The Hero Who Wasn’t

I’ve written a lot about my dad since his passing a year ago, and now it’s time to write about my mom. My mother wasn’t always my hero. I went through an ugly stage in my early 20s where she really annoyed me, and I let her know it. I’ve always been late to develop, and here’s another example as I acted like a moody teenager around her. No more about me, though. This writing piece is supposed to be about my mom.

Today my mom is a hero. She is the first in her family to go to college and that was back in the early 50s when women didn’t do that. Education beyond high school was always important to her, and she let my grandfather know that’s what she was going to do after graduating from Cooley High School in Detroit. He didn’t understand her desire or the benefits of a university degree, but that did not deter my mom. She worked her way through school and made it happen. In 1956 she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wayne State University, home of the Warriors, a campus in the middle of Detroit. She would be proud to know her youngest granddaughter graduated from there, too.

My dad loved my mom, but he didn’t always show it. He’s told some great stories about their early dating and how he knew she was the one, but even better, my mother played an important role in his life as they aged. My mom was good with math and my dad would mention how quickly she could mentally calculate. In fact, he would give her his credit card in order for her to determine the tip for every restaurant meal they had together in their lifetime.

My dad would always say he married my mom because of her amazing apple pie. However, this is not true. My mother was no baker extraordinaire, but she did work in a television shop, which was one of the jobs that helped her pay for college. She knew all about television tubes and surprised my dad when she named the one resting with several other components from a Heathkit radio on an early date to his house.

My mom is my hero today because she instilled a love of literacy. That love makes me who I am today. It began with her bedtime reading of poems. I can still hear her dramatic but playful voice, “…and the goblins will get you! If you don’t watch out.” when she read Little Orphan Annie. Then, there were the mile long walks to the Detroit Public Library. I’m sure we sang on the way, but what I remember most was how my mom would get an extension on the books’ due date, so my sisters and I could get the maximum amount of books to read in the car on our summer vacations and not have to pay a hefty fine when we returned home.

Other book memories are when my mom read aloud the three classics: Charlotte’s Web, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables. Books became a way of showing love. She’d purchase them for Christmas and birthdays after researching the best books for my sister’s and my age groups. Book giving was easily reciprocated when I matured and was the giver of book gifts for special days like my mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day.

My mom is no longer living, but the stories read are because of her. She is my hero. One book that I’ve kept from her lifetime is Five Smooth Stones, a rediscovered classic written during the civil rights movement about racial conflict and love. There’s even an cutout news article about the book that my mom clipped and saved between the novel’s pages. This was my mom, Ann Fishman, a true champion.

By nancyrsantucci

Newly retired Texas educator who loves reading, exercising, cats, and hanging out with her husband.


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