Lessons From My Mother

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After my father died way back in 1957, my mother taught me how to always be cautious and aware of my surroundings whenever and wherever I happen to be. We did not have cameras and alarms on our home back then, but we secured our doors with various mechanisms that would thwart a home invasion long enough for us to escape from harm by leaving the house through our bedroom windows. At least, that was the training that Mama gave us. She told us that we could not stay isolated at home just because we did not have a father to defend us, but that we could have lots of fun going places if we followed a few rules of caution. She constantly instructed us in her rules of survival which we faithfully followed. Luckily we never encountered a dangerous situation but we ready ready if need be. Eventually my mother’s feeling of security was stretched to its limits after her home was broken into multiple times while she was at work. Once she had lost everything of monetary value to theft, she chose to move to a neighborhood that was a bit safer. 

My mother made me continually aware of my surroundings. I was taught to notice the people around me and to take note of how they were acting. If I was driving and it felt as though someone was following me, she told me to find a crowded place to drive to so that I would be among people. She also noted that when possible I should avoid deserted streets and dark places whenever I was alone. I think my observational skills were honed because of her preemptive ways of living in the world. 

On one occasion when I was in New Orleans with a group of friends I realized that we were being tracked by a couple of men whom I feared were preparing to make a move to rob us or even worse. I told my group that we needed to have a race back to the hotel and that a prize would be given to the winner of the contest. Everyone ran laughing and having a good time while I noted as I glanced back over my shoulder that the men who had been following us were running as well. When we were all safely in the lobby of the hotel the two men rushed up to the glass doors and saw that their opportunity to mug us was gone. They stared at us with anger and then turned and walked away. When I told my friends what I believed had just happened they were stunned, but understood that my observations may have saved us all. 

Our world has always had people who choose to engage in illegal and violent acts. With the stresses caused by the continuing pandemic there seem to be more of those sort around us than ever before. I am continually on alert wherever I am, just as my mother taught me to be so long ago. I learned not to draw attention to myself when I go about my journeys around town. I try not to have a habit of leaving and returning my to my home with routine regularity. I have heavy locks on my doors, cameras installed in several places and an alarm system that I set when I am gone and when I go to sleep at night. These are extra precautions that weren’t available to my mother. Otherwise I follow her homespun but brilliant guidance when I am out and about.

I lock my car even if I am only going to dash in and out of a particular situation. I don’t leave anything visible that might tempt someone to break in. I glance around and even under my automobile as I am approaching it to leave. These habits are instinctive because I have been doing them for decades. Even when I visit the cemetery to bring flowers and prayers for my departed relatives I lock the doors when I leave the car and always bring another person with me so that I will not become an easy target for someone up to no good. 

I write about these things because the incidence of crimes has become more common in the months since we have broken out of our isolations during Covid. We read about robberies and assaults and our responses sometimes lead us to fear going places when a few precautions will lessen the probability of being the victim of an attack. While we can never be totally sure that nobody will assault us, we can certainly make such scenarios a bit less likely if we are aware of our surroundings. 

I do not carry a gun even though it is perfectly legal in the place where I live. I tend to believe that carrying a weapon, unless someone is highly trained, will lead to even bigger problems. As a woman I have always had to be conscious of every person around me. So far I have been lucky, but I know that I am not immune to criminal activities anymore than my mother who in spite of her constant vigilance ended up being robbed numerous times. I simply suggest that a few precautions may actually dissuade someone who is looking for trouble. 

So here is a small list:

Keep doors on homes and cars locked at all times.

Use cameras and alarms if you feel that they will make a difference to your safety.

Keep outdoor lights on at night.

Lock gates that provide access to your backyard.

Be especially careful after leaving a bank.

Always travel with enough gasoline in your car to take you home safely. 

Do not leave items on display in cars.

Watch surroundings carefully.

Walk with deliberation when entering and exiting public places.

Look under and inside your car before getting inside.

Avoid deserted areas if alone.

Travel with a companion at night.

Have a plan for either exiting the house or securing yourself in a safe place in the event of a home invasion.

If you are well trained in the use of a gun you will have to be serious if you choose to use it. Consider the consequences of such a decision long before a dangerous situation arises.

If someone is following you, hurry as quickly as possible to a crowded place.

Do not open your doors to strangers.

Get a dog and leave that dog inside your home, especially when you are alone or at night.

Try not to have a regular routine of doing things that someone watching might observe. 

I probably haven’t thought of everything, but once you begin observing the world around you, it will become second nature to always be aware and safe. It’s not a paranoid way of living in the world, but one that will actually provide more freedom and sense of security. My Mama always said that we had to be able to live and enjoy the world, but we had to do so with caution. She was a very wise woman.