When many talk about Women’s History Month, we are reminded of the famous stories that crafted our history. We hear stories of heroism and changemakers who have paved the way for so many women of all races and backgrounds.
When I think of Women’s History Month, the first person who comes to mind is my grandmother. She isn’t known by the world, but she has shaped my world and the world of many connected to me.
I want to take a moment to write about the woman who raised me. She was there when others were unable to answer the call.
She represented fierceness and willpower. I never knew her to give up, even when she was coming close to her end, she kept fighting until her body wouldn’t allow her to keep going.
My grandmother, Mary Bobby Hood, also known as Madea (The Original Madea), was our matriarch, the glue to our family, the Hood family.
She was a force. She never backed down and always stood her ground. I remember being a child hearing stories of her growing up in the country parts of Alabama. She told stories of segregation and what life was like during those times.
There was one time she mentioned working as a chef in a restaurant and there was protesting going on.
The owner of the restaurant threatened her by telling her that if she gave it any thought to doing any stupid stuff that the “negroes” were doing, (I use this word for political correctness, although he chose the latter), he would knock the black off her.
She was cooking and said she kept her hand on the iron skillet. She then looked him square in the eye and said, “you can try it if you want to and see how you end up”. My grandmother said that man knew she meant business and left her alone to cook.
That was the kind of woman Madea was. She wasn’t afraid of anything and she raised me the same way. She raised me to speak my mind when I needed to, not to let anyone run over me, but always remain a lady.
She was poised and always walked with her head held high. When she was out in public, she always dressed the part. She couldn’t understand why anyone would want to go out with their hair undone or looking shabby.
Growing up, we didn’t have much, but she always made sure my brother and I were clean, our hair was combed or brushed, our needs were met, and we were loved.
She was selfless. She wanted to become a doctor and put her dream on hold to take care of her mother.
She raised all seven of her children, numerous grandchildren, and my brother and I, who she took in and raised as her own until we were grown enough to manage the world by ourselves. She treated us as if she gave birth to us herself.
She was one of the best cooks I’ve known. She could cook anything without a recipe and it always turned out perfect.
I learned how to cook by watching her. I never asked questions, just took it all in and she liked it that way. She’d want you to watch without getting in her way.
She was strict and did not mess around with any child (or adult for that matter) who had a bad attitude. I wasn’t allowed to play with certain kids in the neighborhood. I didn’t go to parties, football or basketball games. I couldn’t have a boyfriend. I went to school and church. I could participate in some school activities, such as the newspaper or certain clubs if they didn’t interfere with the church or my grades.
There were times when I couldn’t understand why she was so strict. I just wanted to have fun and be a kid, but the neighborhood I grew up in wasn’t the best and to be honest, a lot of the girls my age were doing things I couldn’t fathom as a child.
She was protecting my innocence and looking back on it now, I appreciate her for that.
I knew Madea was proud of me. She didn’t say it because she was the least affectionate person I knew, but I felt it.
My accomplishments made her proud and she loved when others acknowledged her for my hard work or the person I’d become. I didn’t mind her taking the spotlight. She sacrificed so much for me to be successful.
When I moved away from home, I called her every day for almost a year. We then moved those calls to once a week on Saturday. We would just catch up on everything and life. She kept me up to date on All My Children and One Life to Live, her favorite Soap Operas.
When I went too long before calling, she would hit me with the “hey stranger”. That was her way of letting me know that I’d let too much time pass before she’d heard from me.
When I became pregnant with my first child, her first words were “well, now you’re about to see what life is all about. Now real life begins.”
But she never judged me and told me that I didn’t need to rush into marriage because I was pregnant. She even told me that if I needed to, I could come home, and she would help me raise my child.
Thankfully, it never resulted in that, but it always brought me comfort knowing I always had a place I could call home.
I have many stories I can share about my grandmother. She wasn’t perfect and had her flaws, made her mistakes and learned from them.
She would often tell me, “I’m hard on you because I want better for you. Everything I tell you is to help you not hurt you.”
I’m grateful that I had the chance to tell her that I loved her and appreciated her. I am fortunate for the bond we developed throughout my life.
She will forever play a pivotal role in who I am. In all things that I do, I carry her in my heart.
Madea, I honor you this Women’s History Month. Thank you for being who you were. I love you, forever and always.