By the time I learned my friend had been struggling, she was four years into infertility disappointments. I asked her if she wanted me to tell her in advance if my husband and I decided to start a family. She said that as hard as it was, she would rather know beforehand.
So, I told her. And then three weeks later, my pregnancy test came back positive.
I did not call her to tell her. I just sent her a postcard that said something like, “I am. It’s not fair. I’m sorry.” When she was ready, she called me and we cried together. As it turned out, our oldest children were born months apart, thanks be to God. But still. Her pain made me aware of something that I’ve never forgotten: not everyone loves Mother’s Day.
To the young women like my friend who want desperately to be mothers, but still have empty cradles, my heart hurts for you and for all of the Should-Have-Been mothers: those who have suffered infertility, miscarriages, or failed adoptions. I see you friends and I'm so very sorry you are in this place of pain.
I see you too, women who longed to be mothers but couldn't for whatever reason: those who never married or were never in partnerships that produced children; those who have illnesses that make parenting difficult, impossible, or irresponsible; those who have obligations to other family members—disabled parents or siblings, for example—that have prevented you from parenting. I pray God has given you children to mother throughout your life, and that these gifts have comforted you in your longing.
"To those who don’t feel Happy this Mother’s Day, I see your pain, and I am so very sorry."
Then, there are those of you who have other reasons for disliking Mother’s Day. I know of a mother who died when she was in her thirties; she had three children. The subsequent step-mothers who entered those kids' lives were not what you’d call nurturing (or sober, for that matter). I'm pretty sure Mother’s Day was not their favorite holiday. Whether you are estranged from your mother or are grieving mothers who are no longer on this side of heaven, I understand why you may not feel celebratory on this second Sunday of May. I get it.
I hear you women who choose not to have children and prefer not to advertise why you made this choice. I didn't always. Please forgive my ignorant intrusion. (When will you have kids? Why NOT?!) I didn't know better; I do now. I'm so sorry.
Maybe you don’t want to be a parent. Frankly, I wish more people who did not want children would make this decision. But maybe it’s something else. I once knew a couple who decided early that they would not have children. Before they married--in their TWENTIES--they took surgical steps to eliminate that possibility. I thought it was rash and ridiculous and I had all kinds of opinions that I'm sure I shared way too freely. (I was also in my twenties.) Twenty years into their marriage, one was diagnosed with a debilitating, inherited illness that required the other spouse to become the full-time caregiver. No doubt, this probability advised their decision two decades previously. There’s almost always more to the story.
And the thing is, Mother’s Day is EVERYWHERE! Honestly. If you appear female and are above the age of 25, you can’t check out from your local dollar store without being wished a Happy Mother’s Day. Shoot, you can’t even send a Bitmoji without seeing Mother’s Day greetings. YouTube or radio commercials, fliers in your mailbox, Google ads on your screen . . . Snapchat will have filters, Instagram and Facebook will be flooded with tributes and pictures and special frames . . . And all this is fine, it really is. I mean, this is the way of the world and I’m not tying to fight it.
But . . . and here’s my point . . . I will not make it the focal point of worship. I will reference Mother’s Day in the prayer and maybe the announcements. But we will let the celebrations take place in the world, not in the church. See, I am too aware of the Mothers-never-to-be, the Motherless children, and the Children-less Mothers in our midst to add to their pain.
The world does a wonderful job of celebrating Mother’s Day. And I celebrate it too, grateful as I am for my amazing mother and my beloved children. At church, though, I celebrate the love of God made manifest in Jesus: the love that comforts the childless and brings hope to the motherless, that draws us all together as one family--mother, father, sister, brother--and offers to each of us the peace that surpasses all understanding.
When Mother's phone rang, she was delighted to see my cousin's name on caller id. Peggy and Mother text daily and Mother figured the call was just a routine check-in. It was not. Peggy's 88 year old mother, Ann Mitchell, had passed away in the wee hours of that morning. Peggy was calling to tell Mother the news. (Ann was the wife of my dad's brother Edward.)
Though she was shocked by this news, Mother had been expecting to learn of a sister-in-law's passing. Just not that one. Her sister-in-law Iris Martin (the wife of her brother who passed in February this year) had been under Hospice care for several days. She knew that call would come at any minute; and it did, later that day. Iris passed away peacefully that same night, less than 20 hours after Ann's passing.
