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Boss Moms

by Craig Lipscomb 2 months ago in parents

Influential Women That Impacted Me

Wisdom From Our Differences

Boss Moms

I feel a little remiss writing about the impactful ways some truly amazing women have left a mark on my life because I feel like the true tribute to them would be a shining example of what could only be categorized as a perfect life, the kind of thing you present to the world from some grandiose platform where you’ve receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for some amazing contribution to society. To be honest, the fact that I’m not accepting such an award may actually leave the below anecdotes anticlimactic because words really won’t do the justice I wish they would in highlighting these people who have blessed my life and that in itself is it’s own kind of tragedy. Having said that, please try to see the rare treasures in these moments from my life and the women who inspired them.

Everybody Eats

It was about midafternoon as I was getting prepared for the end of rehearsal. It was the second musical I’d been in the cast for at our high school. Theater was the one place I always felt like I was amongst peers… until rehearsal was over and we all were ready to go home. The moment we all parted ways, our lives were very different. On this particular afternoon I was staying after school because we were performing that weekend. The week of any performance in our theater group, affectionately called “Gold Masque” was referred to as “Hell Week”.

I never understood why it received that name. I loved spending the hours trying to put sets together for their final touches, finalize the blocking without the stage tape, and rehearse everything so we were all polished for the weekend to deliver three identical performances Thursday and Friday Night and Saturday afternoon.

School ended at 3:15 in those days, so we had just shy of 3 hours to do whatever we felt like doing before rehearsal at 6. Most of the juniors and seniors drove or had a friend who lived nearby that drove so when everyone filed out most people were driving, would have a snack, do homework, and catch a ride back with parents or friends.

That was a little harder decision for me. My dad worked until 11 pm back then and I had a bike. It took me close to an hour to bike home, and there wasn’t generally dinner in the house unless I felt like making TV Dinners, just to hop on my bike and ride an hour back…. And then spend about 5-6 hours doing set construction and blocking.

On this particular day we were running low on groceries and I had hot dogs and baked beans to look forward to. It wasn’t worth the ride. So I hung out after school, deciding instead to do homework and hang out in the all but empty auditorium until rehearsal began.

During that time some of the other cast members that had other extra curricular activities like Yearbook, Chorus, Band, and woodshop would pass by the hallway to the auditorium and talk or visit for a bit and go on their way. It would be about 5:30 before Mrs. Hickey would arrive, the mother of one of our finest actors in the group named Will.

He wasn’t even in the musical, preferring to do the fall theater shows and opt out of the singing and dancing in the musicals, but Mrs. Hickey helped out with every show and supported all kinds of things for our theater program. Every one of us knew and loved her and she would often offer encouragement and support whenever she was there. In my first musical, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat she made a point to say how great I was and even tell my dad how proud she was of my performance, and at the time I was only in chorus.

That moment during Joseph was one of many where cast members and friends of cast members said I had a talent I was still trying to find. My mother would actually not ever make it to a performance because she lived in North Carolina and things were complicated trying to make arrangements for her to visit during the week. She was an assistant registrar at a college at the time so weekdays weren’t the best time to try and travel 6 states away. Saturdays may have been an option but 1:00 PM would’ve meant driving all night and that just wasn’t in the cards.

So on this day during Hell Week when Mrs. Hickey stopped by the theater to see if we needed anything and a couple people asked for dinner, I just kind of stayed silent and waited for them to finish so we could play piano. One of the cast members was actually an accomplished piano player and I was hoping that by watching him I would be able to increase my ability there. But to my surprise Mrs. Hickey turned to me and asked “Do you want something from Market Basket?” and I said “ I don’t have any money for that.” and she looked at me with this look that still sticks out in my mind. “Don’t worry about that, do you want a sandwich? Or Soup? “ and she had this expectantly look like she wasn’t going anywhere unless I was included.

In that moment though, the other cast members were waiting too, as if they weren’t going to let that moment pass unless I was included either. At the time, that was about all the acceptance I required for new friends, and a series of events that would take place over the next two years would really form a bond that I would cherish with Mrs. Hickey for the rest of my life. In fact, I can remember more than a few times during college where when she or Mr. Hickey and my dad crossed paths or talked in passing she’d ask about me and he’d tell me.

