In recent years especially, the concept of income inequality has become something that more and more people are aware of or concerned about. As a raging liberal myself, it's something I consider often. But, as a lover of justice, I’m also worried about a more burning issue confronting the whole of humanity, not just our particular geo-located region of it, and that’s an inequality in Mothering.
I am the sad bearer of the news that every single one of you listening to this has been suffering from a significant lack of mothering. I know this, because I had the very best one. And while she was and is generous with her time and affection, she's only mother to four of us anywhere, and the rest of you are just SOL.
Jamie Lynn was born in Mer Rouge, Louisiana. She graduated from Prairie View Academy, then Louisiana Tech University and sent my sister and I on to both once it was our time.
Funny and fiery and faithful and always up for a fight when she sees her babies or her friends and family wronged, Jamie is more than I deserve as a Mom. She's been my confidant, and my cheerleader, my bankroll and my boss. She never gave up being my parent in order to be my friend, but she also never let being my parent get in the way of treating me like a human being.
She is the best role model I could ever have for raising these four children of mine.
She finished college (the first in her family to do so) in just three years. Then began a career in the public school system. She taught my older brother's generation, and mine ten years later and was still there as an administrator and support staff when my sons started to school. She poured her blood, sweat, tears and lots of disposable income into the hearts and minds of the children of Morehouse Parish for the better part of 40 years, so if any of them are you, you're welcome.
But you still didn't get all of my mama.
You didn't get the snack cabinet, full of so many different kinds of goodies that every friend I have that spent any time in my house as a child STILL talks about it.
You didn't get the sleepovers and slumber parties where she’d ring-lead the games or card playing, but then disappear appropriately to the back so the kids could talk freely about their parents and their teachers and the trashy movie we were inevitably watching on mom and dad’s TV.
You didn’t get counsel, like more than one friend of mine did when they went through a pregnancy scare and couldn’t talk to their own parents, but knew they could count on my mom. I’ve always counted on my mom.
She beat lupus and the Louisiana Board of Education and more than a couple bosses who were sure they didn’t need a Jamie Sharpton in their way. She has slowly trained my father into a very decent human being to live with (of course she finished this job after my sister and I no longer lived with him), and has turned into quite a decorator in her retirement as they’ve remodeled the house from one end to the other.
Her greatest achievement though is in the 4 children she helped raise, the now 9 grandchildren she’s helping spoil and the innumberable students she’s helped mold during her time in and around the classroom. And unless your name is Jena or Angie or Jason, you didn’t get all that in your mama. And for that, I’m a little bit sorry.
Again, none of this is a swing at your mom, I’m certain she’s a wonderful human being, but when the bar is set as high as mine was, there’s not a lot left to worry about except who comes in second place.
I don’t call enough, I don’t visit enough, I DID give her plenty of grandchildren, so I’m square on that front at least. I do know that she’s proud of me, often even when she’s confused by me, and I find that less confusing the older my kids get.
If your mom is still alive, and she’s not a psychopath, because God and I both know, the role of motherhood doesn’t exempt anyone from that possibility, then even if she isn’t Jamie Lynn, you should call her today. You should visit her the next chance you get. Because I’ve already watched my mom say goodbye to hers for the last time. And I’m not taking any of those chances for granted.
And now that you’re already crying, I love you, Mom. Happy birthday.
For now, I’m Joel, this is my story or one of them anyway, thanks for listening.