Some express enjoyment at my occasional journey into the way various people have affected my life. These little excursions are my way of thinking about and codifying people who have mattered to me. Prior posts have included one about G.A. Mangun, another about my church-planting grandfather H.B. Frazier and another about Pastor Leland Briggs. This particular post is a bit more personal. It is a living testimonial to Faye Coon – otherwise known as “Mom.”
Her lessons are valuable. Thank you for taking time to read. In the comments share what you learned from your own “Mom.”
An Introduction to Mom
Mom is a 5’7″ dynamo. Even now, she can get more done than many people quite a bit younger. Through the years she has been house-wife, mother, Avon saleslady, convenience store owner/operator, shoe-store owner, self-storage owner. For family peace, I’d probably better leave her age at having celebrated a couple of anniversaries of her 39th birthday.
With tongue somewhat in cheek, I observe that in quite a few things mom, has a bit of a healthy “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” The house is immaculate, no dirty dishes are left until morning and Mom’s vacuum cleaners need an odometer. Through the years every vacuum cleaner she owned has covered some miles!
A bit of background may help. My grandfather, H.B. Frazier who I wrote about earlier was a church planter in Tioga, Louisiana. Mom was part of those early years of planting a church. She has stories to tell about the adventure. As a young adult, she met Dad at a sectional youth rally. They married and as a team made quite an impact.
She and my Dad, L.C. (a blog for another time) have influenced a myriad of people. So let me jump in on things learned in life with Mom.
Home cooking is always best!
Our life did not have many opportunities for “eating out.” Our home was nine miles from town. In Jena, there was a Burger Barn, closed on Sundays. But, even if grand restaurants would have been an option, mom’s fried chicken, rice and gravy, biscuits, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, oatmeal cookies, tea-cakes, etc. made life grand.
With what mom put on the table, you’d have stayed home to eat even if there had been a restaurant within a 1/4 mile. Norma and I finally cajoled the amazing “tea-cake” recipe from Mom. We are virtually certain that she left some ingredient out of the written recipe. In an evening of trial and error – adding shortening and then a bit of this and some more of that, Norma and I finally got “Tea Cakes” to where they were almost like Mom’s. She was quite a cook.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel North America and a bit around the globe. Home cooking – mom’s and my wife’s will always be best! Can I get an, “Amen” (or maybe a recipe) from someone who remembers the Easter dinner-on-the-grounds at Shady Grove United Pentecostal Church (Jena, Louisiana)?
Invest your bit in the team and good things happen
For much of my childhood, our family’s economic status was “lower middle class.” Actually, we were poor but didn’t know it. Dad worked in operations for Hunt Oil Company. He almost always had a second and sometimes third job going on at least one of his day’s off from Hunt. Mom sold Avon and a few other similar efforts. Through wise stewardship and hard work they advanced themselves and their family.
Don’t Think Poor!
Each year, Rodney and I started school having new tennis shoes and two pairs of new blue jeans. Others had more, but in our family, we were never poor in thought or behavior. We understood that we had it so much better than others.
Even with limited money, mom and dad always took us on an annual vacation. Vacation was not elaborate. We never flew anywhere. Instead, we went to Branson; Gatlinburg; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Gulfport, Mississippi; or Destin, Florida. All four members of the “Coon Crowd” saved money to make the trip possible. As the trip neared, Rodney and I would put our savings (primarily change) in a sock. That sock became our “bank” for the trip.
A Little from Here and There Adds Up!
A partnership I recall came as our vacation was nearing an end. Mom was the catalyst. She’d say, “Would you boys like to stay another day? Would you be willing to spend the money left in your sock for one more night? Just how much money do you have left in your sock?” We would tally up. Invariably there was money for one more night.
It is doubtful that Rodney or I contributed much, but the idea of teaming together to pull it off lingers. As a team, we could do something that mattered to us. That lesson has helped me with corporate leadership, as a pastor and religious executive. I cannot do it all myself – but if we team together good things happen.
I learned to get my resources out of my “sock” and participate in a bigger process. What’s in your sock?
Don’t let life’s pain deter you or define you
Our oldest son, Lane, was a baby when the diagnosis came that Mom had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a challenge. It was even more of a challenge decades back. In fighting arthritis, Mom has experienced virtually every treatment available. There have been over 25 major surgeries. In a few days, she’ll have shoulder replacement surgery.
