AND THEN AGAIN… Tamara Pettit

……..If Mother’s Day serves a purpose (and I normally hate “Hallmark” created holidays) it’s to make us stop and think about what we cherish (or cherished) about our mother.

…….My Mother was far from perfect, That’s what I loved about her. In a culture where mothers are celebrated for their wisdom, competence and serenity she broke the mold. She was still trying to figure life out when she had my sister and me and as a kid I was sometimes with her on that journey.

…..I loved her perseverance and grit. At 15, she was just a kid herself when she married my Dad who was 20. Life was tough and aged you beyond your years. Born to a 17-year-old mother who would not reveal the father’s identity, she took off and left my mom with her grandparents. She adored her uncle, Jim Carroll who would become her father figure. He was run over by a train a short distance from her home on the corner of Pearl and Chester Street in a grisly accident that would haunt her for all her years. She described her childhood in New Cumberland as one of being ridiculed by other kids in a Catholic School for not having a father.

……..I loved her ability to love deeply despite being rejected as “not good enough.” When she married my Dad his parents disowned him for marrying a Catholic who was illegitimate. Ironically, her grandparents disowned her for marrying a Protestant who was divorced (he had a brief marriage at 18).

…..She was ultimate outsider in a close-knit community where class, religion and family mattered. I sometimes think that’s where her empathy for everyone generated. She never knew a stranger and would go great lengths to help them. She once thwarted a raid by the Hancock County Deputies at Mineral Springs Bar. Liquor by the drink was illegal and she overheard my Dad and the Sheriff discussing the deputies would soon be arriving to raid. “I knew Mrs. Fuller and all she was trying to do was make enough money to feed those kids,” Mom would say before she described how she tipped Mrs Fuller off and then helped her get rid of the liquor. My Mom stood on a commode in the bathroom as Mrs. Fuller handed her the bottles which Mom passed through a small window to someone with a waiting truck. She had no hesitation going to any lengths to help someone who needed her.

……I loved her ability to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger and I loved her chutzpah.

……..Before reporting for duty in the Navy during WW II, my Dad defied the political bosses who said he was too young to run for office and filed for Justice of the Peace. With him gone, Mom went to work by herself to get him elected. She didn’t know squat about politics, but she knew hard work and she knew people. My Dad was a Protestant Republican from a farming family that had been in Hancock County from 1863. My Mom was a hard scrabble Democrat from a hard drinking, working class family that had arrived on the boat from Ireland. She hit every door in the district with my 2-year-old sister who would hold up a picture of her Daddy the sailor.

…….It worked. Election night she called my Dad’s father, Lux, and said “Do you want to come to the Courthouse. I think John D. is going to win this.” And, in a story that brings tears to my eyes he replied, “Don’t you understand, we want nothing to do with you,”

……..I loved that she was savvy to spot corruption and brave enough to face it down.

……..Dad wouldn’t return to take office til the end of the war two years later. The County Court would appoint someone to fill in the interim. As Mom told the story, “Old man Plattenberg who published the Courier got wind that Lux Herron had cut a deal to be appointed til John D. returned. He told me I had to go to the meeting and stop it.”

…….And go she did. She got the necessary legal papers in order and when the Commission made the motion to appoint Lux as Dad’s replacement she stood up and said “Gentlemen, I am my husband’s legal representative while he is serving his country and I ask that the gentleman he defeated continue to serve until he return.” I love that she got even.

…….Mom didn’t always approve of me, but she always loved me. She might have just told me I “was going to Hell in a handbasket” when I got into politics, but she always ended the exchange with “but, you know Mother loves you.”

…..But, this isn’t just a Mother’s Day column. It’s an election column as well.

…….On the day my Dad died, my mother who was divorced from him, came to my house where I was typing my Dad’s obituary. As she gathered me in her arms, I babbled how I didn’t know how I could live without him. I talked to him everyday of his life and in a bizarre comment faced with my first election, I cried “And, who is going to get me elected?”

…….That did it for Mom. She smacked me on the top of the head and said “Who the hell do you think got your Dad elected? Your Mother did and your Mother will get you elected. Now shut your mouth, we have work to do.”

…….And, at that moment my Mom kicked into gear. She ordered jackets that said “Pettit for House” on the back and wore it anywhere she went. Her political skills, long dormant, blossomed for her daughter. And, though the papers didn’t say it, “Margaret won another election, this time for her daughter.”

……..Happy Mother’s Day and remember to vote. Someone’s mother is counting on you.