Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 13, 2018

Downtown with Mom

My mother was destined to live surrounded by people. Second-youngest in a household of eight children, she attended a large city high school, then chose nursing for a profession. In her day, just after the War, schools of nursing were tightly regimented; she lived in a dormitory with the other young women, studying and eating meals together, subject to a strict curfew (you can ask my father about that).

Medicine is, perforce, a field based on interacting with people, and nurses have to be good at it. Mom was an excellent nurse, and although the discipline of the profession demanded firmness and dealing stoically with the worst injuries and ailments, she delivered the compassionate side of nursing, too.

Soon, she had another crowd of people to deal with — two, in fact. She moved to the small town Dad grew up in, and started discovering what it was like to live in a place where almost everyone knew everyone else. In addition, five more people joined the household in the next few years: first me, then my four siblings.

This Mother’s Day, I remember two of the innumerable times Mom showed not only her perspicacity in evaluating people, but dealing with them adroitly.

I might’ve been twelve or so. Mom and I were — a rare thing — walking along the main street of our Midwestern town with no other siblings present. If you’ve seen an American town, you’ve seen a town just like it: a wide street (wide enough to turn a horse-drawn wagon back in the day) lined with two- and three-story brick buildings, many of them from the 1880s. Mom suddenly stopped me on the sidewalk and said quietly, “Let’s cross to the other side.”

Jaywalking across Broadway, a state highway, wasn’t all that risky. It might have been technically illegal, but everyone did it, at least back then, more than 50 years ago. As we crossed the street, Mom explained, “X was walking right toward us, and if he started talking, we’d be here all day.”

Yes, she’d crossed the street to avoid getting stuck in an endless peroration by X, a perfectly likable, respectable man, stalwart citizen, but who never met a follow-on thought he didn’t express. As I got older, and encountered X in later years, I often wished I’d been able to follow Mom’s example and get out of his way.

On another occasion, about that same time, I was in town with Mom and we’d just gotten in the car to go home. It was the early 60s, and our car had seat belts, but they weren’t the integral part of life they are now. Even the fiercely health-and-safety conscious Nurse Nixon hadn’t yet incorporated using them into her scheme of things-one-must-do. But she said to me, “Put your seat belt on, quick.”

No sooner had I gotten the thing buckled, than a tall, distinguished man I recognized but didn’t really know stopped on the sidewalk beside the car, leaned in and said hello to Mom. Then he looked down at me and said something like, “Ah, wearing your seat belt! That’s the way, young man. It might save your life some day.” Then he walked on.

Mom explained that Mr N. was director of the Ohio State Highway Safety Department, and the nascent campaign to promote wearing seat belts was his number one priority. She’d known he’d admonish me about wearing mine (and Mom about hers), so she’d just won us points with a well-known local politician.

I like those two bits of memory, and still remember being impressed at Mom’s ability to size up the people she met and react in an effective and, frankly, entertaining way. She was extraordinarily smart, perceptive, and could be hysterically funny or inordinately demanding. She had days in which she wasn’t entirely happy with life in that small town, but she made it her own, and was widely liked and admired, and contributed a great deal of effort to the life of the city.

Thanks for everything, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.

© Brad Nixon 2018


  1. Thanks for those stories about Mom, you describe her extremely well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sis. Impossible to summarize a complex and varied personality in a few hundred words. A lifetime of invaluable memories, lessons and things worth carrying forward. Glad you are part of the heritage!


      • I didn’t know you had a sister named Piano. Cool name!


      • Known as “Piano Nan” because that’s her instrument.


  2. Always great to revisit these types of memories and reflect on the impressions they made on you.

    Liked by 1 person

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