The next morning I called Mother to check on her and Daddy, to see how they were coping after such a grief-filled day.
"Well," she said. "Its hard. Life is fragile. These are more reminders of that."
I agreed and repeated my sympathies to her. We talked some more about the lives of these two women, recalled stories, and shared memories.
"It is sad," she went on. "It is so very sad, especially since we can't have proper services for them." She's quick to add that the quarantine is worth the inconvenience and she's happy to wear a mask if it keeps people well; that doesn't mean there are not difficulties though. Not having funeral or memorial services for loved ones is indeed hard; Mother is right to grieve that loss.
"I loved Ann and Iris dearly; I am grateful for their lives and am sad they are gone." She paused, took a breath, and continued. "But, Daddy and I are just going to keep on living," she continued. "We are going to exercise and eat right and take our vitamins. We are going to do everything we can to embrace the life we have been given and not take one second of it for granted."
CAVEAT: Mother knows good and well that the 15 children/spouses and grandchildren/spouses in her immediate family cannot bear even the mention of losing either her or Daddy. There's a chance she was doing what she has done since she became a mother: taking care of her child. By speaking hope in the face of grief, she certainly protected me from additional pain. She's like that.
The call ended--Mother had to get to her exercise--but the wisdom she imparted during that conversation has been bumping around in my brain ever since. And it seems to me, it boils down to this: gratitude. See, losing these two sisters-in-law brought Mother & Daddy's losses to 10 family or friends-like-family in about two years. It's a lot. But Mother chooses to be grateful even in her grief. She's grateful to have loved those she lost. She's grateful for her children and grandchildren and husband and friends. But that's not all. My mother's automatic reaction is gratitude. Really.
I don't know if she's always been this way--I certainly remember a number of parental lectures that could hardly be described as appreciative in nature--but I have noticed that Mother isn't getting so much older as she is wiser. These days, her default is gratitude--whether it's for the nice clerk at the store, the birds in her yard, or the comfort of her favorite chair.
(For the record, Daddy has ALWAYS been optimistic, a real Happy-Head; he's been known to be grateful for bumper to bumper traffic: "So good to have all these tourists supporting our businesses down here!" Insert eye-rolling emoji.)
These are uncertain days for sure. Adding gratitude into the mix doesn't mean we discount the difficulty. Gratitude and grief do not cancel each other out; but having a grateful heart surely does make the grief easier to bear. In Philippians 4:6, the Apostle Paul says it like this: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
At the top of my gratitude list is the gift of healthy parents who still teach me every day. And also computers. And beagles. And a working washing machine and dryer. And lots of other stuff . . . . What about you? What fills your heart with thanksgiving?
"Remember that student I had several years ago?" my sister asked. "Well, actually," she clarified, "he wasn't even my student; he had the other Latin teacher."
Important detail: My sister has taught Latin for 100 years or so at the same school. Her Latin program has grown well beyond her classroom, even over to the middle school. All kinds of kids take Latin there--not just the stereotypical brainiacs. Really, there are as many levels of ability in Latin 1 as there are in a regular gym class there. This student was not an academic all-star and had plenty of barriers to his success in life.
She told me his name and reminded me that their relationship began over an altercation. His behavior had caused a major disruption in the classroom next to hers, so much so that she stepped out of her room to address the situation. It was not good. She was furious for a lot of reasons and he made the unfortunate mistake of sassing back instead of remaining quiet and respectful. An administrator came upon the scene and the student got himself a before-school detention the next day.
By the following morning, my sister had (naturally) given it lots of thought; she hoped to meet with the student that day. He seemed like a nice enough kid who had just got carried away in the moment. Plus, she knew his home life wasn't exactly one of privilege. So, it was fortuitous that they encountered one another first thing, quite by accident, in the same place where the argument had occurred. She called him aside, apologized for raising her voice. and admitted ways she thought she could have handled the situation better. Essentially, she allowed herself to be appropriately vulnerable, offered the student a little piece of herself, and made amends.
Over the next three years, they developed a teacher/student friendship of sorts. She'd greet him in the hallway, ask him about his track meets, and encourage him whenever she could. You know, like she did all of her students.
I thought I remembered the story and told her so.
"Anyway," she said, "Did I tell you he came back to see me at Christmas? He's in college now and he stopped by on break. He's doing great. So great!" She laughed a little as she went on. "He told me he'd seen all his other teachers but 'saved the best for last.'"
