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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 16
'I Remember Mama'
Section One
ALL STORIES
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'I Remember Mama'

IN MEMORIAM: Sandra Paulson
July 21, 1953 - April 17, 2018


by Ken Campbell - SGN Contributing Writer



Last Monday morning at 8:35 a.m., my beloved mother Sandra Paulson departed this world. In tribute to the lady who made me, I thought I would offer you readers a taste of who this woman was. Though, I should warn you, she was no Mrs. Cleaver. Not even close.

My mother had the face of an angel, even though she was anything but. Growing up, all of my little neighborhood cohorts had crushes on her. She reveled in the fact that no one ever believed she could have a son who was my age. This was due to her having me at the tender age of 17, in addition to her natural attractiveness. But Mom wasn't just another pretty face. She was definitely a character and a force to be reckoned with, if you crossed her. One of my earliest memories is of watching my mother's notion of justice in action. Due to some squabble she'd had with the lady next door, she decided the way to balance the scales would be to take the ketchup and mustard dispensers from the fridge and 'decorate' the poor woman's laundry which was hanging out to dry. Mom had an unintentional flair for slapstick comedy and, as you might have guessed, a bit of an impulse control problem.

Most of my childhood was spent growing up in the projects of White Center, where it was not uncommon for parents to allow their kids to roam the neighborhood unchecked to cause trouble. Somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade, I recall being bullied by one of the older and much larger neighborhood kids in my very own front yard. His timing was poorly chosen, however, because it was around this time my mother would return home from work. I remember watching her car as it came screeching to an abrupt halt in the driveway. And in true mother bear fashion, she leapt from the vehicle, her eyes blazing with fury and fixed on the neighborhood bully who stood frozen like a deer in headlights as she closed in on him. Seizing the boy by the hair at the back of his head, she gave a yank so his face was forced skyward. She leaned in slowly, and through clenched teeth, icily said 'Show me where you live.' Then, she led the boy home, never releasing her grip on his locks while he whimpered and pointed the way with a trembling hand. She was my superhero that day. Needless to say, the bully in question gave our yard a wide berth after that.

But Mom could also be merciful if she wanted to be, which she demonstrated during another incident. I remember some friends and I were playing on a nearby construction site and I was curious to see if cartoon physics applied to real life by creating a makeshift teeter-totter with a 2x4, placing a large rock on one end and jumping onto the other end. The improvised catapult worked. The rock was launched directly into the eye of my best friend's little brother, who happened to be standing over it at the time. He wailed in pain while he clutched his eye and did a frantic dance in place before running home to tell his mother, who I knew would soon be telling mine. I flew home in a panic, which I unsuccessfully tried to mask as I entered the house. My mother asked me if anything was wrong, and I deflected the question with a blank-eyed stare of innocence without a reply. Minutes later, there came the firm knock at the door of an angry parent. My mother opened the door to reveal my best friend's little brother with one of the most horrific black-and-purple shiners I'd ever seen, as well as his morbidly obese and extremely cross mother. After his mom gave my mom the lowdown on my crime, I remember my mother placating her with reassurances that I would be punished for the misdeed. Then my mother closed the door and turned to face me, arms crossed, her brow knit in anger. My heart was filled to the brim with dread over the fate that awaited me. Then, to my absolute astonishment, she broke into fits of laughter. I really couldn't tell you why, but she found the whole situation to be absolutely hysterical. As I recall, my punishment was surprisingly mild. My mother had a robust, albeit occasionally, inappropriate sense of humor.

My mother most famously became known for her 'Pat Benatar' impersonation amongst the neighborhood kids. One day, a whole slew of us were playing in the yard when we looked up and saw my mother furiously 'shaking her shimmy' as she flew past the living room window to the tune of 'Love is a Battlefield'. I don't think she realized she had an audience at the time, but tales of that hysterical moment live to this day.

She would never win Mother of the Year. That's for sure. But she was mine. The bond between mothers and sons is unique in its strength and longevity, and mine loved me with a ferocity that was matched only by my love for her. Losing someone close to me is a new experience, so I'm learning as I go. Losing a mother is on an entirely different level. It's an experience we all go through once in our lives. Very few things we'll experience in life have the ability to break our hearts this deep; the sense of loss is palpable. But the void left behind by their passing is almost immediately filled by the love that was shared with them. Goodbye, Mom. I'll miss you like oxygen. You'll be in my heart until it beats its last.

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