Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Remembering the Mothers on Mother's Day.

My mother Pauline Bernice Walton

Not long ago, I wrote a piece on my grandmother Ellen and my great grandmother Sallie Walton. Both of those ladies were dear to me and were a major part of my childhood. But my heart was my mother, Pauline Bernice Walton. She was an only child, and she was raised by her grandmother and her dear Aunt Viola. Her own mother Lily had died less than two years after my mom was born. Harriet, her grandmother raised her, as did her mother's sister, Aunt Viola.

Mama was to me the very sweetest part of sweet-ness. She always told me though it was from her grandmother Harriet who was so gentle and loving to her. Harriet her grandmother also spoke so often of how her own mother Amanda was so loving to her children. I learned later while doing research that Amanda's mother's name was Martha. Martha, Amanda and Harriet had all been born slaves. And Amanda had been separated at one point in her life from her own mother when she was taken to Mississippi. Oh, the horrors of slavery, a mother and child, no longer could be together! I can only ask---was the heartache of separation that very thing made Amanda hold her own children so closely?

Grandma Harriet would speak of her sister Viola, and her sisters Violet, and Frances, and always of her own mother Amanda Young.  Amanda would speak of her sister Paralee, Alice and Nancy, and their dear mother Martha, whose face they missed all of their lives.  These women--were more than just names--they were the heart of the family. When Amanda would tell the stories of the Night the Stars Fell, she would then speak about her own mother Martha as well.

One of Amanda's daughter, Frances Young Nelson. Grandma Harriet's sister.

When I began working on my mother's side of the family I realized that she came from a line of women--strong women and women whose names I knew before I ever began my genealogical quest.

My mother Pauline's mother Lily died so young, but she was so beautiful and as I look at her face I can only see gentleness, and the way her brother (my mother's uncle) spoke of Lily, she was truly missed so very much by everyone when she died as a  young woman. She was the one that always made them laugh. Perhaps that is why they loved my mother Pauline so much---for she was Lily's child.  All I really know about her is that Lily was known to be a woman who loved life but she like so many of her time, contracted tuberculosis and died a young mother with a tiny baby girl who would become my dear mother. Lily's husband, Sam would also succumb to TB a year later, so my mother was now without both parents. Lily's photo however, would always be there, the mysterious and beautiful young Lily, a flower plucked too soon, as she just began to live.

My maternal grandmother, Lily Martin Moore

But Pauline did not lack love in her life---her grandmother Harriet, loved her and was determined that Lily's daughter Pauline would be a happy child, raising her in a close, nurturing church-centered world in Little Rock Arkansas. And Grandma Harriet would tell her stories including those stories about her own life while a slave in her youth, and in the years of new found freedom and new found joys. She told her stories about her life with her own mother Amanda after the war.

So I listened to countless stories about Grandma Harriet and I also listened to stories about Grandma Harriet's mother Amanda---born a slave in Tennessee, and of their life in Ripley Mississippi.

My mother told me those stories and instilled in me--a love of the past and as a result of hearing those stories, I developed a strong love of those ladies. And because of those ladies and their love of their daughters---my mother extended her love to me.

I would think about these women---these mothers of my mothers, and would wonder where would I fit in this line of women, who could pass the one thing no one could ever take from them---their love.
Now my mother---my dear mother Pauline--whose voice was sweetness and who temprament was ever so gentle, was my heart.

Hers was the voice that guided me, that sang to me, and taught me the love of books, and who encouraged me to go as far as I wanted to go.

It was she, who taught me the pleasures of listening, and the joys of escaping to far away places in the pages of books.

I wanted to do everything my mother did---if she washed dishes, I wanted to wash them too, and was I not happy till she stood me on a chair so I could reach the sink and she let me rinse the glasses. She would tie a dish towel around my waist and I felt like I was so much my mother's child when allowed the stir the batter when she made her wonderful cakes. (And I always got to taste the first of her "samples" before the real cake went into the oven.) And the special treat, was that she would let me taste the batter off of the beaters when she took them out of the electric mixer but not too much--afraid that all that raw batter might make me sick. (It never did.)

Hers were the hands that would rub mentholatum on my chest when I had the flu and she would then place a warm towel on my chest so I could breathe and sleep.

Hers was the voice that sang to me, and the voice that taught me to love music.

Hers was the face I always sought in a crowd, whether after school, or in an audience at piano recitals, or in a school play.

Her's was the voice I wanted to hear when I was older and went to college and when I felt I wanted to be encouraged---hers was the voice that told me to push through, and that I would make it through the exams just fine.

Because of my mother's love and touch and voice, I thrived.  As an adult, I treasured the times my mother came to visit me. We enjoyed our times together--the summer concerts, the day trips, the shopping. No better day was spent, when she and I spent an entire day sitting on the grass at the Boston Commons, awaiting the arrival of Nelson Mandela--his first official stop in America. Amid the thousands who awaited him, and the music and feeling of history being made, she smiled at me at day's end and told me how she never thought she would have a day like that in her lifetime. I was so glad to have shared that with her.

When my mother's health failed, hers was the hand that I held and I had the special gift of having the last words she said to me, to be, "I love you."

My mother was my heart. My life is so sweet because of her, and because of the ladies who passed that love down to the next generation of women and girls who came behind them, I think of them all on Mother's Day.

Thank you Mama for the love you gave me. I hold my head high because of you.

I am Angela Yvette,
the daughter of Pauline,
the daugher of Lily,
the daughter of Harriet,
the daughter of Amanda
the daugther of Martha, the daughter of one frigthened lonely girl, who survived the Middle Passage.....from somewhere in West Africa.........

Thank you all for loving me.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, grandmothers, play mothers, god mothers, aunties, sisters, daughters, and women nurturers. 

You are so loved on this Mother's Day.


Ms Vicky said...

I am so very touched!

Anonymous said...

OH Angela.............what a wonderful memory you have shared. I still say you should put all these memories in a book and publish it. You truly have a gift. I remember your Mother. The two words that always come to my mind when I think of her are, " Sweet and Kind." She also personified the term "Lady". You were blessed to have such a mother.


Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...


Thank you so much. I am delighted that you remember my mother, and she was as sweet to all she met. I miss her still, but know how blessed I was that she was my mother. I smile so often when I think of something that she would do or say. I smile even more when I find myself doing something exactly the way she did it too.
Thank you for your response.

Terrence Garnett said...

This was a touching tribute about the women who came before you. I agree these memories deserve to be published in book form for your relatives.