She told me that he came in, gave her a huge, feet-off-the-ground hug, and told her all about college: his success in track, his scholarship, his leadership responsibilities. She was delighted with his success, but was a little surprised by his enthusiasm at seeing her. She said something like, "Why me?"
Shocked, he said "Ms. Mitchell! There would BE no ME without YOU!"
Whoa. Exaggerate much? I mean, she remembered him, but she couldn't recall anything special she'd done to merit the accolades. He had not even really been her student, for goodness sake. So she asked him to clarify. His response?
"Ms. Mitchell," he said. "You came back. No one ever came back. But you did. You came back."
That's all. And that's everything.
In these difficult times, when human connection has to be more intentional than ever, let's remember to keep going back. It may not seem like anything to you. But to someone else, it could be everything.
WARNING: this story is about a dog attacking me and my dog. While we are both fine, the story could be triggering to victims of violence. Please read with caution.
Spectrum was due by 4 (Wi-Fi woes) so when I got home around 3:35, I hurried to get my beagle, Isabella, out for a potty break before they arrived. We walked maybe 3 minutes before she was done with her business and we turned back for home. Just before I stepped into my yard, I saw Dobby, the neighbor’s dog, cutting across my front yard from my back yard. It was about 3:40 pm at that point.
“Oh, Hi Dobby,” I said, “What are you doing . . .” That’s the last thing I remember before he rushed towards me and Isabella.
Dobby, a rescue dog who belongs to our next-door neighbors, is noisy, but skittish. He barks a lot, but our dog does too. In fact, Isabella and Dobby have had an ongoing conversation for several years. One would hear the other and respond enthusiastically. So, when I saw Dobby, I wasn’t even a little nervous.
And that’s the first lesson I’ve learned from the whole thing. See, I’ve known my whole life that dogs of any breed can snap and lose their ever-loving minds. When I was in first grade, a preschooler in our community was mauled by a police dog. I have vivid memories of her struggles and the subsequent comments my dad made about dogs: “Under the right circumstances, any dog will bite, maybe even attack.”
I knew this, but I now realize that I didn’t really believe it. I’m a dog lover. I’ve never been bitten by anyone else’s dog, and any bite I’ve gotten from my own animals was under adverse conditions that made a bite the only effective means of communication. So, when Isabella and I would be out walking and fenced-in dogs would bark at us, I didn’t jump or run or react. I might remark, “Well, hello there Noisy! Aren’t you unwelcoming today!” And Isabella and I would continue our walk. Lesson number one (a four-plus decades one that has lain in wait): Dogs will bite. And also, it hurts when they do.
Anyway, Dobby’s presence in my yard that day didn’t give me immediate cause for concern. I greeted him. He barked at Isabella. She barked back.
And then in a flash he was on her and I was trying to get between them, but Dobby was stronger and faster and Isabella is a beagle princess, not a fighter, so she was trying to get away and I was screaming and screaming and screaming for help, and no one was coming, and I thought he was going to kill her especially when he went for her throat because he got her by the jugular and started to pull back and shake her. I got her away from him. (Isabella has rope burns from the leash which was looped under her tummy.) Losing his hold on her neck, he went for her leg, then he dove for her underbelly; at one point I thought, maybe he’ll pull her leg off and will be distracted by that and we can get away. I kept screaming for help, trying to find more volume from deep in my core and failing, fearing my voice would give out before help came. Eventually, I just curled down over Isabella, with my head and face covered and tried to keep hers covered as well.
A humor break: Isabella is a submissive dog; always has been. Still, she wanted to protect me somehow, so from under my left arm she barked intermittently at Dobby. I am not fluent in beagle, but I think she said something like, “Please don’t do that!” or “That’s not nice!” or “Please stop!” Valiant effort but, bless her heart, not effective in the least.
Not able to gain purchase on his target, Dobby went after me, grabbing my right arm. Just as he did, I saw the blood dripping from around his teeth and gums. I knew Isabella had been bitten badly.
And that’s when Mike, a neighbor from the next street over, came running down through the woods. The structure of our neighborhood is like an amphitheater with our house at the base and Mike’s at the rim. The acoustics are such that I can hear him talk on his phone when he is outside . . . and I have significant hearing loss! So, my screams carried up to his ears and he came running, as did Darlene, a woman who lives near him.
Later, I asked Mike and Darlene what they witnessed.
