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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mom Made Sense


This post was written for the 67th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted by me right here at Destination: Austin Family.

Growing up I never really appreciated my mother's common sense and her ability to "get by" while at the same time "not being taken."  And it is no mystery where Mom got her sense of smarts as we called it.  As I've described her in previous posts, Mom was a child of the Great Depression born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey with 11 other siblings.  Mom was the middle child - Number 6 - and often played the role of negotiator and peace keeper.  It is my belief that her placement in the pecking order and the era in which she grew up provided an environment whereby she needed to rely on her wits to get by.  

Having been raised by working parents and a pair of stern yet doting grandparents, Mom had great role models who must have imparted some key bits of wisdom. But it wasn't until she was out on her own - after my father left us - did she really come to rely upon her common sense and practicality.  Mom was left with two young boys in the early 1970s and had no credit, little work history, and just a high school education.  But besides having a supportive family, Mom was able to call upon life's lessons learned from her mother and grandmother and let others know that she was not to be played for the fool.

I'll always remember one incident where Mom communicated this very effectively: it was a winter Saturday and we went to the movies in Monticello.  The theater had advertised in the local paper a showing of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  Mom was excited, we were excited and it was a big deal.  To put this in perspective: this was before the days of video tape and Disney movies were not shown on television and to have a classic re-released was an event.

Once in the theater, the movie began and since I had not yet seen the original I was unaware that what was being shown was a dreadful live action (not animated) knock-off in some foreign language with subtitles.  So as my brother and I sat in the dark reading, my mother got up and made her way to the lobby.  She confronted the manager (that's what Mom did, she confronted people when she was angry) and asked why he had advertised Disney's version of the movie to the point of even using Disney art work in the print ad.

Well five minutes later, Mom's hands yanked my brother and I out of our seats back to the lobby where by now she was part of a rabble of angry mothers.  It was something right out of a Frankenstein movie where the peasants gather with torches, rakes and pitchforks.  As I watched the theater owner suddenly hop in his car and take off, little did I know that Mom had somehow organized these women and was now their leader.

What next?  Off to the police station to see about fraud charges.  Yep, that's how Mom was - she didn't suffer any fools.  My next recollection is sitting in the lobby of the police station with many other children - and their respective mothers - as Mom explained the situation to the police.  In the overheated lobby the air hung heavy with harsh New York and New Jersey accents and the occasional four-letter word as well as many hand gestures, some of which even I could understand at that age.

Mom wanted more than just a refund.  She wanted to make sure that the theater owner understood what it had meant to her boys to see a Disney movie as well as the effort it took to drive 10 miles on a snowy afternoon.  I don't remember how the issue was finally settled but I do remember there being a local news story the next day in the newspaper.

I knew it wasn't nice to fool with Mother MacEntee.  And in short order that poor theater owner knew it too.  And at that time what my brother and I didn't know was we were being taught a lesson on how not to let someone take advantage of you or your situation.

Photo: MacEntee Family - Thomas, Jacqueline and Michael, 1975. Digital image. Privately held by Thomas MacEntee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, Illinois. Copyright 2009.

4 comments:

Becky Jamison said...

Your mom sounds like my mother-in-law. Good for her! You have a right to be very proud, Thomas!

Greta Koehl said...

"A riot is an ugly thing - and I think it is about time we had one!" (Young Frankenstein). Good for your mother! She taught you an important life lesson, one I did not learn until far into adulthood. BTW, my mom was also the sixth of 11 children who grew up during the Depression.

Laura said...

Great story! Good for your mother. I wish more people were like your mother.

Dorene from Ohio said...

Awesome story! Your mom was a real woman of action!