I am looking for a short story whose name I have forgotten. It was in a school literature compilation when I was in seventh or eighth grade here in Maryland, USA (c. 1987).
A man goes home to visit his mother & brother. He is a medical doctor, which is important to the story, and the family is black, which is not. While visiting, someone tells the story of how the doctor’s brother bought a horse and hooked it up to a carriage so he and his mother could ride in style. The horse was not a suitable carriage horse, and on their first ride, the horse runs wild and nearly kills them both. This is a “funny after the fact” story, and everyone laughs except the doctor-brother. The doctor-brother is furious, because “If I had done that, you [mom] would have tanned my hide. You always let my brother get away with anything, while I had to be perfect all the time.” The mom replies “You are right that I did not treat you the same. I did not give you what you deserved. I gave you what you needed.” We then meet the brother. He is simple-minded and still living at his mother’s house.
As soon as I find it, it will be required reading for my kids.
Wasn’t it some holiday that they were gathered for, and the son was melting down at the dinner, and he says the better treatment was because the dolt was lighter complected than the doctor? The dolt comes in and says something like “Hey, where’s that cool brother of mine!” right when the doctor is at his most unstable, broken down point and the dinner is, in effect, ruined?
IIRC, it was called something like ‘A Trip to Grandmother’s’ or ‘A Visit to Grandmother’s’.
Go to half.com and look for Borzoi College Reader, c. 1974. It will be in there, if it’s the same one that I am thinking of.
Funny, isn’t it, how family dynamics look so different from different points of view?
I’m reminded of a couple sitcoms where this came into play. There was this one ep of The Golden Girls when Dorothy’s sister, a rich widow, came to visit and wanted their mother Sophia to move back to California with her. Dorothy ripped into her for always “wanting everything” and getting favored treatment as a child. Gloria refuted this: Sophia may have gone easier on Gloria when it came to chores and responsibilities, but that was because she knew Dorothy could be trusted with responsibility far more than Gloria could. (“She looked at you and saw a strong, responsible person. She looked at ME and hoped I’d marry rich…which I did.”)
Having read the above story, it seems a shame that Charles didn’t take the opportunity to consider that his mother had a POINT. Presumably, their childhood was during the Jim Crow era, in the South, and if his mother hadn’t kept a firm hand on GL he’d probably end up pissing off the wrong white man–which very well COULD have meant a lynching. But in some ways it seems that Charles is acting even more like an immature teenager than GL ever did–not trying to see his mother’s point of view, running upstairs and slamming the door.
(And it doesn’t really seem as if GL is simple-minded or mentally challenged, just irresponsible and reckless, and probably gives that wife of his any number of premature gray hairs.)