Mike said, “Dobby had a firm hold on your right arm growling and tugging. [I was yelling but] he never let go until I was only three feet from you and then Dobby turned, showed his teeth, and started growling at me.”
Darlene said, “The dog had hold of something and and was shaking it, but I couldn’t tell from where I was if it was your arm or your dog.”
Mike picked up a limb to threaten Dobby which got the dog to respond. Then, Mike chased Dobby back to his driveway and returned to check on me. Before he got to me, Dobby was back, headed for me and Isabella, still huddled on the ground. This time, Mike chased Dobby all the way back to his home where the teenaged son met him at the door and took possession of his dog.
Mike’s a big guy—well over six feet tall—with a big voice. “That dog was not afraid of me at all,” Mike told me. “Not at all.”
Darlene had arrived by this time.
“I knew from the blood either you or your dog was badly hurt,” she told me. “When I arrived, I saw it was your arm and just made sure you kept pressure on it to slow the bleeding. Then I called 911.” (She made the call at 3:54 pm, meaning the whole thing lasted between 10-14 minutes.)
The EMTs arrived in minutes, examined my arm, said I should probably see a doctor, and offered to drive me to the hospital. I declined, more anxious to get Isabella to the vet, but Jay (who had arrived about the same time as the EMTs) assured them that I would be going to see a doctor shortly. Animal control had arrived too; they made a report, and impounded Dobby.
The end result is that I’m fine and Isabella will be. My arm is very sore and bruised, but not broken. There are a few puncture wounds and the outline of a dog mouth imprinted in my skin, but the bone was not compromised, so healing should be quick and lasting. Isabella’s injuries were worse than mine. She had wounds at her throat, groin, and eye along with miscellaneous scratch and bite marks. However, she had quick surgery thanks to the good people at Cedar Ridge Animal Hospital, and will be just fine.
This is a complex situation that involves lots of humans. I’m an animal lover. And Dobby is a family pet. His family loves him. They are good people who take care of their pets. This incident is evidence of a fencing problem, not a character flaw. I am not a perfect pet mom and have made my share of mistakes. I at least understand containment problems with dogs—I have had beagles for heaven’s sake. So let’s all try to remember the Golden Rule here and treat them (in the comments) as we would want to be treated. They are suffering too. I cannot imagine how upsetting this has been for them.
Dobby is a rescue. His current family did not train him to attack. Perhaps that was a part of his former life; it is for so many dogs. (And by the way, let’s make that stop.) I’m very sad for Dobby. I know he just snapped due to something in his past that came slamming into the present. At some point, he was a puppy who was mistreated and neglected. Ultimately, those who use animals for harm are the ones who create this kind of perfect storm in the first place.
Still, I have been changed by this attack. It was terrifying. I thought it would never end. I thought I’d have to call our kids and tell them Isabella was gone. As a result of the attack, I will always be more cautious around animals. I’ll start carrying something to defend myself and my dog when we go for walks.
One thing keeps looping through my brain through all of this: what if Isabella were my human daughter (don’t tell her, but she’s 100% canine), and Dobby were her boyfriend? It happens all around us you know. A little boy is abused, neglected, used for the wrong reasons. His past slams into his present and prevents him from having healthy relationships. He grows up and meets a girl who realizes the danger too late. You know the stories . . . they are legion.
I don’t know the answer to these problems, but I do know all of us are both broken and beautiful, and that God loves us beyond and through all of our imperfections. I know all children should be treasured, loved with an everlasting love. I don’t know what will happen with Dobby, but I know I will continue to try to love the people in my life deeply and fully as Christ loves me. My daily, fervent prayer is that the love I share will, by the power of the Holy Spirt, seep into cracks of pain and regret and will bring hope that empowers and transforms. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Want to get to know my 22 year old? Just tap here and you'll find lots of stories about the youngest of my three kiddos. My favorites? Let's see . . .
This one is just so sweet. It's the one when she's playing with Baker. But it also shows her preschool sassiness.
(My grandmother would have been 115 today, January 24, 2020, if she had not passed away a month before my first child was born in 1994. I love to imagine her laughing in heaven--at her jokes and everyone else's!)
“Where're we going?” Grandmama, buckled in tight, sat in the passenger’s seat of her ancient sedan.
“How long’s it going to take us?” Grandmama stared out her window; her bright eyes seeming to take in the scenery. Mother knew better. Dementia clouded all of Grandmama’s experiences these days.
