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Editor’s note: It’s always Mother’s Day at InDepthNH.org. Thank you, Wayne.
By WAYNE D. KING, InDepthNH.org
I’m posting this on the day following Mother’s Day. I suppose I should have thought about it prior to the day. Instead, I spent much of the day thinking about the mothers in my family.
In the midst of packing up and moving from my home of 35 years, there has been a lot of “stock-taking” and quiet contemplation. I’m slow at getting my thanks up to the six most important mothers in my life. I have been blessed with strong women in my life – it may be why my Alice always used to joke that I was a woman in a previous life.
“Grandma (Bernice) Dixon” raised eight girls, all while teaching full time and caring for a sick husband. She taught me to look at the world with wonder and curiosity and to recognize the songs of every bird in her neighborhood.
Grandma Charlotte (King) conspired with her husband Fred to hide his Iroquois and Abenaki heritage because the world they were born into was not ready to accept their love and their marriage. In the 1940s they moved their entire family from Bartlett, N.H., to Medford, Oregon, Beverly Hillbilly style, the cars stacked and packed with her brother and his family. Nearly nine months pregnant, she organized the move across the country and gave birth to my aunt Nancy along the way – right in the car!
They were grateful for work but when the chance came to move back to New Hampshire they jumped at it and headed for “home.” She lost Fred to a heart attack at 52 and a few years later married my “Grampa Al” Fred’s best friend. The two became vagabonds in Wally Byam’s caravan of Airstreams. We saw less of her but come May those Airstreams would, by happy coincidence, pull into the Goose Hollow Campground just down the road and she would spend Mother’s Day with her family.
My mom Roberta (“Bobbi” was her childhood nickname) would scoff when I called her a liberated woman back in the ‘60s because she believed actions spoke louder than words. In 1955 she hid her pregnancy from everyone for months to make it through the nursing program at Bridgewater State in Massachusetts because they would have expelled her.
Nine years later, in 1964, she started her own Real Estate Business, teaching herself by correspondence course, all while working full time as a nurse – an occupation she would always return to whenever the real estate market was bad. She worked her ass off to give the three of us kids a better life. She was rabidly pro-choice before Roe and after because she believed women should control their own destiny.
She was larger than life, drove me to distraction on a regular basis but she made me proud as hell. Never more proud than I was when she stood side-by-side with my dad and faced down threats to burn our home because they were taking on the Paper Mill in Lincoln, fighting to clean up the Pemigewasset River. Today the river runs clean and wild thanks in large part to them. I see her in my sisters Darlene and Pam who are strong, empathic women who have faced the challenges in their own lives with such dignity, tenacity, and optimism.
And then came Alice. She was fearless and passionate and I was terrified that she and Roberta would find themselves locked in a battle of wills. But they formed a bond almost immediately. Alice told me more than once that having Roberta was . . . well, it was the first time she ever knew what it was to have a mother who was unconditionally loving and fiercely protective. She felt that way about my sisters as well.
If we are lucky in this journey we call life – with all its joy and heartache – there are those who help ground us and those who help us reach for the stars. Rarely do they come in the same package. I’m grateful beyond measure that mine did, and for all they have given me.
The Hon. Wayne D. King
787 Stinson Lake Rd.
PO Box 500
Rumney, NH 03266
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