I was your first born, your most difficult birth with shoulders so wide, Dr. Wade, who made a house to deliver me in the house your built with his own two hands, had to use forceps to pull me out and I still have the dent in the back of my head where he expertly placed the instrument so there wouldn't be any brain damage.
Right away I was taken from you as your mother, a midwife too nervous that day to deliver her own grandchild, bathed me and tried to smooth that dent out of my head.
But I was yours and you nurtured me, teaching me more than anyone ever has,, including how to draw. You gave me my greatest gifts when my brother, John, was born. He'll always be my best friend. Then you gave me the one thing I wanted most in the world, a sister.
Martha Jo died of SIDS, taking a part of all of our hearts with her. Then Ruth was born and I had a sister again. And then James, my fraternal twin, born nine years instead of nine minutes after me. Then, Joseph, who's always been brilliant, and, finally, Deborah, your namesake and your most fragile child who's now your strongest.
You were always the most beautiful woman in the world to me. Always. And Daddy was the handsomest man, well, after Joseph, and I always wanted to be as pretty as you and meet a man like Daddy.
But I was taken from you again when Grandpa died and Grandma wanted me to come live with her. And I got a second mother.
Not as gentle as my first mother, you saved me from myself, insisting that I look people in the eyes when I talked to them, instinctively knowing that was an indicator of an impairment (turns out it's an early sign of autism) and you wouldn't let me sequester myself with my books and withdraw from human contact which I so longed to do. You actually moved my small bed into your room so I would never have the chance to escape contact. And you made me study once you learned I had above average (only slightly) intelligence.
In our little "colored school," our teachers were so good several of my classes tested high in standardized tests with my scores always being the highest (98 percentile) in everything but math.
Then you were my sixth grade teacher and I went from being a bored "C" student to being an involved "B" student. But that wasn't good enough for you. You pushed me all through junior high until I was making more As than Bs.
I had my own school at home with a slide projector, microscope, and dissecting kit,, creating a life-long love of science. And when I got to high school, I got a sewing machine for home ec and a typewriter for typing class.
Everything to be the A student you wanted me to be. I was the second student in the history of W. D. Spigner High School to graduate with all As and was Valedictorian of my class.
I knew you wanted me to follow family tradition and be a teacher (Dr. Wade advised me to be a dentisst), but I wanted to break tradition and that included attending college somewhere other than the one everyone in the family attended. I had a tuition scholarship to attend any school in Texas and Texas A&M was less than thirty miles away. But I went to its black counterpart like the rest of the family.
There I rebelled becoming a student activist, following in my civil rights activists parents' footsteps. When I became editor-in-chief of the heavily censored school paper, I started an underground one and was eventually expelled and went to Oklahoma to live with my parents the second semester of my sophomore year.
I know I broke your heart, but I earned your respect when after gtting a degree in English (after majoring in biology for three years) and not being able to get a job writing for a newspaper, I went back to school and got a masters degree in education and became a teacher.
Once again you were proud of me.
Now, my first mother is in decline and gives me messages from my second mother who died December 19, 1998, because wanted everyone home for Christmas. I am blessed to have been nurtured by these two women who taught me so much and even more blessed to have my first mother still with me.
My heart goes out to all who've lost a mother, because I lost one, too. But God was kind enough to give me two.