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One of my most vivid memories as a young girl has resurfaced to offer a lesson in foresight. The event happened on one perfect afternoon and was surely never to be repeated again.
I spent most of that extraordinary day with my mother. It began the moment she appeared at the doorway to my classroom as the sun highlighted her silhouette and crowned her with dark, wispy curls – turning all non-believers into beholders of my fairy godmother. I was validated by her highly-anticipated visit for Open House, since the teacher and most of the stay-at-home moms were past of point of introductions, and many were privy to daily classroom pick-up and drop-off benefits.
I was in kindergarten, and my sister, Janis, was in 3rd grade at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School. Anita was a toddler and being cared for by our beloved Nanan. She was Mom’s older sister by a decade, and her surrogate parent. Mom left her sheltered existence in a tiny, one stoplight town to move to the Big Easy, and Nanan paved the way for that to happen. And to make it even more convenient, Mom didn’t have to look any further than down the street to find the man of her dreams, because that’s where my parents meet before Dad went off to join the Army and Mom pursued her career.
In between giving birth to the three of us, Mom was a clerk for Illinois Central Railroad in the CBD of New Orleans, but on that special day, she got off early and took the public bus from work to my school, visited the classroom and ate lunch with me in the cafeteria. The night before, she let me select her outfit. She was the most beautiful Mom in the world to me, and like every other day, she was dressed for success – certainly not your average Mid-City housewife.
Afterwards, we frolicked hand-in-hand for five blocks and took a slight detour to stroll through the oak-shaded park along the way. I still remember how special she made me feel as we skipped along grass-lined sidewalks while spying all types of animals playing amongst the fast-moving parade of luminous, shape-shifting clouds while we discussed school, family vacations or anything that was on our minds.
I can also remember how my sadness multiplied as each step brought us closer to Nanan’s house, which was my Ground Zero on that day. We stopped at the final curb on Danielle Street, and as Mom paused and looked both ways I squeezed her hand as hard as I could and dug my heals into the pavement to halt her pace. She looked down at my troubled frown for an explanation.
“What is it, dear?”
“Momma, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, anything,” she replied with a glint in her eyes.
“Will there ever be a day when you don’t have to go to work and I don’t have to go to school and we can just be together all the time?”
Her brow got serious as she considered her answer. “Yes, there will be days like that, one day. But not yet. Right now, I just need to keep working and you need to keep going to school.”
I remember her saying it with such assurance, that I felt I could trust the answer.
Flash forward: 58 years later. Mom was right. And now, she lets me pick out her outfit every day.