Life to me often times seems to be about the quest for balance. We are constantly bombarded with comparisons and contrasts. There is dietary balance, spiritual and emotional balance, the all important balance between our demanding professions and the need for rest or relaxation.
In my 53 years, I have never seen the achievement of balance so personified as it was in Fannie Florine Fambro-Evans. Today is my Gram’s birthday. She was born 108 years ago to my great grandparents, Bose and Lizzie Fambro. She had 6 brothers and was the youngest of 3 girls.
I moved to Cleveland to live with her in 1963, when I was 5 years old. The relentless pressures of single motherhood on the south side of Chicago were a true challenge for my mother. The occasionally breeze that would soon become the full-blown storm of the civil rights movement were enough to cause my Grandmother to say to her daughter “you keep that job and send the baby to me.”
My grandfather died the year before I was born and Gram never remarried. Yet, she knew that her single mother home tipped the scale of fatherlessness in a direction that would only be returned to equilibrium by the presence of her brothers, my Godfather, other uncles, and eventually a loving stepfather.
Gram knew that down-time would have to be severely overcompensated for with music lessons, little league, a YMCA membership, choir rehearsals, trips to the theatre with my
Godmother, and Browns’ games with my Godfather. When I think back on just how little time I had as a young man to simply do nothing, I think she must have believed that the formula for balance in this regard was 100-to-1 in favor of activity.
As the desegregation of the Cleveland Public Schools spun dangerously and violently out of control in my Collinwood neighborhood of new immigrants and Black folks struggling for their civil rights, Gram sought out the balance of a private independent high school in Hudson, Ohio. It was once again equilibrium, far enough away but not too far, safe for 9 months at school, balanced against being home for 3 to get just enough experience in the tough east side streets of Cleveland, and then back to Western Reserve Academy.
I never saw her cry too much, or laugh to little, as she raised me and my little brother. She was always well placed between worshipping God and studying the scriptures. I can never say that she spanked me too much, or kissed me too little. I know that we were poor, but I never wanted for anything.
Whenever I visited her housekeeping job, she would insist that I come to the rear door of the house, but flash a wry smile when I rang the front doorbell. It was the bus early Sunday morning rain, sleet, or snow to make Sunday school, but the balance of a ride home with one of her brothers or my Godmother when church was over. It was never “you can’t go to the Browns game,” but always the requirement that I sit in the church pew until noon, not allowed to quietly leave the sanctuary one minute before to be picked up by my Godfather.
I went to the cemetery today as I do every year to take her some flowers, wish her a happy birthday, and tell her that I love her so much. Gram is always glad that I also took flowers to her older sister my Aunt Nell. Aunt Nell is only a few rows away from Gram.
After all, if I hadn’t taken flowers to both of them, things would have been out of balance.
Happy Birthday Gram and thank you so much!
Read, learn, and share….Have a Family Meeting!