Friday, February 23, 2018

Squirrels in the Attic: Mom, Grandma and Gun Control

As I have listened to the horrid things that have been and are being said by various of our politicians, especially our president, in the wake of the latest mass shooting, my thoughts have turned to my mother, and I feel gratitude to her.

My mother (pictured above in the summer of 1951 with her mother holding my oldest brother) never allowed guns in our home when I was a child.

She knew the terror and the danger that guns could ignite.

Though she never talked to me about this, it was nevertheless known: she had been exposed to domestic violence as a child that involved guns, and she vowed that there would never be a gun in our home.

Mom never talked about it. But Grandma did, once, when I asked her about it when I was a teenager. I shall never forget her sitting at our kitchen table, cigarette in hand, staring off into space as she told me about how my grandfather had threatened her with a gun, pistol-whipped her, and might have gone further had not the neighbor woman come over, taken the gun and thrown it – and here, as she told the story, Grandma chuckled in that deep way she did, no doubt a result of a lifetime of smoking Lucky Strikes – down the “outdoor toilet.”

Grandma. I loved her.

Grandma, though she saw lots of grit in her life, including owning and operating a café in East St. Louis (some may know the significance of this statement) before she retired, never owned a gun so far as I am aware.

I know my mom never owned a gun. And neither did my father. That’s why, when we had a problem with squirrels in our attic when I was a kindergartener, friends who owned guns were called in. It’s funny, but that is one of the memories I retain as a fairly young child: I can remember seeing the bloody brown grocery sack being carried down the stairs and out the front door by the man holding the rifle. Children remember trauma ... sometimes.

I’m grateful that I didn’t grow up with guns. I never felt threatened, never felt fear that I was defenseless because we didn’t own guns, never witnessed the terror or danger that guns could ignite. That image of the bloody sack, which remains with me to this day, is enough.

Imagine what it would be like to grow up, not just in a home, but in a world without guns. 

Thanks, Mom. Love you. I'm sorry you had to experience what you did. Thanks for trying and for making my world better than yours was.

P.S.: "Squirrels in the Attic" is a metaphor.

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