NOTE: This tribute to my mother appears in the May 2015 issue of Birmingham Magazine. Happy Mother’s Day!
By Chanda Temple
Sitting on my desk is one of my favorite photos of my mother.
In it, she’s wearing a pressed dress suit, perfectly coiffed hair and a high-wattage smile — some of my favorite things about her.
My younger sister and I are standing by her side after the two of us appeared in a children’s fashion show — a norm in our young lives during the 1970s in Huntsville. As we walked out of the venue, my mother slipped off her heels, took hold of our little hands and started to escort us down a pair of concrete stairs.
Something about that image must have struck my father because he snapped the photo.
In the photo, I soak up the attention and grin from ear to ear. My sister, tuckered out after an afternoon overload of frilly dresses from Loveman’s Department store and Buster Brown Mary Janes, is ready to call it a day. And then there’s my mother, oblivious to the pain in her feet, holding her high heels and our hands. That’s how she was — a caring woman always making the best out of life.
Whether she was dealing with family, friends or fashion — she approached each one with class. From her, I learned kindness, humility and the fine art of home entertaining. (She used her fine china tea cups for girl chat with friends at the dinner table, shined up the silver serving coffee service for gatherings with her sorority sisters in our living room and stocked up on school clothes for her “girls” during the summer months.)
In August 1979, just days before elementary school was to start for my sister and me, she died after a short illness. She was 37 years old.
It was the biggest heartbreak of my young life. But from pain comes strength. I remember what she taught me, and I smile at how I’ve taken on her qualities. I think she’d be proud.
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