Stockings, Heels, and Heros
My mother was definitely my hero. She was a tough little woman with strength and perseverance. As I went through the trying years of raising my children I would have days that I thought I just couldn’t do it. When I did have those days, I always thought back to my mother and her days of raising us.
Mom married the first time very young. She had two children with her first husband. Though she always said he was a very sweet man, he apparently had some problems. I don’t really know too much about the details but when the kids were two and four, he committed suicide. Being alone with two kids was difficult for her and at some point over the next couple of years she met and married my father. He was a brutal man. She had me, and then my baby brother and spent eight years in a physical and mental hell. She finally got the courage up to leave, now with four children. Over the next couple of years, she met and married my youngest sister's father. That marriage was short lived when he attempted to get violent with her one day. She pulled herself together with five children and once again found herself single. When she left this third marriage my youngest sister was a tiny baby. This is where my story begins.
Mom found a house on the outskirts of downtown Atlanta. It was a small two-bedroom house with a bricked in porch that had been closed in to make another room. She made that the third bedroom. The house was in terrible shape, but mom always said “you can make any house a home”, and that she did. She cleaned and scrubbed and painted and made us all cozy.
She got herself a job in downtown Atlanta and prepared herself to go to work. Now, mom didn’t drive, so the trip back and forth to work would have to be made on the city bus. I was about 10 years old at this time.
Mom was a beautiful woman. She was five foot tall with a perfect 36-24-36 figure even after giving birth five times. (We measured her one time! HA!) She had gone to beautician school and would spend hours sometimes doing her own hair. It had to be perfect as did the rest of her. I can remember her standing in the bathroom for hours (it seemed, since we only had one) teasing that hair. If you had to get in there while this was going on, she would come out with her hair standing straight up from the teasing, make funny faces at you, and fuss until you gave up the bathroom again.
In the mornings she would get herself up and then one by one get us all up to go to school. Everyone got ready for their perspective journeys. Mom of course, would tease the hair, put on a dress and stockings and heels and be ready to head out. In those days, women always wore stockings.
Mom, in her stockings and heels, would take the baby in a carrier, the diaper bag, and her purse, and head out walking. Our house was on a bit of a hill, so she walked down the driveway and up the street about four houses. At this point she needed to cross the schoolyard to get to the bus stop. The school set pretty high up on a hill and there was a set of concrete stairs to be climbed, about forty of them probably (No exaggeration). I can only imagine her standing at the foot of those stairs every morning looking up and wanting to cry. She didn’t though. She trudged up the stairs in her stockings and heels with the baby and the diaper bag and her purse in tow. Once at the top, she had to cross the dirt and gravel schoolyard in her stockings and heels, to get to the bus stop on the other side.
I keep reiterating the fact that she was in stockings and heels because it is difficult to walk in stockings and heels on flat ground carrying nothing, let alone up and down hills or in dirt and gravel, carrying a baby and a diaper bag and a purse. At the bus stop, she waited for the bus. She climbed onto the bus and rode about six blocks to the nursery. She got off of the bus and dropped the baby off at the nursery. Then she went back outside to wait for the next bus and boarded it for the ride downtown. It was about a 30-minute ride to her destination. When she got off of the bus she had about a 3-block walk to her job. Then she worked for eight hours, on her feet all day, in her stockings and heels, and then headed out to do the whole thing again back the other way.
I can remember watching her come up the driveway in the evenings and I could tell it was all she could do to climb that last little bit of hill to the house. She would walk in, sit the carrier and diaper bag and purse down in front of the couch and sit down and literally pass out for a little while. We all had to pitch in to help get everyone through the evening. It was a very difficult and trying time for her.
Once I was grown and raising my own children, of course I had those days when I just didn’t think I could do it anymore, and I only had two kids and I drove. When that happened, this clear visual of my mother played itself in my head. To this day, whenever I think I have it rough, I think back to those days and moms difficult and trying journey. I don’t have it rough. I’ve never had it as rough as mom had it during that time. Those visuals always made me get it together and move on.
While at that job, mom met her fourth and final husband. He was the sweetest and most loving man a woman could ever ask for. He married her with five children and had her quit work and stay home. He loved her dearly and loved us all like his own until the day he died. Mother succumbed to cancer about 12 years ago. She left a legacy with us all of strength and perseverance. Through all of her trials, she was funny, she was loving, and she was always strong. She was my beautiful hero.