseph Carlos. Later, they began dating, and in 1970, on this date, they were married in Jackson, Mississippi's Northside Baptist Church.

When they first got married, they both taught at a junior college in Mississippi. In 1973, her husband started medical school at Michigan State University. In September of 1974, she gave birth to her first child, Joseph Selvin, a 9 pound 5 ounce, bouncing, brown bundle of joy. During Joseph's early years, she taught in Lansing and Grand Rapids, MI until 1977 when her husband graduated from medical school, and began his residency in Dallas, TX at Parkland Hospital. I can remember that ride from Michigan like yesterday. I remember being in our Volkswagen Beetle, for hours. Longer than I'd ever been in a car in my life. My mother had sandwiches for days it seemed like, and when we got to Dallas, I remember eating in a cafe' called JoJo's. We had a two bedroom apartment at Northall Manor in North Dallas. At the time, my mother was pregnant with my brother, and in February of 1978, a few days after the Cowboys had won their second Super Bowl, Jordan Edward was born in the world at 7:47pm weighing in at 10 pounds 2 oz.

When I was growing up, my mother made our apartment in North Dallas so warm, it seemed like the biggest place I'd ever seen. It's hard to describe it, but everything we wanted or needed we definitely had, and my mother and father saw to it. My mother took a position teaching English at nearby Brookhaven College in Farmers Branch, TX. I went to the child development center, as did my brother. Shortly after my year there, I tested for and was accepted at The Greenhill School, where I began pre-Kindergarten. I don't quite know how my mother and father afforded the tuition on a resident's salary and a college teacher's salary but they did.



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