It was April 6, 1998, when my mother, after a full day of teaching third grade, was admitted to the hospital with abdominal pain. The following day we started saying goodbye, and on April 10, she passed away.
Every year during this time she is heavy on my mind. Even more so right now because I am in the city where she raised me.
Each morning for the past week here in Chattanooga, I have enjoyed listening to the whistle of the crossing guard who directs traffic outside of my apartment. When I was a kid, my mom was a city crossing guard.
Early every morning, and again each afternoon, she stood at the Fourth Street exit. Not only is it a dangerous traffic location, but the area is sketchy to say the least.
She was pretty and petite (still in her twenties), and totally rocked her navy skirt and white blouse. She had a cool badge and everything. Dad called her “fetchingly fine.”
I remember stories she would tell about the truck drivers shouting derogatory things at her. Or the teenage boys who would chide her on their way to school. One kid put a bar across her feet, and stood on either side so she couldn't move. He was right in her face, making scary threats.
She was also beaten in the back one morning by a 10-year-old boy. Later, she went to his school and found several motorists had already reported it. The school made him apologize, and she hugged him and offered forgiveness. After that he became her body guard, defiantly warding off the bullies, and making sure she got safely to and from her car.
Her uniform required pantyhose and thin black shoes. In the winter time, she suffered a couple bouts of frostbite, and the doctor said if it happened again she could lose her toes.
So, whenever it was cold, Dad would get up every morning and heat bricks in the oven. He built a small wooden platform with an opening exactly the right size to slide those bricks into. As I recall, he attached a leather strap so she could easily carry it.
She would leave the platform on the corner, so that whenever she didn't have to be in the middle of the traffic, she could stand on it for warmth.
I also remember the day she was leaving for her afternoon shift when she tripped on her rain coat and fell into the roof edge of the car. After being diagnosed with a concussion, she left the hospital and came to get us kids from the sitter. Just as she walked in, my little sister fell from a top bunk onto the concrete floor.
Mom scooped her up and went back to the hospital. At that point, the police were called to investigate possible domestic violence. Fortunately, Dad was cleared and they recognized the incidents as accidents.
My parents worked hard and made great sacrifices to give us a secure home and good education. Nearly 40 years later, I am reminded with every trill of the crossing guard’s whistle.
Ginger Lumpkin is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook (Ginger Claremohr), find her on the web: www.gingeretta.com, or contact ginger.columnist@gmail.com.