Coretta Scott's life ended yesterday, January 31, 2006. Today, the first day of Black History Month, begins with remembering her complex, multi-faceted, and sometimes controversial contributions to our collective life on this planet. Most of us, this blogger included, remember her as the loyal wife, the one who stood by America's greatest Twentieth-Century Giant, Martin Luther King. As history gradually revealed, she was that, but also much more. I can add little to what the New York Times said on that score, except a personal and perhaps selfish note.
My mother briefly met Coretta Scott at the college (Antioch) both attended. Their meeting was one where each woman was shy, my mother thinking at the time that Coretta was being aloof as they were introduced, and only later realizing that Coretta was more likely being reticent and careful toward this unknown white girl. My mother was also reticent, not wanting to do the improper thing and feeling an awkwardness there. How much of this was real, and how much imagined? Who can say? It sounded real to me.
It was, alas, a friendship that did not take root. Not from ill will, certainly. But rather from the subtle tensions race causes between human beings, and the mutual uncertainty each young woman had regarding the other. They remained in the same circles, but never again really interacted.
I looked at Coretta's 1968 picture in the Times article, a young woman and a young widow. And it reminded me very much of the pictures of my own mother from that time. Yes, they could have been friends. They would have looked very beautiful standing side by side. I think of Coretta Scott's early musical training for opera, and my mother's avid love for that same music. Yes, even the tilt of their heads, the almost regal look to their eyes and faces.
Coretta Scott King is now with her Maker. Is it any wonder that this woman, who I rarely think of without also thinking of my mother, would also remind me of life's preciousness and our common mortality? I may have to give my mother a call...