That lady in the photo is my mom, Jacki Savage. If you’ve read my story “Two North”, already know a bit about her. She was born Jacqueline McCann and was at the top of her high school class taking Latin and basically shooting the lights out academically when she got pregnant with me and dropped out of school.
She was 16.
The McCanns, it won’t surprise you, were a very Catholic family and in 1963 getting an abortion wasn’t much of an option anyway. My mom’s priest suggested that she put me up for adoption and then become a nun. Thankfully she didn’t do that.
But it wasn’t easy for her. By the time she was 18 she had two kids and by the time she was in her early 20s, she was a single mom of two going to school full-time at Eastern Michigan University and working a part-time job. My brother Pat and I were true latchkey kids and we were on every social welfare program there was. Aid to Dependent Children (ADC). Food stamps. You name it, we were on it.
It was that foot up in the world that government assistance provided that allowed my mom to get her college diploma and move up in the world. By the time she took early retirement, she was an executive in the Chrysler Corporation and had accumulated a tidy nest egg. Anything she received from the government was paid back many times over.
While I was growing up, my mom was an ardent feminist and a fierce warrior for women’s issues. She took me to my first political rally, a march to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Chicago, when I was in high school. Later she became an activist for LGBTQ rights and helped form the group People of Diversity at Chrysler that eventually led to them being one of the first large corporations in the country with domestic partner benefits, something that allowed my mom’s partner (she didn’t live to see marriage equality in the U.S.A.) to keep her home and live reasonably comfortably after my mom died thirteen years ago.
I miss my mom but the thing that makes me the most sad is that she never got to see the person I have become and to see how her life so profoundly shaped mine. She would have been so proud to see my own activism and the voice that I have cultivated through my writing and organizing.
So, today on Mother’s Day, I send out my best wishes for a grand day for all of you moms (even dog and cat moms like my wife Anne) and to all of you who have been shaped by your mother. I truly believe that the most effective way to change the world is to raise exceptional kids and to be an important part of the lives of kids, even if you aren’t a parent yourself.
Happy Mother’s Day to you all.