Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2265573-MY-MOTHERS-MOUTH
by SSpark
Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #2265573
My mother lived her beliefs - and was an example for us all.

Of the many stories she left behind the memory of my mother that makes me most proud is when she became nationally famous - if only for her allotted fifteen minutes. I have no way of knowing how many of the thousands of friends she made over her fifty-two years even saw her on television, but those of us who did will forever close our eyes, when thinking of her, and see that mouth, up close and personal, featured on Walter Cronkite's Sunday night news show.

Momma had plenty of opinions and every one of them was as solid as her concrete-hard head. During one phase of her life, when she most believed the nation needed help, she dove, headfirst, into politics. As far as she was concerned those who did not take the time to study the facts could not be trusted to always make the right decision. So her help, she determined, was needed. She studied and researched and listened to all the leading talking-heads of that time until she believed she and a few around her knew the correct answer to the burning question, "Who is best to lead our country?"

The year was 1968 and turmoil ran rampant. Many in the Democrat Party had decided the federal government was getting too big and the time for reining them in loomed large. For that reason she chose, as the best candidate for President of the United States, George Corley Wallace, Jr., Alabama's governor, best known for his racist sentiments.

THAT was a shock!

Momma, along with her parents and relations reaching as far back as John Adams, were always actively anti-racist. A burning cross, placed by hooded KKK riders in front of her grandparents' home in Arkansas, once stood as a testament to the fact. She and my grandmother had taught us, for as long as I can remember, that all people were the same no matter the color of their skin. "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world," were more than just lyrics to a song they taught us; they were words that would define the way we lived.

But for all her research and listening, Momma had ended up supporting George Wallace. Not one of us could understand her choice, so she explained it. Wallace, she said, was not the avid racist he appeared to be. His efforts to block federal school desegregation in Alabama came strictly from his view that individual states, not the federal government, had the sole right to make decisions affecting its children's education. For being such an intelligent woman, once her mind was made up - regardless of whatever truth ruled the matter - there was no changing it; and her belief in states' rights cried louder than everyone else who screamed, "But he's a racist!" She would not believe it. She dug in her heels and refused.

(Coincidentally, in his later years, after a would-be assassin confined him to a wheelchair, Wallace disavowed his racist views and begged forgiveness from American, especially Alabaman, blacks. According to some historians, Wallace was not a segregationist, but a populist, simply preaching to the white voters of his day. God and Wallace alone know the truth.)

Over a period of months, Momma's mouth was able to turn many a voter's view toward Wallace. She had become so ensconced in politics by the '68 Texas Democrat Convention that she earned a spot as a Nueces County delegate to that convention. I remember her and Daddy, loading up the car and heading out. Daddy, who was not a delegate, felt an obligation to go with her if for no other reason than to provide her physical protection. She tended to make some folks angry enough to want to hit her and to his credit, even though Daddy rarely agreed with her, no one had the right to raise a hand to her - no matter how much she deserved it.

From the stories that followed them home, Daddy's decision was probably a good one. Not that anyone tried to harm her, but she had definitely stoked the ire of some who had formerly called her genius. All we knew, when they rushed in late Sunday afternoon, was that she had done something big enough and bold enough to have possibly earned her some kind of mention on the CBS Sunday evening news. As the entire family and some of the neighborhood kids huddled in front of the TV in the same room where we would watch the moon landing a year later, Walter Cronkite welcomed us to his show and gave a rundown of the night's stories. One of those stories was to feature former Texas Governor John Connally's visit to the Texas Democrat Convention held in San Antonio. We all gave a collective cheer and settled in, waiting for the report. None of us, not even our parents, could have imagined what would come next.

I have no recollection of how many commercials or other stories passed. All I remember is that, when her segment started, it started with a close-up view, staring right down the tongue of a very, very big cheering mouth. My mother's eyes were big as boiled eggs as, all at the same time, our heads jerked toward her. When the camera pulled out from what seemed to be three inches of her throat, we saw our mom in all her political glory. There she stood, George Wallace paraphernalia encasing all of her we could see, from her Wallace straw hat to the Wallace buttons covering her blouse, left hand thrown into the air, covered by another hand, a black hand. Each of our mouths opened wide, as our mother, once again, stole the show, and I couldn't wait to hear the story behind the visual.

We listened as Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, told the story. Our mother, Thelma Smith Prescott from Corpus Christi Texas, had been, if only for a moment, a national television star. Later we would more fully appreciate the magnitude of what she, not looking for personal recognition, had achieved. Later we would better be able to grasp the fact that, regardless of what anyone else thought, Momma truly believed George Wallace was not a segregationist but, instead, a fierce proponent of states' rights. That's why she, a fervent Wallace supporter, regardless of warnings from the rest of her group, had nominated - before Democrat delegates from across the state - a black woman to the office of convention vice president. That's why the black woman (whose name I have tried in vain to find), the first ever to be nominated for the position, once elected, grabbed my mother's arm and led her, hand-in-hand, around the convention floor in an impromptu victory lap.

Out of the millions of people across the nation who watched that segment there are probably only four of us, her children, who remember it. But we remember it, and we remember her, and the enormous legacy she left behind. We still miss her. We will always miss her - mouth and all.

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