“Well, it’s about 15 miles,” she told her mother, “ It'll take us about 20 minutes.”
“Oh.” Grandmama nodded and slipped back into the mystery of her musings.
It was hard for Mother. Time was when she and her mother could talk without pause about anything. Once a vibrant, feisty, confident woman, Grandmama had been slowly slipping away for years. This meek soul who now inhabited her body often seemed like a stranger to her beloved daughter, my mother.
In a moment, though, Grandmama perked up again.
“Where’re we going?” she asked, looking over at the one person she always remembered.
“We’re going to Loris, Mother, to the Doctor’s office.”
“Hmm. How long you think it’s going to take us?” Grandmama asked, clueless.
“Well,” Mother said, “It’s about 15 miles. It should take us about 20 minutes.”
“Oh.” Grandmama nodded and turned back towards the passenger window.
The silence didn’t last long.
“Where’re we going?” Grandmama, smiling innocently, looked at Mother, waiting for her to answer.
Mother took a deep breath. “Actually,” she said, “We’re, uh, going to the Doctor’s office. It’s in, ya know, Loris.”
Grandmama nodded, but wanted to know more. “So, how long’s it going to take us to get there?”
Mother unfazed replied again, “It should take us about 20 minutes. It’s about 15 miles.”
“Oh,” Grandmama said. “Well. I guess I ought to know by now. I've asked you three times.”
Edith Grace Mitchell Storey, (87) passed away October 23, 2019, 36 years to the day after her mother left this world for the next one. Earlier this month, Edith mentioned in conversation with her brother Joe that she would be seeing her mama really soon. Though she had not yet had the stroke that took her to heaven’s gate, she had seen a glimpse of the near future and faced it with hope.
Born in 1932 when women wore their hair in Hollywood waves and men slicked theirs back with Brylcreem, Edith was the fourth child and the third (and last) daughter born to Naomi Carter and James Powell Mitchell. Within the next 15 years, the Mitchell family added four more boys, bringing the total to seven children, following the tragic loss of their oldest daughter in the mid 1930’s.
Even in her youth, Edith entertained family and friends by playing the piano. Throughout her life, she played for church and for loved ones. Memories of singing around the piano as Edith played span decades and generations; oh “the joy we shared as we tarried there …!”
After graduating from Brinson High School, Brinson, GA, in 1948, Edith went to work as a telephone operator before marrying in 1951. Soon after, she graduated from beauty college and eventually had her own hair salon in her home. Nieces and nephews, children and grandchildren, made magical memories in that garage-made-parlor full of beauty. Plastic curlers became finger puppets, perm rods took rubber-band wars up to a whole new level, and few could resist climbing into her chair for a dizzying spin.
Edith cut and styled from bouffant to mullet, from pompadour to buzzcut, and from Greg Brady tight perm to Farrah Faucette feathered bangs. But in her beauty shop, Edith did much more than hair; Edith made magic. Clients and friends might arrive burdened, but they left hopeful. They might come beat down, but they left built up. They might enter feeling unworthy, but they left feeling loved.
As an adult, Edith developed her artistic skills through painting. Seeing the beauty in the world was an innate gift of Edith’s, so it only made sense that she would excel at translating natural wonders into artistic masterpieces. Her painting was not just a leisurely hobby. She took her craft seriously and worked with a variety of media—acrylics, oil, watercolor—and surfaces—fabric, wood, metal—to create lasting representations of the world around her. She realized the value of her work, so while she gifted plenty of her works of art, she sold a good many too. Edith and beauty: they worked well together.
Edith’s first marriage gave her two children, four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and 5 great-great grandchildren. As matriarch of her family, Edith saw to it that her beloveds knew Jesus Christ. Each night up until very recently, the family—all who were close enough to make it—circled around Edith for family devotions and prayer time. If Edith said she would pray with you, she meant it--she and her whole family would.
Edith’s second marriage to George Storey (1987-his death in 1998) brought her four step-children and 11 step-grandchildren. It also brought her the love of her life. Shortly after they were married, she remarked, “We love taking care of each other so much that we bump into each other in the kitchen trying to get the other one coffee!” Following George’s passing, her grief was surpassed only by her gratitude for the gift of this late-in-life love.
