On July 8th, I will be 66 years old and I'm going to treat myself to a big-time celebration in the state's capitol.
I just can't celebrate a birthday without thinking about two special people - my grandmother, Annie Dowdy Dorsey, and my mother, Ruby Elizabeth Dowdy Semans. Mom gave me life and they both - in very different ways - instilled in me purpose, a sense of responsibility and values.
Grandma was reared on a farm near the Appomattox Courthouse area of Viriginia. She moved with my grandfather to the mountains of West Virginia during the Great Depression so he could work in the coal mines and support his growing family that included eight children. He was injured in a mining accident that left him with grand mal seizures that the doctor warned were eventually going to take his life. Not wanting his family to go through the horrors of watching him go through the horrible ordeal, he left the family to fend for itself so they wouldn't see him die.
It would be an understatement to say that my grandmother was faced with an incredible challenge of trying to support her large brood, one of whom died of rickets while only a toddler, But she did manage to rear the remaining seven into adulthood. She was very religious and held no animosity toward life and what it had dealt her. Courage, strength and both a healthy sense of worth and humor stayed with her until she died.
She taught me much, but I think the most important thing she instilled in me was that while everyone in the world might be as good as I am, no one is better just because they have power, money or a soap box.
And, of course, on my birthday, I always feel my mother nearby. She was the most patriotic person I've ever known. She gave me a sense of power when she showed me by example that each day, we give birth to our own government through both what we do and don't do. There was no doubt in her mind - nor now in mine - that the government is our child and when it misbehaves, we owe it as parents to use some tough love to get it back on the right course.
The first time I really exercised my tough love responsibility was standing up to a police officer who wrote me more than 200 parking tickets while ignoring the same car parked right beside me each time. I happened to walk out one day as he was writing the ticket and challenged him on the fairness. "Listen, Cupcake, he is a very important person and you just own a little store."
"Cupcake" refused to pay any of the tickets and demanded a trial before a judge. I have to admit that although I won that fight, it was just dumb luck. I started to tell the judge that I had let the meter run out but before I could get to the fairness issue, he suggested I keep quiet. It seems the good judge had spotted a problem with the parking ordinance and had been waiting for someone to challenge it. The way it was written, the fine could only be collected from the vehicle, not the owner. All my tickets were thrown out and none were issued until the ordinance was rewritten. Of course, I got the honor of getting the first ticket but that's okay - a win's a win!
I've been watching the protests in Raleigh and I don't particularly want to be arrested. Instead, on Monday, July 8, without wearing a ribbon indicating whether I want to be arrested or just be a supporter, I'm going into the building to share my birthday cake and celebrate my right to be in that building that rules state is open to the public until the General Assembly adjourns for the day which is usually late at night.
I'm not going to carry a placard or sign but will wear an apron just as my grandmother did when serving food and dishing out wisdom. And my message will be one taught to me by my mother for times when our child, our government, behaves badly.
I can't carry enough cupcakes for everyone there, so if my friends who are going to be there would bring some to share, that would be great because I would like to celebrate my birthday with as many as possible.
And the message, while short, is simple: "Mama, aka Cupcake, is in the building and she's mad as hell."