In Mom’s case, the pain or frustration of RA has not won. She refused to let that condition define her. Actually, she seldom let it deter her. After every surgery, she’d be in the kitchen on the first day home. There were shirts to iron and laundry to get clean. Remember the “OCD” behavior mentioned earlier.
It remains to be seen as to whether this particular lesson has taken hold for me. Not many people will battle rheumatoid arthritis. Yet, all of us will deal with some pain. Nobody, I mean nobody, gets out of life unscathed. Your pain and frustration will be different from Mom’s but don’t let it define you or deter you.
Don’t Disrespect Any Person
I am a child of the 50s. We lived through the challenging years of school integration. My upbringing was a rural community that was 100% Caucasian. Rumor has it that people of color were warned off. African-Americans were to stay out of southern Lasalle Parish. Without thought, racial epithets were a part of the common language.
The Conflict of the Century
Integration of the public schools was a difficult time. This was not just the case in the deep south. If you don’t believe me check out some of the conflicts in Boston. It was difficult for people of all races. As the Federal Department of Education pursued the integration of our schools they attempted something called “Freedom of Choice.” With “Freedom of Choice” parents chose the school a child attended. In our parish during the first two years of “Freedom of Choice” not a single black child went to a historically white school; not a single white child went to a historically black school.
When the Issue Became Local
Finally, in the third year of “Freedom of Choice,” a black family chose to send their two sons to my historically all-white Junior High School. One of the two fellows was in my 6th-grade class. He came from a nice family. His clothes were more expensive than mine. He was well-mannered and intelligent.
Yet, this was different. The biases against change and innate prejudices were at play. For most of my readers, it will be shocking. This was my first personal experience with a person of another race or culture. This was the case for most of my peers. Our Junior High was full of tension. Anger and resentment bubbled near the surface. At times they spilled over.
When Mom realized that this young African-American was in my class she sat me down and said, “Carlton, you are not going to be mean to that boy. I don’t care what anybody else does, you are not going to be mean to that boy.” It wasn’t the first time she rose in defense of someone without privilege. It was not the last. Anybody who needed defense or anonymous support would likely find it from her. With her coaching, I wasn’t mean to him.
What a lesson to have learned. Disrespect of another person, even when someone seemingly might have the upper hand was simply not permitted. I’ve often thought about the slurs, innuendo, and loneliness that young black fellow must have experienced during his year in the otherwise all-white school. Regrettably, I did not do enough to make it easier for him.
But with Mom’s guidance, I applied the principle to him and others, “You are not going to be mean.” Not to anybody! The lesson of respect of others, whatever their place in life, has done much to help me be effective.
Be a fan!
In the Coon family, Mom is the biggest fan of all! She thrills to celebrate Rodney’s effective life. If you sit still a minute she’ll tell you about Norma and my efforts. Every living person should read the handful of books I’ve written. At least, she’d have it so. She is a cheerleader for all of us in the family tree. An oft-used phrase has been, “Your Dad and I are so proud of you and Rodney.”
She celebrates it all and wants all of us to go “beyond.” Her lone grand-daughter, Brittany has excelled in the field of education. You can hear the delight of that in Mom’s voice. Of course, Mom knew it would be so!
Mom expects that with God’s good direction happening in our life – nothing is out of reach. With no person but Mom on the team, we have quite a cheering section!
I have dealt with people who had parents who belittled or limited them. None of that came to any of us from Opal Faye Frazier Coon. Her approach was to celebrate, honor and encourage! “Being a fan” is a lesson and approach to life that I seek to apply.
Thanks, Mom. You are a pretty lady. You are a smart lady. Dad and you continue to be a great team. Only a few decades ago it was Dad as Shady Grove’s Youth Leader and you as the Youth Secretary. You never stopped being yourself. You showed me how to live this as a grand adventure. Life has always included meaningful things beyond ourselves and our little world. I’d not want to trade my upbringing on the seven acres beside Sandy Run!
Some of Mom’s “OCD” traits I’d have done well to have inherited. I didn’t.
Now, how about weighing in – Lessons learned from…? Some of you may even have some additional things to add to my reflections on valuable lessons learned from Faye (Mom).
Final note: If some who read this are intrigued by my other writing. Another section of my website offers all my books. For this particular post, my book, If EveryBody Here Were Just Like Me seems fitting.