We, as a collective American society, sometimes feel as if segregation was such a long time ago and a thing of the past. Then, I look at the story of a woman like my mother-in-law and remember how recent those days actually were. There are numerous reasons why I want to recognize “Mama Snow” for being such an exceptional woman and mother. She has always been a fighter and a survivor while maintaining one of the best hearts I’ve ever known. I was not raised by her, but I had the blessing of becoming part of her family as an adult.
She had five children and eventually ended up having to raise them all on her own. She was a full-time school teacher for Cincinnati Public Schools and worked a second job as well in order to support those five hungry mouths. Being a black mother in the late 50s into the 60s and early 70s presented its own, unique challenges. When getting groceries or any other type of shopping and a baby needed a diaper change, she had to use restrooms that were “For Colored Only.” These bathrooms were nowhere near as nice as those for “Whites,” and they often didn’t even have proper room to change a baby’s cloth diaper.
My mother-in-law has told us stories of having to make their own soap with lye and pig’s fat, which made the skin raw. There were no lotions in her younger years, so they had to use pure cocoa butter or other such remedies. She was always accustomed to hard work from the time she was a little girl, and she carried that right over into motherhood. She raised three boys and two girls with little to no sleep, by herself, during the end of a rough period of our country’s history.
She kept her children disciplined, they excelled in school, she still made it to plays and band performances, and she always made sure they had home-cooked meals to warm up from the fridge or freezer if she wasn’t home. She had a couple of rough mental periods but never let those keep her down. She is petite but feisty. She has a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to share, and I am so glad that our daughter, Adilyn, still is able to spend time with her and learn from all she’s been through as an African American woman.
I have moments where I feel exhausted, have felt overwhelmed, have wanted to give up, and feel too tired to “deal with” my child and household duties.
Then, I think about Mary Alice, and I know I have no excuse. I only have one child, I have a loving, supportive man by my side, and I don’t have to suffer near the hardships she did on her journey through motherhood. She inspires me to be a better version of myself each day, and she reminds me of all I have to be grateful and thankful for in my life. She supported me through my depression of 2014 and gives me renewed strength each time I get a moment with her. I pray God keeps her on this earth long enough for my daughter to absorb as much as possible from her. I am a better woman for knowing Mama Snow, and my daughter will be a better woman for knowing her Grandma Snow as well.
Thank you to all the moms out there who sacrifice every day to give their children their best chance in this world. A big, warm thank you hug to you all!