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WARMTH OF SANKOFA By Mae Catherine Godhigh

A Very Special Tribute to a Very Special Mom

Mrs. Willie Mae Gordon-HopsonHappy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms in the universe! This is your special day and you have earned the right to be celebrated. I wish you endless joy and happiness. In this column, I want to share with you a very special lady in my life. Matter of fact, she gave me life.

She is the daughter of a sharecropper and our mother, Mrs. Willie Mae Gordon-Hopson. She was born in the delta of Mississippi. During her childhood, Jim Crow was a way of life and the Klux Klux Klan was a household word. The Great Migration provided my grandparents a ticket out of the oppressive south.

In 1950, her parents moved to Peoria, Illinois. They arrived looking for better wages and a better life. Mom attended Roosevelt Jr. High and Peoria (Central) High and enjoyed her public school experiences. Later on, she married and had a six-pack (3 boys and 3 girls) after the death of her husband; she was left a widow with 6 mouths to feed and to educate. Stepping into the role of a single parent, she became the driver of our destiny. For us, dropping out of school was never an option. It was simply succeed or die.

Mom had expectations for us. She was never an out front person but she could move mountains in the background. Her objective in life was that her children would be productive in their professions and occupations.

We had household chores and Easter speeches. We ate home cooked meals. Homework was completed before dinner. We took a bath every night. Our heads were combed and her children were never ashy. When the streetlights came on, it meant you were at home and not on your way home. We were taught to respect our elders and teachers.

Mom taught us Life Skills. She didn’t rely on the school system for that.

Once, I remember her telling an out- of-the- pocket teacher, I don’t send my kids to school for you to love them. They get that at home. I send them here for you to educate them. (Guess what? No more problems with that teacher!)

Whether we took her advice or not, she taught us common sense.

A negative report from our Grandparents, a church usher or any member of the village meant an automatic “you gonna git it!”

We took care of our toys because you got them twice a year; for Christmas and for your birthday.

Do you want to know what dead meat looks like? Just answer any adult with “What?”

We were not allowed in the presence of adult conversations. We were children and we stayed in our places. When we visited anyone, we either played outdoors or sat still in the house until an adult advised us otherwise.

We could not shame the family. Did we have a perfect family? Far from it! We had manageable dysfunction. We attended Sunday school, Church and Vacation Bible School. We were involved in the YWCA, Proctor and Carver Centers and the NAACP. Mom hauled all 6 of us around in a golden 1963 Dodge station wagon. She was our glorified taxi cab driver. Better get your reservation in for the trip to Fernwood Roller Rink. Neighborhood kids without transportation would call our house for rides and she’d pack ‘em all in.

While we slept Mom would sign us up for tap dance, swim lessons, art classes, piano lessons and the library. She made sure we did not just attend school but we were involved in school.

Our mother worked endless hours at St. Francis Hospital and Caterpillar. Medical and dental benefits were a must for her. It was important to her that her kids had straight teeth and beautiful smiles.

Mom made sure that none of her children would ever have to work as hard as she did. Everything she was denied in life, she made sure we had. I could go on but space and time will not permit it.

Vachon Young, Wanda Thomas and Mae Catherine Godhigh

Vachon Young, Wanda Thomas and Mae Catherine Godhigh

Andre, Charles and Waymon Harper

Andre, Charles and Waymon Harper

At age 79, she remains active in her church and community. A true and devoted Missionary; she’s that girl. With over 45 years in league bowling, there are no plans of retirement in sight. She loves her annual yard sales and working in her yard. When elections roll around, she switches hats to that of election judge. Her grandchildren and great- grand’s affectionately call her “Granny.” Our mom has successfully raised her own children and embraced countless others in our community. She maintains a million dollar smile and a heart to match.

In October, Mom will turn 80 and we plan to throw her a once in a lifetime birthday bash. In the meantime, we’ll continue to make memories.

We love you Mom,

Mae Catherine, Charles, Wanda, Vachon, Waymon and Andre

A Very Special Tribute to a Very Special Mom”

If there is happiness in my heart,

it’s because you helped put it there.

If there is gentleness in my beliefs,

it’s because you showed me how to care.

If there is understanding in my thinking,

it’s because you shared your wisdom.

If there is a rainbow over my shoulder,

it’s because of your outlook and your vision.

If there is a knowledge that I can reach out –

and I really can make some dreams come true –

it’s because I learned from the best teacher of all . . .

. . . I learned from you.

A mother’s heart is a special place where children always have a home.

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