I was raised by a single mother in her 40s. We lived in a sixty-year-old rock bungalow in rural North Fulton in the 60′s and 70′s. We heated it with four fireplaces; it had seven barns with chickens, a three acre garden and well water.
She ran an antique/junk store and waitressed in the evenings. Occasionally she’d get involved in landscaping auctions, where there was always a rusty plow or pallet she was buying to sell to Atlantans driving up to furnish their lake cabins.
The dark times were when my Dad left the picture and never kept up with child support or alimony. That was before court enforcement was popular. I’d stay with him in the Summers and there was the incessant bitter, angry phone calls between them. But when I’d get home, I always had my bedroom, my books and my view of the garden from the window to comfort me.
For a brief terrifying period she married a mean drunk who would hit her. Once when he came after me menacingly with a battery cut open, she grabbed a butcher knife and shoved me behind her. Holding the knife up at him she threatened to cut his throat if he ever laid a hand on me. Thankfully, my sister Cherryl would be at the ready to pick me up to stay with her at her Decatur apartment until the heat died down. I had my share of visits to police stations where she’d file charges.
There was the air of entrepreneurship even almost like gambling on an antique or other venture. Overhanging that rush was the month to month struggle to keep the lights on born out of an insistence on self-sufficiency.
She once raised a pig on pizza scraps from her Roswell waitress job then sold the hog to the restaurateur!
What else is odd was that we had some incredible Asian pieces of furniture she’d had made in Japan when my Dad was stationed there before I was born. On one side of the room would be a $1,000 bronze lamp and the other a fireplace with a gallon of kerosene I’d splash on kindling to light the fire in the morning.
My mom was and is firm in her position. I was the subject of a 1972 Federal lawsuit between her and Fulton County schools. She had to scrape together the $400 filing fees, but it became a media event and compulsory immunizations were overturned by her sheer will and refusal to let me have shots.
It’s that stalwart image where I learned the stamina to confront authority and go against the crowd- almost always. She’s also the one who, by example, taught me to cuss!
She taught me that the State is always a collectivist/socialist enterprise where taxes are stolen from a neighbor to pay for my benefit, and that voting is a form of self-enslavement by sanction and is to be avoided.
I learned to work hard, keep moving, never hesitate to try something new and just “figure it out”.
I don’t really like gardening or yard work much after having to pick through three acres as a kid. But I sure love the taste of fresh field peas and collards.
There’s more to the story, but I’ll save that for another post. It’s just that today we’re celebrating her 88th birthday and I have my relationship and history with my her on my mind.
Happy Birthday Mom. I’m very grateful for everything.
Ken “Randy” Robbins