My mother died 15 years ago. There were things I should have said to her, but didn’t. I wish I had another chance.
She used to push me in a baby carriage, dragging my older sister along, for two miles from our house to Herman Park in Houston. After traversing the sidewalk along busy Bissonnet Street we’d arrive at our destination, the statute of Sam Houston on his horse.
My sister called it the hoppity hop, which instantly became part of my family’s lexicon.
Not long ago the statue came to mind unexpectedly. It happened while I was lunching outdoors at a Starbucks on Memorial Drive, every bit as hectic as old Bissonnet Street. I read on my iPhone that protestors were calling for the statue’s removal because Sam Houston owned 12 slaves almost 200 years ago.
The article did not mention that, when he was a senator in the 1800s, Houston regularly voted against the expansion of slavery and was also ousted as governor of Texas for refusing to support the Confederacy.
While I was lamenting that my beloved effigy could be in peril on such tenuous grounds, a young mother jogged up the sidewalk pushing a baby carriage. She was dressed in black stretch pants, blue singlet, running shoes, and a visor with a seriously long bill to ward off the summer sun. She meant business. After a quick drink from the water fountain, she breezed away with her little passenger.
My eyes were glued to her as she shrank into the distance. I felt an affinity I could not credit. Then it came to me.
For an instant, the year was 1948. The runner was my mother, young and strong. The woman I’d never met, only seen in pictures, was pushing me along to see Sam Houston.
When she disappeared from view, I thought about all that lay ahead for her, good and bad. I wanted to warn her, to repay her for all the sacrifices she would make raising me. But, I knew it was only a day dream. Or was it?
I often go back to Starbuck’s to see if I can spot the jogging mom. If I do, I will tell her the hoppity hop story. But, then again, she might already know it.
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Malcolm D. Gibson