From her influence in my life then, and even now, I learned and have accepted that including everyone should be a practice and a habit. To Mrs. Hickey there’s no such thing as an outcast and that’s a beautiful environment to create for people.

Wisdom From our Differences

My godmother who has become a second mother to me is full of the kind of w isdom every wild child needs. She’s amazing at being able to take the chaos and make sense of it. I distinctly remember this one conversation we were having during Christmas of 1995. I had a uper Nintendo and I was obsessed with playing my role playing games on it. Illusion of Gaia, Secret of Evermore, and others. At the time my dad was frustrated about me not wanting to talk, and she was having a conversation about making arrangements for the holidays.

The exchange between her and my dad once they had decided that he was going to be heading over to their house and it was alright if I came had some rules about it. Rules I needed to be sure to respect and follow. My godsister was still getting used to me as we had really only played together a couple times, which mostly involved me playing my games and her watching me and talking to me while I played them, or passing the controller when we died in this Mario Bros. Compilation that included Mario 1 2 and 3 from Nintendo. When it came time to get ready to head over to their condo, my dad asked if I’d like to go as I was getting settled to play my games by myself and wait for him to return.

I was so thankful for the invitation this time though, that I shut the SNES off and hurdled over the couch to grab my jacket from the closet to head over. Godmom and my godsister got in their car, and I and my dad got in my dad’s car, and the whole ride over I was given a rundown of the rules of the house I wasn’t to break.

I had to take my shoes off, and not touch anything without asking, and make sure that I was mindful of this and that about the home. After he went through the instructions, we listened to music, and my dad stopped by a store to get something. I can’t remember if it was something to drink or something to eat but we had a habit of always bringing things after that.

Anyway, when we arrived at the house, I did take my shoes off and help to have everyone serve their drink of choice, but my godsister had actually offered first, and in this moment where I went to the kitchen to help her, and she grabbed the juice and told me where the glasses were, we just kind of fell in suit to this natural teamwork environment we’ve had our whole life. No matter what I’m doing or where I am, if there’s a task at hand… we both just naturally fall into this kind of rhythm together. She’s a really great sister. If she had children I’d have to give her a section here too. But I digress.

Once we had the drinks served, and I was all set to head off to her bedroom with her and play as many hours of Mario World as we could manage while the adults were talking, my godmother stopped me, and asked me to sit for a moment. The topic of the conversation was about The Million Man March that was supposed to be coming up in a few months and racial tension, and with the way I faced that topic at school, and added to it by being somewhat angry about it and keeping to myself but also trying to fit in at the same time, I didn’t have much to say about Mr. Farrakhan or his affiliations with Reggie Jackson or anyone else in that camp. In fact, by and large I felt like having an opinion on the subject was only going to get me in trouble.. But here was a place I could speak my mind, and at the time she and my godsister were Muslim and we were Christian, so even in the room it was like I could speak my mind but should be mindful of what I said.

So what I chose to say in that moment was this…” Being African American in any mixed culture is going to have its affects. I’m in school with a lot of white people, but I have a lot of friends in that culture, sometimes it’s hard with the people I’m not friends with, and sometimes it’s easy with those that I am friends with. But to take any one side of that situation, whether the positive or the negative and focus solely on that as a reason to protest is not something I can see solving anything. So although I support the right to march and protest about it, I’m not sure I have an opinion about the outcome. And I know for sure when I get to school that’s not something I want to talk about.”

And she looked at me and said. “You know Craig, there’s a lot to unpack in what you just said, but I understand your point. If I may, can I give you some advice?”

“Yes, by all means.”

“ Just remember that your identity isn’t found in how others feel about the things you feel. If you feel a certain way about something, that’s okay. And if you don’t feel a certain way about something. That’s okay too. Whatever you feel is your own”

And then she went on to tell me one of many stories about her upbringing with her brother who owned the condo at the time and the challenges they faced but how the emphasis on education and excellence drove them to carve out a place for themselves where hearsay and judgement would never reach. But I always remembered that first conversation where she told me anything I feel, good or bad, is okay…. And in almost 30 years now every single conversation we’ve had since that one has lived up to that.

