Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Helen (A Mother's Pride)

Got a cup of goji berry green tea next to me, headphones in my ears. Listening to the tape from last week's class...

Helen's voice. She says she wrote a little at home about what she had told us in the previous class. Just to lay her memories down on paper. She asks me, "Do you want to see?"

"Three and a half pages, wow, Helen," I say.

And I ask, "Do you mind reading it?"

I remember wondering, would her story come out differently told vs. written?

This. I couldn't write that this was the, the happiest moment of my life. Because I wrote about my son. And I have to say, one of the, because then I had two other lovely children... You want me to read it? I wrote a lot.
"Go for it, Helen," I say.

"Let me get out my handkerchief first," Helen laughs. I remember that she thought a little about her own joke and then a split second later really went to search for her handkerchief in her bag.

I must say that the following experience was ONE of the happiest moments in my life – the birth of my first baby. I had wanted a boy to be first and I got my wish.

I will go back a bit. My father, who was a construction worker – was asked by his employer to move to Lancaster, PA for 2 yrs. I will never forget how heartbroken my sister and I were to leave our schoolmates and friends in the neighborhood.
She stops reading to explain to us, "The neighborhood was right here in South Philadelphia."
You see we had never moved out of S. Phila. Upon our arrival, though, we soon adapted to the suburban life. Lancaster was small – everyone knew each other. We were asked to come to Sunday School, by a lady who came to welcome our family to the neighborhood. Of course, my mother gave her consent. Prior to that two Amish ladies (from across the road) came to bring a large basket of fruit.

Irene (my sister) and I visited the church school. Soon, we began to enjoy ourselves. Also, in the Public School, we met other children.

At that time, I had no way of knowing that at church I was to meet the person who was to become my husband years later.
Everyone starts giggling like teenage girls.
The pastor of the church was my future husband’s father and the lady who visited our home was his mother.

In the ensuing years, church conferences were often held in Phila., so, the Lahr family visited our home.

Years later, my husband-to-be enlisted in the service, intending to make a career of the Army. He was sent abroad to Trinidad.
She adds, "And that was for 24 months."

Around the table, you hear a few "hmms." Someone says in the background, "That is a long time."

Helen says, "To me, it seemed like an eternity."

The teenage giggles instantly turn into mad laughter on the tape. Hattie says, "That's beautiful." Her voice is quiet and shaky.
When he returned he proposed to me and I accepted. Soon after that, we were married. My husband, who was stationed in Savannah, Ga., sent for me. I stayed in Savannah on Victory Drive and my husband (a Master Sgt.) was allowed to stay in town every night.

Eventually, I became pregnant and returned to Phila. to register at the University Hospital. I stayed with my parents and sister during my pregnancy.

Finally, my wonderful baby arrived. A furlough was granted to my mate to come home. Were all of us happy! My husband was so excited that when he drove to the hospital to bring us home -
I can't help myself. I burst out, "I remember this part!" Helen laughs as she continues.
- he narrowly missed hitting a lamppost. :)

A few years later, my husband and I were blessed with another wonderful baby boy and a beautiful little girl. We couldn’t have been any happier.

Time passed, all too fast, and our family grew up. Our children won college scholarships. We were so very proud of them!

Our first born won the Guggenheim Fellowship and became a professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
Now everyone is shouting woohoo's and clapping like we are in an award ceremony.

Our second son became Personnel Manager for Wyeth Laboratories.
Helen says, "Because Trevor had majored in biology, he got that job. But I lost him five years ago. He had an obstruction on his intestines...." She voice trails away.

Hattie says the absolute most perfect thing that anyone can say, "He lives forever in your heart."

Helen sighs lightly. Her voice returns. Stronger than before.

Our daughter is a public school teacher in Philadelphia.

Life is full of surprises. My son, one day, was asked by the college to go (for 1 yr.) to Savannah State University to teach mathematics to the young blacks.
Around the table, you can hear ah's and wow's.
This was to set an example of what can be accomplished when you TRY.
Helen adds, "They felt that his life can set an excellent, excellent example for the young people in that college. And, oh, I didn't write that -"

"- you didn't write that he was going back to where he had been conceived. Is that the one that was conceived in Savannah? I remember you telling us last time," Helen is finishing Hattie's sentence for her, the way only a true friend can do.

Helen: "Yes, yes, that is exactly the way it was."

Hattie: "That is too awesome. Too awesome."

Helen: "Of course he consented to going there and teaching the young blacks. And oh, I also didn't write in here about my landlady back when I was in Savannah the first time. Well, it was a couple. Mr. and Mrs. Stripling. They were so kind to me. Well, now this is when my son returned there years later. She was by the time a retired school teacher. She still had connections with Savannah State, and saw in the registrar my son's last name. And she said it clicked. She went there and investigated about his history. And she found out I was the one who stayed with her many years ago. At the house on Victory Drive. She saw that name, "Lahr," in the registry and decided to investigate. And mind you, my son at that time, was married. His wife had this little baby. You know, there with him. So Mrs. Stripling went there for dinner. And was so happy. Meanwhile my son had sent for me. I was down there. So it was like a little -"

"-reunion!" We all chimed in.

"And when she went out to get her car, the car wouldn't start. And then my son went out to work on  it, and then she went home."

Helen is remembering more and more.

"I hadn't seen her for so long because I lived in Philadelphia and hadn't been back to Savannah. Oh, I forgot to write so many things. I forgot to write that when I had the baby, at that time, they had the point system in the service, and since my husband was a volunteer, he had amassed all these points for the baby - I forget now how many points you got if you had a baby. So he decided not to make a career of the service, and he came out. Maybe I told you last time in class? My writing here is disjointed because I wrote a little here last class, and last night, I added more. There is a lot more about my son on the websites. Like I was telling Hattie before class, when I first went to Temple University and even when my son went, they did not have Phi Beta Kappa, that is the highest fraternity you can be in. And in later years, they did have it and they do it, so they found out after he graduated that he had qualified for that honor. He and a white businessman were both qualified for it. So when it came time to choose Man of the Year, the two of them were tied and they received Men of the Year awards. And I attended. Me and my sister, and my son Trevor, and my daughter. And Dwight was on the stage. He had to make a speech. And he said, um, what stood out in his mind was that I as his mother was there when he attended Temple and received awards and I was there that night. I was in this balcony that overlooked the stage and he had me stand up. And -"

On the tape her words stop abruptly. But I remember what she was doing in class. She put both palms on her face to gesture proud tears rolling down.