Once during a difficult time in her life, Edith remarked about her circumstances, “You know, this is not what I had planned for my life, but just look at the blessings around me!” She gestured around her one room apartment, “When I set my easel right there, the light is just perfect for painting! And look at the yard. It has plenty of room for my little dog to run around and play. And when I pull this curtain, I have two rooms, not one.” Because she saw the beauty, everyone else could see it too. “Pray for what you want,” she told us. “Then trust God to give you what you need.”
Condolences for the family may be left in the online guestbook at www.watsonhunt.com. Watson-Hunt Funeral Home has been entrusted with the arrangements.
My dog Isabella has a toy that she absolutely adores. We call it Zingo (official name: Wacky Zingoz™) and if you know the popular Webkinz™ toys from the early 00’s, you may remember it. It’s essentially a triangle with a face and arms and legs. In its original form, Zingo has a voice; when you press its center, it says one of its phrases in a high pitch voice. (Note: Rare is the voice box that is a match for Isabella’s adoration; she loves the sound right out of most of her toys before they can get on my nerves, thanks be to God!)
Isabella absolutely loves Zingo. When she was a puppy, we had to make sure we had one with us on trips or she would be so agitated we could do nothing with her. The problem? You can’t get Wacky Zingoz™ in stores any more. The only place you can find them is on eBay or some other such used-goods site. So, occasionally I go online to search out Zingos. I’ll buy one or two whenever I can find them so I have extras–just in case.
Of course, Isabella knows none of this. Isabella just knows
that Zingo makes her feel better. She doesn’t know that if she lost the one she
has now, I would just give her the one that I have as a backup. Isabella thinks
Zingo makes her life whole. The truth is, I am the one who provides her with
Anyway, I’ve used this example in sermons because Isabella’s love for Zingo makes a great illustration. You know: the power is not in the toy, but in the toy provider. In the story, Zingo plays the idol that distracts humanity—played by Isabella. And yeah, I play the loving provider who indulges beloveds. Not a bad gig if you can get it, amirite?
Recently, I used this story as my children’s message and
took a couple of Zingos as props: Well-loved (aka smelly and gross) Zingo from
Isabella’s toy basket and Brand-new Zingo that stays hidden in my closet. To
protect the congregation, I slipped Well-loved Zingo into a plastic baggy so that
it could keep its aroma to itself. When I got home, Isabella spied her Zingo in
plastic and couldn’t wait for me to get it out. She took matters in her own
paws and I videoed the exchange.
If it happens in other parts of the country, I’m not aware of it. It might. As far as I know, it’s just a Southern thing.
But every time it happens, I wonder if this will be the time he just loses it.
“What are you having to day, Sweetheart,” she says to my octogenarian father, resting her hand on his back as she fills his upturned coffee cup.
He shifts in his seat, his jaw set. She can’t tell she’s annoyed him; but we can. He places his order and hands the menu to her.
“I’ll get that right out for you Sugah,” she says, as she turns to go.
Daddy cannot stand it. He shakes his head, and mutters just loud enough for us to hear, “I’ve got one sweetheart. And it’s not her.”
In the South, whether you are checking out at a grocery store, signing in at your doctor’s office, or ordering your breakfast, you are likely to become, “Sweetie,” “Honey,” “Sugarpie,” or any of a gazillion other faux endearments.
There are several ways this is offensive. For one thing, using such familiar terms is just inappropriate. These pet names are meant for . . . well . . . pets, loved ones. Not strangers. Maybe at one time it was fine to greet a person you’d never met as you would a six-week old cocker spaniel. It isn’t now. A simple “Sir” or “Madam” will work; or skip the address all together and just make eye contact. That should do the trick.
Secondly, its sexist. Would it be okay for a waiter to put his hand on a woman’s back and call her “Hot Lips?” Of course not. I mean, yeah; they got away with it on MASH. But that show was set in the 50’s, so I think we can safely say that behavior is, at least, outdated. Using intimate greetings for strangers is just not okay these days—if it ever was.
Third, I think it is ageist. My parents are young 83 and 81 who neither look nor act like octogenarians. It’s patronizing and disrespectful for mere acquaintances to address them as they would children. My father pastored churches for 40 years before retiring to start a business that he and my mother ran for almost 20 years. He has his doctorate, for goodness sake! And my mother is a mentor to more young women than I can count and has good friends the age of her children who hang out with her because she’s great company. My parents text with their nine grandchildren regularly, go to soccer games and band concerts, and in May 2019 they went with my husband and me on a cruise to Cuba.
