The Song of a Hero

| 8/12/2010 1:57:21 PM

A photo of Cindy Murphy“In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.” ~ Daniel J. Boorstin

What defines a hero? We honor our veterans; the men and women who served, and are serving in our armed forces are called heroes. Firefighters and policemen commit acts of bravery nearly everyday that can be considered heroic. The doctor who saves a life – certainly she is a hero. The man who holds the hand and comforts the victim of a car accident, until help arrives – he is a hero too. The media grants sports stars and celebrities hero-like status, many of them, undeservedly so. But can an ordinary person who accomplishes no feat other than to live life well, be called a hero?

Mom’s a first generation American; both her parents immigrated to Detroit from Austria/Hungary. She was born in 1928, a tough time in our nation’s history, right before the start of the Great Depression. People then made due with what they had; Mom slept the drawer of a dresser as a baby. Her mother cleaned houses for a living. After work, her dad grew tomatoes for the neighborhood ... and roses too; his rose garden was quite extensive, and he was proud of it, grafting and experimenting to come up with his own varieties. The city was a good place to live back then; there were no gang shootings, drug wars, abandoned houses, and burned-out cars on the streets. Just nice family neighborhoods. As a teenager, Mom would take the bus to Harper Theatre, built in 1938, see a double feature, and get ice cream at Sanders afterward – all for less than a quarter.

We’ve heard the Harper Theatre story many times – it was repeated nearly every time my brother and his friends drove to the city, piled into Dad’s beat-up old Suburban which was kept for such things even years after he died – you dare not risk a parking a newer car in such a bad neighborhood. Their destination was Harpo’s - the old Harper Theatre is now converted to “America’s Oldest Concert Theater”, featuring heavy metal and industrial rock bands with names like “Impending Doom,” “Burning the Masses,” and “Decapitation” (all showing this month, in case you’re interested). The old neighborhood has changed quite a bit since the days of Mom’s youth. All of these things about Mom’s childhood – and most of what I know about our family, on both her and Dad’s side, comes from her storytelling. Mom loves a good story.

She still has friends from those old days – people we call “Aunt,” “Uncle,” and “cousin,” though they aren’t blood relatives. Then there are the Card Club Ladies, friends of hers who for 60 years met once a month to play pinochle ... or pretend to play pinochle, we teased. When it was Mom’s turn to host, we never saw them play cards – all we heard was a bunch of yakking and laughing.

Mom’s laugh ... you know those people who laugh with their entire bodies? It starts off slow, just a giggle, but then grows until every part of them seems to be laughing. They soon become silent, so that you only know they’re still laughing because they’re shaking. It all ends with a big sigh to catch their breath, before it starts all over again. That’s Mom’s laugh.

Cindy Murphy
9/4/2010 9:29:39 PM

Hi, Carolyn. Thanks for stopping in and sharing your Mom's story. Often we're unaware how our words affect those who hear them. What a wonder gift your Mom gave you with her words before she passed. I stopped by your website; very, very nice! I loved the "I Love Zinnias" article.

Carolyn Binder
9/3/2010 10:55:51 AM

Hi Cindy: This ode to your mom brought me to tears and to smiles. I lost my mother when she was only 56, and I still think of her every day. Just before she died (of cancer), she was wise enough to whisper to me (her only daughter) that I was her very best friend. I wonder if she really knew how much that simple comment would comfort me over the years. You obviously have wonderful memories of this hero in your life, and I know you will cherish them always. Thank you for sharing them and for reminding me of my hero, too. Carolyn

Cindy Murphy
9/2/2010 9:18:49 PM

Hi, Oz Girl. You're right - Mom had a full life. We are reliving some of it now, as my brothers and I have been cleaning out her house; it's a house full of memories. "Oh-my-gosh, look at this! Do you remember when Mom...." It's been fun digging up all though cherished memories of both our parents, and all the good times we had growing up in that house. I wouldn't trade them for the world. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the hugs too!

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