Madam Speaker, my grandmothers were remarkable women. I enjoyed the time I spent with them up until they died late in years--one at 88; the other at 99.
They lived during times when there were few if any modern conveniences. No air conditioner. No microwaves. No electricity. They forged lives for their families out of sheer will and determination. My Grandmother Poe was of Scots-Irish decent. My mom's mother, Meme, was of German heritage. Both were wonderful cooks, and I always showed them utmost respect.
Sundays were special. When we visited them we would go to Church, and then back to one of my grandmother's house for the big Sunday lunch that was all home cooking.
The summer that I was 5 years old, I visited Grandmother Poe, and on one particular Saturday she was preparing for Sunday lunch. Fried chicken was the meal. I never made the connection between the chicken we ate on Sunday and the chickens that ran loose around my grandmother's house.
I soon learned that connection and one of those chickens was the next day's meal. Grandma Poe told me on that Saturday afternoon that we needed a chicken for Sunday lunch. So I eagerly and happily followed her out to the yard and was unaware of what was about to happen. I saw her small, petite hands latch on to the neck of a hen, and with the slightest of movements she popped the head off that chicken. I was horrified. I had never seen anything so ghastly. She calmly waited for the chicken to stop ``running around with its head cut off,'' plucked the feathers off of it, and put it in a big 5-gallon bucket to be fried and eaten the next day. I don't think that I ate chicken on Sunday, but I learned respect and a little bit of fear of my Grandmother Poe that afternoon.
About a year later, a similar situation occurred with Grandmother Meme, when I stayed with her.
Sunday was to be another meal of fried chicken. So on Saturday, I was emotionally prepared in my youthful mind for the ``chicken hunt''--ready to see the neck pop off of another unsuspecting chicken--just to be devoured by humans.
But this time, my Meme did not go wring a chicken's neck. Instead, just as calm as my Grandmother Poe had been, she picked up her 22 rifle, stepped out of the back porch, took aim at the moving, head-jerking hen, and pulled the trigger. She shot that chicken in the head and it flopped over with no movement at all. One shot--one dead hen. I was stunned. She picked up the carcass and fried it, just as my other grandmother had done.
I gained a lot of respect for my gun-totin' grandmother that Saturday.
After those two incidents occurred early in my life, I was always careful on how I treated my grandmothers--careful never to anger either one of them--and remembering in a childlike way, the fate of those chickens. I admired my grandmothers and cherished all those special lessons they taught me for numerous years.
This Mother's Day, we pay tribute to those wonderful, hard-but-soft ladies like the generation of my grandmothers.
We praise and respect all of the American mothers this Sunday that have made us who we are and taught us about respect and honor of these remarkable women. And Madam Speaker, I still don't eat chicken. And that's just the way it is.