Sean from the South: Mommy’s Son | Opinion
I was brought up by women. After my father died, it was women who stepped in and taught me how to be a man. I’m a mama’s boy carrying cards.
They are women who asked me to be respectful, patient, diligent, sincere, attentive, spiritual and above all, how to put the toilet lid back on.
Women taught me to revere the sky, the homeland, the neighbor and the dog. They taught me to wash my hands before meals, say my prayers before bed, and I was taught to call my elders ma’am, sir, or whenever I was in trouble, “your honor “.
And that’s how my youth was shaped by a group of aunts, cousins, and matronly women who wore bath powder and polyester pants. I grew up being carried by women. It was a miracle that I ever learned to walk.
When I was a baby, it was women who dressed me for Sunday service in ridiculously frilly outfits, like yellow jumpsuits with white patent leather shoes. And they dressed me like that until I was in my thirties.
It was women who cut my hair. My mom cut my hair on the porch with a stainless steel mixing bowl placed over my head. She used a pair of equestrian hair clippers that pre-date World War I, draped me in a bath towel, and gave me a hairstyle popular among Navy SEALs.
But I am grateful to women. Because they are women who taught me to believe in God and to memorize Bible verses. Over the years, these maxims and proverbs have left their mark on me. As the verse:
“And the Lord goes before you; he will be with you, he will not miss you, he will not abandon you. Don’t be afraid, don’t be frightened.
And it was my Aunt Eulah, the fiery Pentecostal, who made me memorize uplifting verses to encourage me through dark times:
“Let him who has understanding count the number of the antichrist, for his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”
It wasn’t just the women in my family who raised me. They were the women of our community. Ladies of the Church. Teachers. Neighbors. Other people’s mothers.
When I reached my teens, women were still at the center of my life. There was always an older woman emerging from the shadows trying to feed me.
I remember when I was 16, I went out with a young woman whose grandmother sincerely believed that I was on the verge of severe malnutrition. I showed up at the door of my date and an old woman opened the door.
“You look thin,” she would say. “You are hungry?”
“Do you want to eat something?”
“No, thank you. I just had supper.
“How about a chicken leg.”
“Really, ma’am, I’m fine.”
“A chess pie?”
“No, thank you, ma’am.”
“How about a tall glass of milk?”
“Are you sure? Because if you were skinnier, I’d have to change your pants so you only have one back pocket.
And then the lady was giving me so much blackberry pie that I was taking a nap on their couch while my date went to the movies.
When I was younger, I was jealous of young men who still had their fathers. These young men went fishing all the time with their fathers. Their fathers taught them to use table saws, whitetail deer and turkeys. Their fathers taught them to hold back their tears.
I was so envious that I wanted to vomit. I desperately wanted someone to sit next to me on the porch, crack open a Budweiser, offer me a sip, then ruffle my hair and say, “Don’t tell your mom. I wanted someone to slap my back every time I walked out of the Little League diamond and be like, “Good hustle there.”
Instead, I had the styled hair brigade.
But as I get older, I really realize how lucky I was. And I particularly realized that today at the supermarket.
Today I saw two young women walk into the store. They were in their mid-twenties. Ahead of them, lingering on the sidewalk next to the door, were several young men.
As the young women approached, the young men did nothing. They didn’t smile, they didn’t greet the young women, they didn’t tip their caps, they didn’t run to open the door. Do you know what they did? They played on their phones.
It was then that I saw a kid scampering towards the door. He was maybe 10 years old. The young boy flung the door open for them. And then, as if the kid hadn’t done enough, as the young women passed by, he took off his cap to reveal a mop of sweaty brown hair.
I don’t know much about life, and even less about the nature of this world. But I do know one thing: I’m grateful to have been raised by women.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist, known for his commentaries on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, The Tallahassee Democrat, Good Grit, South Magazine, Alabama Living, Birmingham News, Thom Magazine, The Mobile Press Register, and he has authored seven books.