If I feel the sky is yellow she’ll listen with the same understanding patience and ask me some Mrs. Frizzle question from the Magic School Bus about what the meaning of yellow is because clearly if we look at the sky and I see yellow and she sees blue, the correction isn’t going to come from my eyesight or stupidity, but in my understanding of the colors blue and yellow. Once understanding is corrected, learning has a foothold. It’s one of the many things I learned at an early age that defines the difference between a good teacher and not…. Good teachers help open your ability to understand… not criticize your lack of it.

If more mothers were able to give that kind of gift entire generations would be transformed in my own opinion.

Afterschool Snacks

Most of my time spent as a kid didn’t really involve after school snacks and homework with parents. When I lived with my mom in my elementary years nobody was home right after school, and when I lived with my dad nobody was home right after school either. Because of that I tried my best to capitalize on as much time as I could in all my school years spending time playing with friends.

One of the friends I made in high school lived right down the street from me and attended the same church. One day I was walking home from playing basketball and I saw him. We struck up a conversation and he invited me to hang out and skate and all. I didn’t skate but I was always up for making new friends.

By the time we got to his house, he was already telling me all about this skate ramp that he completed. His mom came out to meet us and let him in the house. My friend disappeared somewhere in the house to grab his skateboard and I was standing in this patio type area that led to the basement and the kitchen. An arcade game was standing against the wall just inside the door and I was hard pressed to try and figure out how long it would be before I could try playing it.

What she said in that moment though made me forget about the video game. As soon as Brandon was out of earshot she started talking just above a whisper and she says “You know, I’m really glad you’re here. Brandon doesn’t have many friends, so if you could be his friend I think it’d be really good for him. “

And having been mostly an outcast myself I realized in that moment that here was a mom that did whatever she could to help her son make and retain his friends. Having come from a home where my mother discouraged me having friends, this was a completely new experience, and a welcome one. A part of me was so thrown off by the concept of a parent that actually wanted their child to make friends blinded me for a minute and I forgot all about the videogame.

My dad definitely encouraged friendship, but he was my friend and my father and so many other things already… but this one of the times in my life where I literally got to see someone reach in like the moms on The Waltons or The Brady Bunch and actually try to intervene. It was really cool, and so surprising that I asked if I could hang around while she made our snack.

She wound up giving me a basic tour of the walkway to the kitchen, pointing out that the bottom part of the house was for Brandon. He had a sister Melissa that was my age and I saw around church. Melissa never smiled at me once when we passed at church that I could remember by that point, and we didn’t really say much at school either. So I made a note that they were related and thought I’d offer a conversation next time I saw her.

After the short tour, apples were cut and we had our snack, but I wasn’t hungry. Some part of me really wanted to know if what I’d just witnessed was really how some people lived… it was incredibly eye opening.

When we headed out to skate ramp that was the size of my driveway and garage put together, Brandon was showing me how to do a couple tricks, but the half pipe as I’d learn wasn’t actually completed, so all tricks were on the sidewalk. It was a brief show.

Mrs. Miller came outside with a conversation about what his dad did for a living and asking me about how long I’d been saved with Lemonade for us while were there. After a while, I asked if we could play the arcade game.

Brandon and I have been friends ever since that day. I never told him what his mom said that day, but I learned the power of an afternoon snack and a little personality that day. We can leave an impression on anyone in seconds, and I’m thankful I had an example of that early.

Ultimately there are many influential and respectable women that I’ve met over the course of my life that have helped shaped my opinion of what relationships can be and the family dynamic should be. I’m very thankful that I’ve had a lot of examples of what’s possible.

parents

Craig Lipscomb

As I was scrolling through my social media I found a challenge related to a fantastic first date.

So, in a world full of cat calls, here I am to add my words to those who want to make our world better through the power of the pen.

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Craig Lipscomb
Read next: Resolving to Blend

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