...and I was so short, they’d always give me a crate to stand on so everyone in church could see me do my Easter speech.
I don’t remember when I learned that story about my mom. It’s like I’ve always known it.
I was the youngest kid in our family, and by the time I came along, she wasn’t doing speeches in church anymore. The last time I remembered her speaking was at the annual Women’s Day Celebration.
|Standing on things, circa 1930|
I knew she was preparing a speech for that day and I’d hear her reciting it from time to time, but teenagers don’t think long and hard about anything outside of themselves and their favorite rock group.
I honestly didn’t think much of it. After all, she’d direct the choir or sing solos on occasion, so it wasn’t a completely foreign concept to see her up in front of everyone.
For Women’s Day Sunday, all women in the congregation would be decked out in white, some wearing what I call Baptist Hats. The big extravagant kind, some tastefully bedecked with flowers, bows and other tchotchkes.
Because she always said her head was too big for hats, my mom didn't own a Baptist Hat, and didn't bother getting one -- even for this special occasion.
Then the time came to deliver her speech. She was sitting with the Women’s Day choir in the choir stand which was elevated, sprawling and set behind the wide pulpit. She exited the back row and made her way down the choir stand’s middle aisle to the microphone.
I thought how beautiful she looked in that simple white dress and noticed how pretty the color was because it contrasted with her tan skin. And her hair was perfect that day. I remember that.
Then she began speaking and I heard a strange nervousness in her voice. It was like a determined nervousness. Like she was bound and determined to reclaim her confidence from those many years ago when she stood on a crate telling the church her Easter story.
Which she did.
Her words connected to the congregation who responded with Aaaaa-MAN, Sister Dukes throughout her speech and when she finished.
Every now and again, I find myself in spaces and places where I’m storytelling in front of people. When my nerves threaten to overtake me, I remember my mom speaking that day with nervousness, determination and then confidence.
And I end up finding whatever it is that she found within herself to tell my story and be heard.
I guess that’s part of what International Women’s Day is about: remembering our narratives, telling our stories despite nervousness or even backlash, and being heard…and inspiring the generations that come after us to do the same.
Which is exactly what my mom did. Pretty cool, huh?