The first thing that comes to mind is life itself. I was born in a shotgun house on Pocahontas street behind Peterson’s Chevrolet, in the community that was known at the time as Istrouma. Now it is a lost department of the larger Baton Rouge complex.

A truly memorable Doctor Tyler attended my birth and early childhood development. He always had some Dentine gum, and when I had diphtheria and later my tonsils removed, he was there with soothing ice cream. I’m not sure that was standard medical procedure but it felt like it to me. These miracles of modern medicine were administered go me in my home, by the way. I loved Dr. Tyler.

The second thing my mother gave to me was the idea that I was important. I will admit to the feeling that I am still important, even more so than is actually documentable. This causes me some problems from time to time but I am working on it. I never felt I measured up to my father’s expectations but my mother gave me to think I was fit to take along.

The third thing my mother gave to me was permission. Don’t get me wrong. I got called down every five minutes of my childhood experience. If my own mother didn’t do it, one of the other numerous mothers in the neighborhood did it with the same authority as my mother.

What I mean by permission is that she trusted me and I knew it. That’s a heavy burden for a child to bear. For instance, there was a clock in my head that alarmed when it was time to be home because I knew when I was expected to be there. My pals would say that I didn’t need to worry. I knew I had lots of reasons to worry. I knew my mother expected me home and I better get home. I took a little kidding about this over the years. Of course, I didn’t always make it on time.

Sometimes I would test this trust. There was this oak tree on the corner right by our house. I had a platform in it’s crown. This is where the “treetopviews” thing comes from. So there I am at supper time and mother comes out to the front steps and calls, “Jerreey!” Mothers did that every evening all over the neighborhood. I heard her and could even observe her there with a dish towel in her hands expecting me to materialize before her. I knew I would not show up on demand. I knew I would show up the minute she went inside. I was playing with a force I was too young to even to understand: rebellion. Rebellion against what, I have to ask now. I had such a cushy ride and didn’t know it.

I think of these things when I think of my mother. We had our moments, but in the end we had love. Love overrides everything else.

I’m Jerry Henderson – The son of Ruby Lee Parker Henderson.

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