A Vision of Mom
Richard A. Dedeaux
A Vision of Mom
We were always close. I was mama's pet. At least that's what everyone said. Just because mama sill rocked me in her favorite chair at age six is no reason to accuse me of being spoiled. I loved it and so did mom. We live in a beautiful new brick house, which my father built in the seventh ward of New Orleans. Both my parents worked to fulfill the dream of owning their home. Being a nosey kid I was privy to hear their utmost secrets. I remember their early conversations about building our own home.
"Why do you want to stay here Willie? This place is no different than Mississippi. Walking in back doors to shop. If you try on a hat, you have to buy it. Separate toilets, and drinking fountains, this is no place to raise three kids. Let's move to California, start over, build our house there, give our kids a chance to be somebody." Mama pleaded.
"Elvira I already told you all our people are here and Mississippi. Who's gonna' help us get started out there. I'm a plasterer and brick layer, my next door neighbor Emile's a carpenter, Roger's a plumber,
Merlin a roofer, you think we can built a brick house in California for a few number # 2 tubs of beer and a pot of gumbo? Our house is only going to cost us material, friendship is the cost of labor. We can always sell it and move after we build it."
Dad always won, he had a way of saying thing's that made sense. He was less loving and more practical.
"I only want what's best for the kids. Segregation won't allow them to be a fireman which is Wayne's dream, or the doctor that I want Richard to be. They're being taught how to be good second class citizens just like slavery times. My children deserve a better life and I'm going to see to it that they get it!" Mama promised.
"Dad built our new brick house just like he said with dozens of #2 tubs of beer, and a bathtub of file gumbo. Then he left. He and many of the community's skilled construction workers pooled their recourses and relocated their skills to the promise of California's big construction boom in the fifties. We didn't have a phone back then so dad wrote and sent money on a regular basis.
"I was glad when daddy left, it gave me more time with my mama. Soon the letters were few and far between. That's when mom started to change. She became short tempered and irritable with us kids. That is until she began spending time with her best friend's brother Author. He went out of his way to be nice to us. However, it seemed to me that he was trying to take my dad's place.
He would take us on Sunday rides in his 1930's automobile. Before long mom rented our house to Uncle Gerald while we downsized to a two bedroom apartment in the ninth ward of the Saint Bernard Projects. Mom started gaining weight and I soon realized she was pregnant. Gone were the days when we would sit in the living room of our new house talking."
"Baby you know mama loves you. I want you to be a doctor when you grow up. This is a cruel world, but education will guarantee you success. Otherwise, you'll wind up on the bottom living off hand outs." She no longer talked about us moving to California with daddy but instead how we must make do with the things we have. What mom didn't know is that I began reading daddy's letters and already knew their marriage was over. Daddy's last letter expressed his true feelings.
"I got myself a young school teacher and she made me send you this money, so don't thank me thank her."
"Did daddy know that mama was pregnant? Or, did California change him?" It's a question I've had to live with and never been answered. Suddenly it was summer 1953 and mom and I were sitting in the living room of our new house talking. Mom's soft, melodic voice raised my spirits as we transcended time and space as our souls conversed.
"Mom can I go play at Billy's house for a while?" Mom busied herself doing her typical cooking and cleaning.
"Yeah, but be careful crossing the street. That'll give me time to finish cooking. Then I can take a nap." Although overhead clouds threatened rain Billy and I, after playing for a while, headed to the neighborhood park. There we were greeted by Scott and Phillip who were already playing kick the stick which is like Baseball except you kicked the stick. If it rained we played stick up in the mud.
"Scott and me, against you and Billy." Phillip shouted before we could issue our challenge." They usually beat us, but we remain optimistic. Mercifully the billowing clouds darkened into a torrential downpour that soon turned into hail as big as quarters.
"Catch Billy" challenged as I hurdled the first salvo which guarantee's retaliation from the other three. We played until our hands were frozen then tallied up our ice fight score.
"This is the biggest hail I've ever seen." Scott chided as he dodged an ice ball that could've rendered his unconscious. Retaliating with a salvo of his own Billy targeted Phillip who was suddenly under attack from the three of us.
We played in the freak hail storm a while longer. Then a feeling of nostalgia overtook me as I surveyed the hail covered surroundings.
"I have to go back to the house." Mom was the uppermost thought in my mind.
"Come on mama's boy let's get these chumps." Billy said.
"I can't Billy, I have to get home I want to share these precious moments with her before this wonder of nature disappears forever. I'll see you fellows tomorrow." I raced home as fast as my legs would carry me. Inside a feeling of warmth and caring overcame me when I saw mom. She had cooked, cleaned and was taking a nap just as she said.
"Mom, wake up, I have a surprise to show you." I said whispering, barely able to hear myself. She stirred but remained asleep.
"Come on mom wake up before it's all gone. I want you to see something." Mom opened her eyes and a big warm smile crept across her loving face.
"I'm awake precious. What is it son?
"I don't want to spoil it you have to get up first. Hurry it's something I want to share with you before it all disappears."
"Ok, I'm awake what are you so excited about son she asked, slipping from under the thin spread and putting on her slippers and straightens herself out.
"It's just something I want you to see this. Come on mom." The sparkle in her eyes told me that she was enjoying every moment.
"What is this surprise," stepping into the sun's reflection Oh, it's beautiful. I've never seen anything like this in April?" Mom stood on the front porch gazing at the patches of white on the roofs and shrubs.
"Let's walk in it Richard." You cannot imagine the pride I felt, the hail crackling under our feet. Then mom reached to scoop a handful.
"Hey, what kind of snow is this? It's frozen.
"That's cause it ain't snow mom, it's hail, you frozen ice, it's all melting now because of this heat."
"Well, it sure looks like snow to me. I haven't seen anything, hair huh?" Patches of green were already appearing from the white blanket.
"It'll all be gone in a little while that's why I was rushing you I wanted you to see it before it all disappeared." I said.
"well I'm glad you did, this is a once in a lifetime sight…"
Suddenly, the quiet 4:00 a.m. darkness was shattered by the unnerving shouting of the officer in charge.
"Alright Marines hit the deck for morning chow." I fought against waking up. I first wanted to hold mama in my arms, and tell her how much I loved her. I wanted to say that I would never leave her alone in some filthy, uncaring institution.
I wanted her to hear all the beautiful things I never took the bother to say before. But she was gone. My nostalgic thoughts were snapped back to reality.
"My visit with mom was a dream. But it was so real it couldn't be. I was quickly overcome by an overwhelming wave of depression, as I reconstructed my encounter
That's when my mom's favorite sayings popped into my mind as it has countless times before. She would say.
"One of these day, you're gonna look for me with a candle light." Today was just one of many such days. Wiping the sleep from my moist eyes I stretched, then headed for the shower.
"I want to reconstruct every second I was allowed to spend with you mom, even if it was just a beautiful dream. You see, My mom died of child birth exactly 52 years ago."