In law enforcement, they talk about “jurisdiction.” Jurisdiction settles the question of who’s responsible for the criminal investigation depending upon the type of crime committed and where the crime was committed. While there might be several agencies involved, one of them will have control over the entire investigation because of jurisdiction.
When I was growing up, I wouldn’t have known the word “jurisdiction,” but I did know what it meant. It meant that we knew whose mother was in charge based on where we were at that moment.
If I was over at my best friend’s house, his mother was in charge. Margaret, his mom, was just like my mom. Margaret would check my homework, make sure my clothes were clean, and make sure I didn’t eat too much candy. If I was at Carlos’ house, his mom was in charge. She had every authority my mom had. She could put me on restriction. She could spank me or send me to bed without supper. Whatever punishment was imposed at her house continued when I returned to my house.
Mrs. Jeannette lived a few houses up the street from our house. When Mom wasn’t home, Mrs. Jeannette was in charge. I don’t know when my mom met with Mrs. Jeannette to discuss expectations and requirements, but Mrs. Jeannette had the exact same standards as my mom. If Mrs. Jeannette said something to me, it was the same as my mom saying something to me. If Mrs. Jeanette said something, I obeyed — no questions asked. If there was an emergency, I was to go to Mrs. Jeanette’s house. If Mom wasn’t at home, I was in Mrs. Jeanette’s jurisdiction.
When I started school, I lived with my grandparents. Two of my aunts were in charge of my life then. They still complain about how hard it was to get me up in the mornings. For six weeks, they made sure I did my homework and went to bed on time. To this day, they take full credit for my success.
Betty Snyder was my fifth-grade teacher. She was also one of my best friend’s moms. Mrs. Snyder had a weapon no one else had. She could simply tell my mom I wasn’t doing my best. Mom would have none of that. I had too many opportunities to waste one of them. Not doing your best was a felony offense in my home.
And there was Addie Mae Rogers. Addie was older than my mom so she was more like my grandmother, but the same rules applied. If Addie said something, it was the same thing as Mom saying it.
I couldn’t go anywhere, do anything, or say anything that didn’t somehow get back to Mom. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that they were spies. They were enforcers. Any one of them was empowered to correct, admonish, encourage, teach, and if needed, back up their teachings with physical force. Not only would my mom have backed them up, but she would have added her own emphasis to their teachings.
Some say it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t know about that, but I do know I was raised by a mama mafia.
I was very blessed to have a great mom. My book “Coffee with Mom” is the story of our journey together after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I learned a lot about myself, my mom, the medical community, and the importance of church during that time.
And I learned something else. The mama mafia was still watching me. They were making sure I took good care of Mom. They wanted to know about the place where she was living. They wanted to know how often I visited. Then, they would come to check on her – just to make sure I was actually doing what I had told them I was doing.
When my mom died, each one of these women, in their own way, reached out to me and told me how glad they were that Mom was loved well in her last years.
These women knew my mom as a friend, mentor, sister, and neighbor. In some ways, they knew my mom in ways that I didn’t. They knew what my mom had wanted and what she needed as she dealt with her disease.
And they said I did a good job. So, I guess in some ways, these women are still my moms. They’re still teaching me, still holding me accountable, and yes, still loving me.
So, Happy Mother’s Day to all my moms. My life wouldn’t be the same without you.