Ted Harrison : Janet : Memoir : May 2019


SOUTHERN LEGACY STATEMENT You can move here from somewhere else. That’s fine. Southern folks are supposed to be friendly and open. We may even wave at you passing by. We do get a little testy where you start telling us, “Well, that’s not how we did it in Syracuse.” Of course we might just listen and say, “Bless your heart…” My Southern heritage includes farmers, storekeepers, and bookkeepers. I”ve helped slop the hogs–not that I like it; picked the cotton–escaped working in tobacco; sold cantaloupes door to door with my uncle—all here in the South.

This journal has honored me earlier with writings about other relatives. This time I have something to say how proud I am of my Mother.


She was born a long time before the term ‘super hero’ was coined—much less used to include women. Yet today I believe my Mother was just that: a superhero. Oh, she never owned a company, served in public office, or made a big splash. No one would have ever thought of TV show: ‘Keeping Up With Janet Harrison.’

She stood about five feet, four inches with blue eyes that could stop me in my tracks.

And to be sure most woman of any age earn the super hero title. She gets that title from me because she did more than one might expect from a farm girl growing up when she did. High School graduation did lead to nurses’ training and working at a small North Carolina hospital. Later wife and mother could have summed up her life, but it didn’t. By her example, I love books. Regularly she took me to the public library and I collected little certificates totalling up the books I devouredIt was because she read a lot herself that she made this a habit for me. Typhoid fever was declining as a menace in the 1940s, but she made sure that I got my shots to protect me And there was a case of measles that lead me to her supervised quarantine.

When I was in middle school, she went to high school again. This time to learn touch typing–a skill she made sure I acquired, too. She reminded me of that when I became a journalist.

When a legendary coordinator of our county’s fine art festival retired, Janet wound up as the choice to take the helm. She served in that post for several years.

Breaking the bonds of the dogma that prohibited women ruling in churches, she was the first woman to be an elder in our congregation. Of course this wasn’t a lightning strike, she had been active in the other “women’s organizations” in the church. She became an elder long after her father passed away. He bestowed her middle name ‘Gold’ after a Primitive Baptist elder her father admired. The earlier church teachings gave over to Presbyterianism in later life.

She racked up many hours as a hospital volunteer.

She played a tough game of bridge. Nursed me, her mother and her father, but died before my father.

We may often wonder about people who might have accomplished more if given more opportunity. Yet we need to realize that the game of ‘what if’ is often overshadowed by the reality of lives fulfilled with ‘you’d wouldn’t have thought’. Superheroes are with us more often than we think.