The Nicest Thing a Mother (or Anybody) Can Say
Two large portions of rice sated my appetite, but the deliciousness of the dish made me long for a larger stomach so that I could eat two more helpings.
My mother had plans for the rest of her afternoon, so she gathered her wraps and we left the house together.
We reached the middle of the block and were enveloped in the stinging acid aroma of vinegar from the pickle factory on the corner of Fillmore and Fulton streets. I had walked ahead. My mother stopped me and said, "Baby."
I walked back to her.
"Baby, I've been thinking and now I am sure. You are the greatest woman I've ever met."
I looked down at the pretty little woman, with her perfect makeup and diamond earrings, and a silver fox scarf. She was admired by most people in San Francisco's black community and even some whites liked and respected her.
She continued. "You are very kind and very intelligent and those elements are not always found together. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and my mother—yes, you belong in that category. Here, give me a kiss."
She kissed me on the lips and turned and jaywalked across the street to her beige and brown Pontiac. I pulled myself together and walked down to Fillmore Street. I crossed there and waited for the number 22 streetcar.
My policy of independence would not allow me to accept money or even a ride from my mother, but I welcomed her and her wisdom. Now I thought of what she had said. I thought, "Suppose she is right? She's very intelligent and often said she didn't fear anyone enough to lie. Suppose I really am going to become somebody. Imagine."
At that moment, when I could still taste the red rice, I decided the time had come to stop my dangerous habits like smoking, drinking, and cursing. Imagine. I might really become somebody. Someday.
From the book, Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou. Copyright 2013 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
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