Excerpt from Sue’s paper:
Despite the religious environment I grew up in, there was one key element that made me into a very strong person: my mother. My mother was a paradox unto herself. While she followed the rules of a submissive wife in[TheChurch], she was PTA president and spearheaded a campaign against chicken farmers who were attempting to build their chicken houses to close to the school. This campaign ended in the Supreme Court chambers of South Carolina. As my sisters and I grew older we began to realize that the submissive housewife did not quite fit with the outspoken activist. It was then that we realized our mother had been oppressed too. For her, after years of being involved in the Church, the lines were blurred between what she actually believed and what she was told to believe. But through the years, her true thoughts and ideas were injected into the lives of her three girls, and she would raise us to become strong, opinionated women.
Paradox, my mother was. I think it’s only as time passes & my sisters and I are taken further away from our separation from her, that we’re realizing the full extent of the contradiction.
As mentioned in the excerpt above, she was president of the PTA, & was extremely active in that role. She fought tooth & nail against the chicken farmers in our area… would literally chase chicken trucks & confront the drivers if the manure wasn’t covered according to health regulations. When a chicken farmer bought land next to our local elementary school, she led a campaign against him all the way to the South Carolina Supreme Court. There’s a newspaper clipping somewhere that ran in the local paper — it’s a picture of her holding up the health bylaws of SC.
Yet, she wasn’t a registered voter. I know, how screwed up is that? I didn’t realize that she wasn’t registered until my voter registration card arrived at age 18. I asked to see hers… she didn’t have one. I freaked. Demanded to know WHY she wasn’t registered to vote, & started talking civic responsibility, blahblahblah. She told me that as a woman, she didn’t feel that she had the right to vote. Say, WHAAAAAT?! And yet, the dichotomy continues — she says this about herself, yet pushes her daughters to register as soon as we’re legally eligible.
She told me not long before breast cancer entered our lives that she had decided to register, but that she didn’t want her parents to know. That it would just upset them unnecessarily.
When Sue was in middle school, she led a petition against the cancellation of her class’s field trip & was called into the principal’s office. The principal requested a conference with Mama to talk about Sue’s disruptive behavior. Instead, they got a soft-spoken lady with her hair pinned up neatly into a bun & a long skirt informing them that she supported her daughters exercising their democratic rights.
Was feeling a sense of deja vu, & realized that I actually HAVE told the petition story before. Whoops. Oh well, it’s a good story. :)
Mama encouraged us to push the envelope and be ourselves. Like the time Susanna was called into the principal’s office for having her entire 7th-grade class sign a petition protesting the cancellation of their field trip to Washington, DC. Mama was called in for a teacher-parent-principal conference about Susanna’s uprising, and Mama defended her, claiming that Sue was exercising her democratic rights. Or the time that I accepted a date with Brad the Baptist and when Daddy threatened to kick me out of the house, Mama told him that his crap would be on the front lawn right next to mine. Or the time I was in first-grade and a little boy named Eli hit me every day on the bus and made me cry… Mama told me that the next time I came home crying because I hadn’t stood up for myself, she was going to spank me. The next day, I punched Eli in the face. (Click here for entire post.)
So what made me think of this today? This morning, Sue was a part of a protest on College of Charleston’s campus. Westboro Baptist* Church apparently felt it necessary to protest CofC’s Jewish and gay community. (Want to read all about them & their hateful rhetoric? Just go to godhatesfags.com. Yes, that really is their web address. Prepare to be disgusted.) So hundreds of kids turned out to protest the protest.
*Sidenote, but how the HELL do those people even use the word “baptist” in their name?! Isn’t there some statute or policy that prevents this?!
Pieces of Mama shine through us. There are glints in me, pieces in Jennifer that I don’t have, & Sue completes the representation. I’m proud when I see or hear Mama come through one of us… & I know she would be too. This morning, I was struck by a horrifying thought… what if Mama had had three boys instead of three girls? How wretchedly sad & erroneous that would have been.