She was a divorced mom doing all she could, at times working more than one job, to support her three daughters and also care for her aging mother who was quickly slipping into an Alzheimer’s dementia. I am one of her three daughters.
I will never forget that weeknight excursion, when somehow; my mother could afford the time and the expense of taking me to a Cleveland Indians baseball game. I couldn’t wait. I was still a student at Robert Fulton elementary school.
The school offered families, $5 bleacher seat tickets for a weeknight game. I had no love for the game, but I knew some of the names of the players from listening to the sports reports on the evening news. I crowed for days, “Can we go? I wanna go”. It was something exciting to do, something I could talk about with my friend Susan Jones the next day.
It was hot and mom took off from work. We walked up 146th Street crossed Milverton Street, passing the USPS mailbox, where I had walked with my grandmother many times to mail her letters and bills. We walked onto and up the very shady Onaway Street on our side of Van Aken Blvd. and over to the opposite side of the train tracks to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), Rapid train shelter, where we waited for the train. This was also the first time I would ride the Rapid, so I was just over the top giddy with energy. We rode all the way through town.
I was seeing the city pass by so fast and seeing the backs of buildings and things that I’d never seen before from mom’s car. I think I can say that I was a pretty well behaved, although awkward child, so mom did not have to worry about me embarrassing her or being obnoxious in public. Mom handled to train fares and we walked from the downtown train station and to the stadium, where we took our seats in the hot sun. Today, I have absolutely no idea who Cleveland was playing, but I do remember sitting there with my mother, having a hot dog and cracking open peanuts - together. Our journey together that day was way more important than who won the game.
There are so many times that I’ve looked back in speechless amazement at who my mother was. More recently, like in the early 2000’s, I remember one Saturday morning phone conversation that we had during one of my Washington, DC walks down by the Kennedy Center over the Memorial Bridge that will take you into Virginia and if you keep walking, into Arlington Memorial Cemetery. I was on the phone with Bub (my name for my mother) for a little while and I called her my “first feminist”. She brushed me off, saying that she was no feminist, but that she did what she did, made choices that she made in order to survive.
Tears inevitably cloud my vision when I think of about how much she carried for all of us for so long; the little and sometimes big indignities that she silently suffered just for being a strong, Black, single mother; how she must have cried and we never heard her; how much she knew, but never said; how she allowed others to shine, when she was even more brilliant; how she made selfless choices so that her daughters could advance; and how she stayed strong when a lesser woman would have crumbled from the pressure.
Mothers are amazing, but my mother was extraordinary! She took ME out to the ballgame.