I have written several articles about my dad but have not given my mom equal time. Today being Mother's Day I decided to share the two anecdotal memories that best describe my mom. While my dad was a soft-spoken, highly functioning, alcoholic, my mom was exactly the polar opposite. She was a tea-totaling "Christian" woman inclined to speak her mind at all times. She was not a racist or bigot by choice, but by situation.
I think this may have been taken on their wedding day, though my dad had been there all my life.
Mom was born in rural north Florida in 1917. The south was still reeling from the devastation of the Civil War and she was not exactly raised in a nurturing and progressive environment. I don't believe I could find her lineage with a free weekend of Ancestory.com. I have had websites ask my mother's maiden name as an identity verification and I settled on Sanders. My parents' Marriage License (issued in 1960. I was born in 1952. Yeah I know what that makes me) shows her father's name as George Sanders Sr. I had never heard that name mentioned and judging by his being a senior, my mother must have had a brother, who I have never heard of. I believe that name was made up to fill out the form. I believe her birth dad was Native American. My mother was married previously to a man named Cosson and had two daughters, one of which I have never met. The other I wish I never had. My mom only attended school through grade nine. My point in providing this back-story is that mom was pretty much a redneck. She was a great and loving mother, who could cook her ass off, but a redneck just the same. I hope that will mitigate the language that I am about to attribute to her.
When I was about 12 we were traveling from to Jacksonville, Florida. It was dark and we had stopped somewhere in southern Georgia for gas. A car pulled up containing several black men and one of them asked my dad how to get to Brunswick, Georgia. My dad told him and mom was very agitated. "There ain't a nigger in the world that doesn't know where Brunswick is." When we pulled out of the station, the car pulled out behind us and followed closely behind. "They are following us," mom whispered as if the men in the car could hear her. She never considered that possibly they were following us because we were headed on the same road that dad had pointed out to them. She was convinced they were going to run us off the road and rob us. This was unlikely too, as their car was much nicer than ours and they probably had more money on them than we did. But mom took an immediate course of action, as she was prone to do. She pulled a broken down double barreled shotgun from underneath the seat and, rolling down the window, stuck the barrel menacingly out the window. At the next crossroad the car pulled over and stopped, probably worried that this crazy, shotgun toting, white woman was going to rob them. From that day on, my dad and I called her, "Gun Barrel Annie."
I was home on leave, on my way to the Philippines and we were in K-Mart in Spokane, Washington. My son, Rick, was a toddler and was decked out in a leisure suit. A young, well-dressed, black man walked towards us and looking at Rick's outfit, pointed at him and said, "man, you are ready." He did not even come close to getting out of earshot when my mom said (not using her indoor voice), "Ricky, that nigger likes you." I tried my best to crawl into a food display. Admonishing my mom would do no good. She honestly did not understand what was wrong with what she said. It was not said maliciously. It was how she talked. It was in her DNA.
This photo was taken about the time of the K-Mart episode. She looks harmless.
Thankfully, I broke that chain and neither I nor my children use that language, nor do we judge a person by their race. I have always professed that assholes have no common race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc.. I use the word nigger here because it is necessary to tell the stories accurately. Those who knew my mother, know she was not a hateful person. It was the environment she grew up in. Nature and nurture.