The frames hang empty now. Those frames used to hold portraits of Confederate generals but my mother recently decided to remove them. Those portraits have stood guard over the dining room for decades. But now, for the first time in her eighty years, my mother finally realizes how the display and celebration of such could be interpreted as racist.
My mother says she didn’t mean anything by the display. She just wanted to be like Scarlett in Gone With The Wind.
Well fiddledeedee. So you say you wanted to be a spiteful, manipulative, selfish, slave owner who ends up a negligent mother with two dead husbands, and estranged from her third – all by the age of twenty-eight?
Of course not.
My mother was just seduced by the drama and intrigue. The pure aesthetics of the film. And say what you will about Scarlett, some believe her to be an intelligent, courageous go-getter. Apparently if you dress up a pretty girl in a hoop skirt and give her a strong southern accent, all manner of character flaws can be overlooked and forgiven.
Note to self: buy a hoop skirt.
I will never understand the whitewashed, romanticized version of the Civil War that my mother has bought into. To this day, she simply believes that Confederate soldiers were fighting for their freedom, fighting to defend their way of life. The freedom … “to have slaves” part of that equation escapes her. Their way of life … “to have slaves” part of that equation doesn’t compute.
My mother will tell you in a heartbeat that her ancestors didn’t even own slaves!
So then why did they fight for the right to keep them????? And why, mother, are you so fiercely proud that they did?
These are the questions that I continue to ask – the questions that continue to take root in the abyss of disagreement and misunderstanding between my mother and me. A generational abyss.
I may never understand her. And she may never understand me. And she may never understand this generation. But she is trying; she is learning; she is changing.
A bridge isn’t built in a day.