But you know what? Their vitality should not even play into this discussion. Older adults should be addressed with deference and respect regardless of their physical or cognitive condition.
I know there are those who would say, “I don’t just speak that way to senior adults. I use endearments with everyone!” Okay. In that case, it’s not ageist. It’s just sexist and offensive.
Others are thinking, “But that’s just the way I am! Why are people so sensitive?” Okay, you can be whichever way you choose and that’s fine.
All I’m saying is that there are reasons why people may not want you to call them “Sugarpie-honeybunch.” Why not just call them by their names instead?
(As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.)
I've recalled for you here seven of my favorite teachers, in chronological order. (Caveat: I can't pick a favorite from Gardner-Webb Divinity School. For one thing, I still have my Doctorate of Ministry left to do and I ain't crazy. But, I couldn't pick anyway. I love you all!)
1. Ms. Brown, 5th grade. In the 70's, as in every decade, North Carolina tried some stupid stuff in education. In my 3rd and 4th grade years, I was in open classrooms. I don't remember why that was a thing, nor do I really care. I just remember it was loud, distracting, and overwhelming (for me, anyway). In the 5th grade, I got to be in one classroom for the whole day with this one marvelous teacher who loved students and teaching. On what must have been the first day of class, she announced to her class full of mostly white kids, that her name was Mrs. Brown and if we forgot we could just remember that "Mrs. Brown is Brown." Brilliant! She got racism right on out of the way and beat a bunch of 10 year olds to the punchline. She was fabulous.
2. Ms. Highsmith, 6th grade. She's the teacher who said of me, to the class and on my report card, "Aileen has real heart. She sees students in need and cares for them." I didn't know I did that, or at least I thought everyone else did too. She pointed out a giftedness in me that I'd not realized myself. That's a good teacher right there.
3. Ms. Lewis, 7th grade. I was seriously bullied in 7th and 8th grade, but in Ms. Lewis' class, I forgot all about that. Language Arts! Books, language, words. I loved it, loved it, loved it. Plus, she was funny. (I realize now what an amazing gift of comedic timing she must have had for seventh graders to find her humorous!)
4. Ms. Delaney, 9th grade (I think). Mary Delaney, did not play when it came to English grammar. I've always loved grammar, and so I appreciated her zeal. She was also quite quirky, a fact that made her even more loveable. My best friend and I were so crazy about her, that at the end of the year, we took her to our favorite lunch place, our treat. (We had open lunch back then and could leave campus for that blessed hour.) It's to Ms. Delaney's infinite credit that she accepted our invitation, and went out to eat with those two geeky white kids.
5. Ms. Hayes (RIP 2019), 10th grade. Ms. Hayes, sock footed, would not have been five feet tall. But at school, in her 3-4 inch heels, she was a giant. She taught history, but mainly she taught joy. I can still bring her laugh to mind, see her vibrant smile. She was an absolute delight. As a 15 feet year old dealing with all kinds of self-esteem issues, I found her energy exhilarating. Because of her, school wasn't so bad.
6. Dr. Walter Barge, undergrad. Around 1984, Campbell University hired a new dean of the college of arts and sciences, Dr. Walter Barge. Dr. Barge was one of those deans who loved teaching so much that he straddled the administrator/faculty divide and did both. I had him for my senior seminar. He said of my writing, "You have a gift. Develop it." (Then he proceeded to mark up my papers so thoroughly that it was hard to see any evidence of said giftedness.) He was a man of integrity and honor. God rest his soul.
7. Dr. Diane Neal Kremm, grad school, round one. Dr. Kremm was flat out crazy about Southern history. When she taught, history rushed forward into the present, alive and relevant. I sat in her class enthralled, amazed, and inspired. It was invigorating. In her office, she had a portrait of John Brown. What's not to love?
Oh wait! There's one more. And she's my favorite teacher of all time. I was her first student, and she was my first teacher. She taught me to read in her makeshift classroom in the upstairs hallway. She stood at her blackboard easel wielding pastel colored chalk; I sat in a little red chair and propped an oversized book on my knees for a desk. So, yeah: my sister will always be my favorite teacher of all time. (She started her official career as an educator in 1985 and is teaching still.)
So thanks Dawn, for teaching me to read and, ya know, everything. And thanks to all educators who tirelessly bless the children of this world day after day. You absolutely--no question--make a difference.