top of page
  • Writer's picturePorsha Williams Gates

On This Side of Healing: A Mother's Day Reflection

If we are honest, Mother's Day is not the easiest day for everyone. If you grew up in a predominantly Christian African American northern household with southern sensibilities, you may have had this scripture thrown at you: honor thy mother and thy father.

Or perhaps it was this one: Children obey your parents.

My mother has made it a point to consistently remind me, a very married adult child, that she is the mother and I am the child. My mother has used her position as leverage for everything that you can think of. There's no sense arguing with Pat Willams about anything because she will slam dunk you every single time with this line.

As a child, I wondered why my mother would always feel the need to assert herself in this way. As an adult, I have come to understand they why.

Growing up in rural Alabama, my mother was raised by her timid grandmother and verbally abusive grandfather. Sharecroppers of Monroeville, Alabama, the only place my great grandparents found dignity was in church or in their home. My great grandfather, Ozzie Lindsey raised his children into fear of him (think Joe Jackson). He ruled with an iron fist making sure that his children were prepared for a world where the white gaze showed no mercy. My grandmother, Louise, is the eldest of the Lindsey children. When my grandmother became pregnant with my mother as a teenager, her plans of college were placed on hold. My grandmother would have been the first person to attend college. She would have been the first of a born free generation of Lindseys to step foot on Tuskegee University.

But no. That dream was delayed. My grandmother chose love. She chose to pursue love with a man named Willie Frank Marshall, whom would become my maternal grandfather. My great grandfather Ozzie was displeased by their relationship. So displeased to the point that when my grandmother gave birth to my mother, she fled, leaving my infant mother behind. Louise fled for Bridgeport, CT.

Bridgeport was booming with opportunity. Surely she could find a job and start a new life where no one knew that she was a single mother from the country fields of Alabama.

Willie Frank, who remained in Peterman, Alabama was not allowed to see his new daughter and was threatened to be killed if he were to ever come near the Lindsey farm.

My mother, raised in the conditions of the rural Jim Crow South, was forced into child labor before she knew how to spell her name. My mother, the mark of shame, was forced to hide when company would come so no one would ask questions such as "who's child is that?" My mother, never having more than one pair of underwear and two sets of shoes wasn't even allowed to have a baby doll. Baby dolls were a sign of wanting to be fast and grown up, according to Ozzie.

But one day, a woman in the community heard about my mother existence and told Louise to fetch her 10 year old daughter. She told Louise that Patricia was not treated well and needed to be cared for. If Louise ever wanted to have a relationship with Patricia in the future, now was the time.

At 10 years old, Patricia came to live in Connecticut with Louise, only to find that Louise had a home with two other well groomed children and a husband.

My mother was filled with anger, hurt and resentment. She longed for love and longed to be nurtured by her mother. How was it that her mother was able to provide for other children and not provide for her? How was it possible that in the few times Louise came to Alabama, she never thought to take Patrica back with her? Why not then, and why now?

This is my mother's story. A piece of it. My mother has much pain wrapped up inside of her, and much of it she has poured onto me in the process of her trying to give me the life she never had.

One thing is for certain: my mother always made sure that I was provided for. Anything that I ever needed I had. My mom has been an incredible provider for me.

While we have had several riffs throughout the years from HOW she has chosen to heal from her pain, I have learned that my mother's pain extended from her trauma.

When God called my mother to mother me, her perfection was never a requirement. She has always been willing to be there for me. It took me years to understand that the roadblocks in her process of love were never about me. Her roadblocks to healings were as a result of her opinion about herself and the hole that was given to her.

There were moments that I genuinely questioned if my mother liked me. I know she loves me, but I didn't alway think that she liked me by the way she treated me. Yes, she gave me everything that I ever wanted, but my mother didn't affirm me. She criticized me and was physical with me much of the time. I'm in no way making an excuse for her actions, but what I am saying is that my mother mothered the best way that she knew how given the broken situation that she was born into. My grandmother did the best that she could given the situation that her parents gave to her.

I have learned that forgiveness is possible and that forgiveness is nesscary. It is not easy, but it is definitely necessary if we are going to heal well.

It is my prayer that as I have been born that I would continue to document where particular pathologies and behaviors show up in my family line and that I would help to break them. I believe that a large part of my soul mission is to corse correct within the family. Not just in my maternal linage, but also in my parental lineage.

Healing takes time as it is not an overnight process. This is merely a glimpse into my family as we are healing together. May we all get to the place where we can look over from the other side of our healing.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page