By Mary Burnett, Doctoral Student

“My Mom Thinks I Am The Greatest”

Ever since Chris asked me to write something about our Mother from my perspective, I have been contemplating the relationship I have with Mom. During my formative years, most of my instructions came from siblings who were older than I was. I am the seventh child of her total of 10 children. Because of this dynamic, to me our Mom, Violet Lorraine (Jackson) Burnett was larger than life.

She was someone I watched from afar. I do not remember a lot of one on one interaction as a child with Mom; but the ones I do remember, she was providing correction. One instance is when I came home from grade school and asked Mom about the word nigger. One of my classmates called me a nigger and I did not understand it. I knew my name was Mary Jane Burnett, so I could not reconcile the word with my name. Mom was upset about my use of the word, told me what it meant, and instructed me not to use it.

Most of my other dealings with Mom included my other siblings, Chris, Penny, and Donnie. We were always into something. We lived for group beatings! 😀

HOME: Mary Jane in cap and gown; with Mom, Donnie, Kb and Cb – 1976 PHS Graduation (photo by Penny)

As I entered my teen years, Penny and Bonnie had already gone through them with Mom; so I had learned what not to do.

Joyce had been gone for some time and I do not remember her interactions with Mom.  I do remember writing Joyce a letter asking her to send me a picture of her so I would not forget what she looked like.

Penny was my main example since we are so close in age (only 9 months apart).  Of course, I began pushing the envelope during my senior year and because I knew, I was entering the Air Force.

I still saw Mom as the ultimate rule within our home and in most cases obeyed. My siblings knew not to tell me anything they did not want Mom to know, because all she had to do was ask me and I was spilling the beans! LOL

HOME: Kb, Mary Jane, T, Mom and Madison (2011)

Once I left home and was on my own, then I began to realize Mom was ensuring I knew how to carry myself in a world that in some cases is not very kind.

In my mid-twenties and early thirties, I realized my Mother did the very best she could with what tools she had; in raising my siblings and me. In my opinion, her upbringing taught her she could not be my friend and raise me at the same time. Now, once I was on my own, she became: my confidant, my supporter, my counselor, my Mommy, and my true friend.

I remember when, while stationed at Robins AFB, GA, I was in a situation where the First Seargent (1st Sgt) was trying to take away my promotion because he was a racist. I wrote a Congressional that resulted in the 1st Sgt losing his job and he could not take away my promotion. However, some bizarre things began happening. I wrote Mom a letter and told her all that had transpired; and, she wrote a letter to the Base Commander.

Consequently, I was able to leave GA.

Violet Lorraine (Jackson) Burnett is one of the most intelligent, caring, and funny people I know! She definitely could be cruel, so I am not painting my Mom as a saint. She never sugar coated anything when dealing with me. She called it as she saw it and 99.999% of the time, she was right! I realized my Mother was human and not the perfect, superior being, I thought she was. Moreover, the neat thing about my epiphany is it was okay! She is human.

Mom gave me a card that had a pin in it, which states “My Mom thinks I am the greatest” and I still have it. I have it posted in my cubicle and carry it with me on each position I have had since Mom gave it to me. It is a reminder to me of how much my Mother loves, cares, and believes in me.

HOME: MJB self-photo at Mom’s last apartment in her beloved Paola, Kansas

On May 8, 2012, my Mom entered into the hands of a just God and went peacefully in her sleep.

I wrote in my Professional Development Plan (PDP), one of my threats was Mom not living to see me graduate with my doctoral degree. When we talked, I would provide her with updates on how I was doing. My heart hurts and my soul is crying because I will miss her being down here below but I KNOW she expects me to walk uprightly.

So, as I held onto Jesus when Penny left this realm, so I hold tightly to him again, knowing he will provide me the strength needed to become the woman my Mother raised me to be!

♥ ♥ ♥ you, Mommy, always and forever.

Your baby girl, Mary Jane Burnett

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