Sunday, March 15, 2020

Witness to the Life of Bernice B. Chattin

One day when I had been living completely out of my parent’s home for about 3 years, I called my Mom at work in the middle of the day. When she answered the phone
I said, “You are awful.”
Without missing a beat, she said, “ok, why?”
I replied, “because even though I live away from you and there’s absolutely no way you would know about most of my actions and decisions I still can’t do anything without thinking what would Mom say to that? Or how would Mom do that?
She then said, “ well that settles it.”
Settles what?
“I’ve done my job right.”
And she did, she got it right.
Mom carried the tool box, the checkbook, and Comet brand cleaner in our family. And she managed them all very well.
She didn’t just get it right, she wanted my brother and I to get it right as well. As a part of that mission, she had, as most mothers, certain sayings, to lead us through the pathways of life—

That’s right, I’m about to tell you what Mamma always said:
·      Mamma said:
·      Never get a job where you have to get by on your looks, but always look the best for the job.

  • ·      You have to know the rules before you can break them.
  • ·      Chin up.
  • ·      There’s always something new to learn.
  • ·      Can’t never could
  • ·      The two things no one will ever take away from you are your family and your education.
    • o  Get as much of both as you can
  • ·      Stand up straight—it’s good for you, and people will think you know what you’re doing
  • ·      Brush the back of your hair—you want to be your best coming and going
  • ·      When someone says thank you—the proper response is, “you’re welcome.”
  • ·      Family is family and family is everything.

Mom didn’t just say these things, Mom did them. She led by example.
When she said there’s always something new to learn, she led by example she took classes all her life. She learned bookkeeping, oil painting, quilting, Disciple studies, writing memoirs and much more. She wanted David and I to learn as well.  In addition to academics she encouraged us to take dance lessons, music lessons, to visit museums and see plays.
In addition to the arts and academics, Mom insisted that David and I learn “real life” skills too. A few of the things she wanted us to learn were:

  • ·      Perfectly iron our clothes
  • ·      Set a formal table and eat at a formal table
  • ·      Change a tire
  • ·      Sew a button and a hem
  • ·      Both of us learned how to tie a man’s tie
  • ·      In the 70’s made sure we both took typing classes at a time when there were no computers—she said we could type our own papers in college and always have an office job to fall back on…Little did she know that computer keyboarding would take over the world and we never skipped a beat when it did...
  • ·      Follow a recipe and cook a couple of basic meals
  • ·      Swim the length of the pool
  • ·      Write a Thank You note

The most important thing Mom taught us, by far, was that family is family and family is everything. In our core family, Mom was fierce. She could have taught mother tigers a thing or two about protecting her cubs.

However family, for Mom, was a very big word. And not just with my Daddy, brother, and me—with Mom, Family was a big word.
 Family means first every cousin and then cousins twice removed. It meant nieces and nephews, great-great nieces and nephews. Most people cannot even name their relations this far removed, much less visit with them and know all about their lives.
And then there was the family she claimed as family. Friends we’ve welcomed in to our homes since the over the decades up until she died who have visited with her and with us often enough to tell you the layout of our homes over the years and possibly even the softness of the mattresses.

Like Daddy, she’s been “right there” for many of you, yet not like Daddy at all. She didn’t officiate the weddings, funerals, and christenings but she made sure the reception went well, she was the first to hand you a tissue, a bobby pin, a safety pin, or an ink pen.
Always with style, always with grace, and always with a hug.

Mom wasn't just Mom, Mom was Bernice.
My step-son asked me once why I sometimes said Bernice and sometimes Mom. I explained that she was more than a Mom, she was a force of nature, she was fierce, she was a presence.
My brother David and I had a saying for when we were going to have to tackle something challenging get something done—whether it is was a petition, a fund raiser, a traffic ticket, a waiting list or a cause that needed to be championed—we’d say, “We’re going to have to go Bernice on it.”
Today is a celebration. We celebrate my Mom, we celebrate Bernice.
I’ll always know what she would say or how she would do it. We can all be inspired by the way she lived every day with her chin up. This settles it. She’s done her job right.

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