What follows is my blog post from a few years ago on Mother’s Day. I miss Mom and especially miss that my kids had only a few years of her great grace and wisdom.
THINKING OF MOM
At a luncheon last month, a woman asked me a question I have heard countless times before. “Are you related to Edith Gelber?” I nodded and responded as I always have. “She was my Mom. Where did she teach you?”
She told me my Mom had been her French teacher for a few years at Florida A&M decades ago. Although my Mom had taught most of her 40 years in K-12 public schools in South Florida, our family had spent a handful of years in Tallahassee in the mid and late 1960’s (where I learned the difference between “dinner” and “supper”). My mother, who taught French, Spanish, Latin and English, spent the time teaching at A&M. My Dad, a journeyman prosecutor, worked in the Attorney General’s office. My sisters and I attended Leon County public schools.
The woman told me that she had never forgotten my Mom. “She was so inspiring and her enthusiasm was infectious.” I have heard my Mom described that way a thousand times from her former students. I know only teachers can truly understand the pride that comes with teaching, but as a son who regularly receives the grateful thanks of his mother’s students, I have a pretty good notion of why people teach.
She told me my Mom was one of the few white teachers at A&M back then. My Mom was a woman who judged you not by the color of your skin but by your ability to conjugate verbs. She had started her career in the 1950’s teaching in Harlem and strongly believed public education was the great equalizer.
The woman told me that she recalled, like it was yesterday, attending my Mom’s class the days right after Martin Luther King was assassinated. “We were all so out of sorts.”
She told me, “Your mom wore sunglasses to school, and my girlfriends and I quickly figured out that she had obviously been weeping all night. In a funny way, it was comforting to us. It was something I will never forget.”
My Mom was an amazing woman, a devoted mother and a marvelous teacher. She just wanted children to feel good about themselves, and to have the tools they needed to reach their potential. Whether she was teaching 3rd graders or college sophomores, she believed in her heart that every child had the right to succeed.
To Juliette Love, Florida A&M Class of ‘70, thanks for sharing with me.
And to my Mom, I miss you every day. Happy Mother’s Day.