My Mother the Cheerleader
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Dear Mom: You Are My Cheerleader, Advocate, Friend – Diabetes Daily
Landroux his meals in bed, visit Antoine's Pick-a-Chick with Charlotte, and wear out the pages of her favorite novels by reading them over and over. But when desegregation begins, Louise is pulled out of school and her mother joins the Cheerleaders, a group of local women who gather every morning to heckle six-year-old Ruby Bridges, William Frantz Elementary's first African-American student. Then one day a Chevy Bel Air with a New York license plate pulls up to the house and out steps Morgan Miller, a man with a mysterious past. For the first time, Louise feels as if someone cares about what she thinks.
But when the reason for Morgan's visit comes to light, everything Louise thinks she knows about her mother, her world, and herself changes, abruptly and irrevocably.
Robert Sharenow is an award-winning writer and television producer. He also serves as executive vice president and general manager of Lifetime. He lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and their dog, Lucy. My Mother the Cheerleader "It's so easy to look back at another time and place and say to each other, 'what on earth were those people thinking? Maybe we would realize that we are all human beings.
That's one of the things that happens when you read this important book. In the winter of I had just turned thirteen years old. Not many photographs of me exist from that period My mother tended to reserve use of the family Brownie for important occasions—like when she bought herself a new hat.
It's a miracle I didn't become a fashion photographer, considering all the pictures I snapped of her accessories. To be fair, I was not the most attractive kid on the block.
I had dirty blond hair, pale gray-blue eyes, and glasses. I was unusually tall, flat-chested, and had yet to sprout one single hair between my legs or under my arms. I barely spoke above a whisper. And my lower front teeth were each of a slightly different height, which made the bottom rung of my mouth look like a small white saw. Still, it simply had to be damaging to my ego to know that my mother cherished photographs of her shoes more than photographs of me, her only child.
Like many young girls, I hated my own name. Louise Lorraine Collins. As you may have guessed from my physical description, I was not the most popular child. Most of the boys referred to me as "the Wheeze" or just "Wheezy. I attended William J. Frantz Elementary, or I did until November of , when my mother pulled me out to protest the integration of one first-grade Negro girl named Ruby Bridges. I must confess that I didn't mind one bit when my education was put on indefinite hold.
I had only one real friend at school, Jez Robidoux. Like me, Jez was one of the smartest kids in our grade. But I didn't see too much of her after the school boycott took hold, because her parents made her go to an alternative school in the back room of a sad little church near the industrial canal while I became a full-time employee at my mother's rooming house. The Ninth Ward never boasted the finest of anything, and the schools were no exception. Being one of the poorest wards meant we lacked many things other neighborhoods took for granted, like sidewalks or a proper sewage system.
We barely had decent water to drink, never mind a decent school. Most of the streets were a series of potholes, and the air usually carried the faint odor of leftover fish bones and the sting of sulfur from the waste that traveled along the industrial canal. I thought the teachers at Frantz were mostly time-card-punching half-wits who were just waiting to collect a state pension.
On the eve of the court-ordered integration, my sixth-grade teacher, Miss Jollet, told the class, "This may be our last class together for quite a stretch, because the state wants to see if we can train monkeys in school. My mother ran a rooming house on the corner of Desire and North Galvez streets.
Well, to say she ran it would be fairly generous. It pretty much ran itself with the help of an old Negro lady named Charlotte Dupree and me, as soon as I was old enough to make a bed. I'm not sure our house had an official style like Victorian, Italian, Modern, Shotgun, or the like. It was just a plain pea-green wood house with white trim featuring three stories, six bedrooms, three bathrooms, one kitchen, and one large parlor in the front that my mother called "the Music Hall" because it housed the piano.
Several of the original roof shingles were missing and had been patched with mismatched replacements. The pea-green paint peeled almost everywhere, and the whole structure seemed to sag in the middle from the heat. A set of concrete steps led up to the front door, and a small sign attached to a post on the front lawn announced:.
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Landroux's health had been in steep decline since his arrival four years earlier. He was missing both his legs because of diabetes.
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His eyes didn't see very well and he had an unpleasant disposition. I guess if I were a seventy-six-year-old legless diabetic stuck in one room, I might not be too cheerful either. His children couldn't afford a proper old folks' home, and none of them had room to keep him. So for ten dollars a week he lived in the back room of the second floor and was given three hot meals a day cooked by Charlotte or me.
Our duties also included twice-daily bedpan cleaning. Serving a meal to Mr. Landroux was never rewarding, but changing his bedpan was simply horrifying. He'd ring a small bell that he kept on his bed stand and then watch as Charlotte or I did the emptying. Landroux bore an unquenchable hatred for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Apparently, he was a prospect with the team when he was a young man, but he never made it to the big leagues. Every single day, summer or winter, he would inquire if the Cardinals had lost. If they lost, it was a good day. Given that most of the year the Cardinals didn't play—and when they did play, they won the majority of their games—Mr.
Landroux almost never had a good day. Charlotte and I dutifully endured the bedpan cleanings and Mr. As much as I hated him, I prayed for Mr. Landroux's good health and long life, because I had no idea how we'd get along without him. Mother also did a fairly steady business with truck drivers who were looking for a friendly haven while passing through the city. Truck drivers were sort of her specialty. If I had been going to amend our sign, I would have added: Truckers Welcome. I always had to keep a stock of beer in the ice bin for the truckers.
I also learned the fine art of making myself invisible on a moment's notice.