Freethinker – Day 4

I’m blogging every day of November, with each day being a post about a thing for which I am grateful. – HH

On the fourth day, I’m grateful to have been taught to be a free-thinker by my parents, even when it hurt them.

I know I tell a lot more stories about my dad than I do my mom, but that’s mainly because Mom is a pretty private person. The truth is my personality is almost a perfect split of the two of them – the part of me that is calm and introverted and pastoral, that stays calm in the midst of crisis, that can solve mechanical problems – that was Dad.

But the part of me that makes me the Mennonite you most want with you in a bar fight; the part of me that that marched a couple of dozen folks without houses into the city council chambers of Raleigh, NC; the part that gets so damned angry when people use their power to take advantage of others – that is all Mom.

I have lots of stories, but they are not mine to tell. But I will tell you this one, which also sums up a lot of our relationship.

I was back home for the weekend of my 20th High School reunion. That Sunday, the church I grew up in was having a Homecoming Sunday service, and so I went with Mom and Dad.

It was after the service and they were all up in the potluck supper. Dozens and dozens of people were crammed in this room, plates balanced precariously as they stood in line to get chicken and dumplings, various casseroles, and caramel cake. The people were all talking, and I had said hi to a bunch of folks, but most of the people I knew were dead now, and so mostly I was just eating food and looking around, when I heard my name mentioned.

I sort of hid behind the cake table to see who was talking about me.

Old Lady: My son showed me the sort of things Hugh writes on Facebook. I know you didn’t raise him to be so liberal. I’m sorry he ended up like that. It’s not your fault, you know.

Mom: What? Of course it’s not.

Old Lady: Well, I mean, I didn’t want you to think I thought you failed somehow, raising him.

Mom: No, we didn’t fail at all. If our goal was to make him think like us, we would have failed. But that wasn’t our goal. Our goal was to teach him how to think for himself, and he does that, and that’s great, even if he doesn’t always think like we do. He does good work, and we are very proud of him.

The old lady shrugged and walked away, and I went and got some more cake.

I rode home in the car with them later, and nobody mentioned anything about that conversation. And 12 years later, we still haven’t.

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