Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | May 14, 2017

My Beautiful Mother

Edith Henderson Bowden, Sep 15, 1918 – Oct 13, 1986. Mother of three.

Happy Mother’s Day 2017.  I’ve written about the qualities of my mother, my wife, my grandmother who was really my great-aunt but raised my Dad as her own, and my two great-grandmother matriarchs.  Their many qualities and few shortcomings gave the life lessons that shaped me as a boy and man.  The old saws about the hand that rocks the cradle and the woman behind every man ring true in my life.  Recently, I went through all of my grandparents’, parents’ and our pictures for my late sister’s (Babs) memorial vimeo.  While, the pictures fueled many memories and wide-ranging emotions, I was struck with how beautiful my mother was.

I know about inner beauty being best.  I know being born beautiful isn’t fair to most folks.  But, life isn’t fair.  My beautiful Mother taught me that.  And she said, “Pretty is as pretty does.”  She instructed us on all the truths of life and much more.  But, I want to digress from all her teaching and preaching I could share and just say, “Wow! Momma, you were a beautiful woman.”

We had “kitchen talks” when I was a teenager.  The former dishwashers, my sisters, were out of the house, and Daddy had had a severe heart attack and rested a lot.  I’d sit with her – she didn’t want me to do anything but help dry some – while she did the dishes.   She talked.  I listened.

She told me that she was shocked, truly, when she found out women didn’t like her because of her beauty.  She grew up on a farm in South Carolina and thought everyone liked her.  Not so.  She learned how to deal with people wanting to do her ill because of their jealousy or lechery.  She was as intelligent, bright and wise – three different words – as she was beautiful.

She learned how to use her beauty, like big men may use their size.   She used her power for good.  She treated everyone with kindness and dignity, while she had the self-confident pride of royalty, acknowledging no one as her “better”.  From the serving lady behind the lunch counter at work to the dry cleaner to the pharmacist, folks brightened when she walked in – and started sharing about their kids and kin, life and love. and the Lord Jesus Christ – and smiled when they waved good-bye.  But, woe to the one who showed her disrespect.  “I swain” (I swear) I’ve seen the words spoken in soft, Southern accent actually slit a throat – and, clearly, it was felt as intended.

Momma was the most amazing woman I’ve ever known – completely aside from her looks.  My relatives and family friends echo the sentiment.  But, her beauty made her all the more special.  It was part of her very being to be beautiful, but it was her choice to be beautiful to others.  She chose to let her inner beauty shine through her movie star outer beauty to be her whole womanhood.

She was sensual and refined, hard-working and lady-like, attractive and proper – all at the same time.  I’ve said many times she wasn’t a Southern steel magnolia, because steel isn’t tough enough to compare.  If I have half of her courage, I’ll be man enough in sheer bravery alone.

She wanted to be a matriarch like her Grandmother Bobby.  She left this life too soon to place her imprint upon all her grandchildren herself.  Her legacy lives through her children, but its not as she wanted to do it herself.  She wanted to live.  After she died, the doctors took the time to write a letter to us about how remarkable her courage, good humor and grace in her final weeks – when they couldn’t figure out what was killing her.

My Mother.  What a woman.

The two pics at the top and this one are 1956-57. Mother was 38 years old.

Mother is 66 – my age now. She lived another 15 months. She looks great at 66!  So full of life.





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