Mary Jane Hitchcock Gibson was born in Commerce, Texas. Her family moved nine times by the time she was a sophomore in high school while her father looked for work. Her father had left high school to work to support his family when his father died.
I talked with her about it at one point and said it must have been hard. She said that it taught her how to make friends. And she made a lot of great friends in her life.
When I was in college, I had a small group of friends, one of whom would refer to anyone that he had known growing up as “we used to be best friends. we grew up together.” Some of us were skeptical and when one friend ran into someone who barely rememberd him, he still said “we used to be best friends.We grew up together.” So my friend group would make fun of him. We did it one time within earshot of my mother and she said that’s just his way of saying how much he liked them and how fond he was of them. It was a generous interpretation. My mom used to say that most of the time, people do the best that they can. Of course, being who I am, it didn’t stop me from continuing to make fun of him but she was right, of course, and I try think of her often and try to look at what people are really trying to communicate instead of focusing on their precise words.
When I was in law school, I lived at home. I had a small group of friends who were from out of state lived in apartments so I invited them all to dinner at my house. I made something elegant like spaghettti. The next day, one of my friends, who was black, said that she had been nervous coming to my house but that my mom had made her feel completely comfortable and at home. My mom had the ability to do that. I used to think it was because she grew up in the South and I still think that is part of it but I think it may have to do with growing up in the Hitchcock family. Her sisters are wonderful and full of kindness and grace, and I think that they all have the ability to make people feel comfortable.
A few years later, when her mother had decided not to drive any more, my mother called her when a minister was there and while she was on the phone, the prayed together. My mom told me how affirming the minister was. He said that they were grateful that Martha had made this decision, that it was a difficult decision and that we were grateful for Martha’s strength to make it, and grateful for the family that supported her. He didn’t sugarcoat it but just affirmed it was a difficult decision and affirmed Martha for making it. In so many ways, that was my mom. She affirmed people. She would say “Of course you did” when someone confided in her. She was supportive and affirming of everyone.
She enjoyed other people. When I would talk to her after she had spoken on the phone with one of her sisters, she would tell me all about where Becca was traveling with Frank, what Ainsely was doing, a st ory about one of Katie’s kids, or what a great guy Kara’s husband was. She got such joy from other people’s lives.
I miss my mom. I miss talking to her about politics and just seeing her and hearing her laugh.