It was finally here, the day when we would be leaving our home of almost forty years. As I swept off the basket-weave-patterned sidewalk one last time, I contemplated on my memories from those many years.
I may be older, I thought, but I am still that young mother who gently rocked her babies to sleep, cried when they boarded the school bus for the first time and felt both pride and anguish when they left for college. I am still that wife who not only fed a hungry hoard of men during Monday night football games but who also cooked thousands of other meals without ever once contaminating anyone with food poisoning. I might be leaving this house, I thought, but home will be coming along with me because I am still me.
This was not the original plan, of course, but who can really plan for what life throws at us? Health issues necessitated our leaving our beloved home and friends, our town and church, the treasured mountains beckoning in the distance, and the gentle whistles of trains that had occupied our subconscious minds without our even knowing. We were moving to a retirement community, some four hours away, because it was clearly best to move near our family.
Although I was not nearly as courageous as my ancestors who rode small ships across a big ocean, nor nearly as intrepid as my future descendants who will likely leave earth for a distant planet, I did what was necessary to make the move successful. I simplified. I discarded, unloaded, and donated. And while I was not like the wife on a wagon train who had to throw out her most treasured items to forge a raging river, I lightened my load enough to make our move achievable.
I didn’t discard my memories, however. In them, I am still the skinny kid who could shimmy up a tree and run like the wind with my braids in hot pursuit. I am still that young bride, smiling and proud in her sale-rack wedding gown. In those memories, I am still the wife, mother, teacher, church musician, and friend that I was so many years ago. I am even still the daughter who helped my aging, debilitated parents make a similar move years earlier.
Yes, I am still that same person, even though the freckles on my nose have been replaced by creases around my eyes. I am still that same person, even though my pace is slower and my vision has dimmed. The same person, but changed, too. For now, I am surrounded by others who also understand what those memories mean, and it is my new retirement community friends who have given me the freedom to still be me.
When cell phones first hit the market, I had no intention of purchasing one. I was pleased with my “home phone.” But being a mother of three growing daughters, it made sense that having one could be pretty convenient.
My husband had bought me a “bag phone” first. I’ll try to do it justice for any of you who have no idea what that is. It looked exactly like a house phone; only it came in what looked like a handbag, complete with a shoulder strap. This was in the early 1990s when I was traveling long distances with my three children to visit family. My husband worried about a mother and three little girls traveling and felt it was excellent protection. He was right. It gave me a lot of confidence when traveling. Not to mention that goofy-looking bag phone could pick up reception even in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee with crystal clarity. I have never had a cellphone with such good reception since.
Fast forward to when my oldest daughter turned 16 and became a licensed driver. Not only was she stuck driving her Mama’s big old Ford Grand Marquise, but she was also stuck with the goofy bag phone as well. She can share stories of the embarrassment she endured when she and her friends would be hanging out in the parking lot where it was cool to congregate, and out of nowhere, a very loud telephone would begin to ring. I can see her face now! I am sure it could be heard from all over that parking lot. Everyone would ask where in the world that loud phone ringing was coming from. And of course, she had to be the one to answer said phone. And nine times out of ten, the person on the other end was me! I know she hated that at the time, but I will always appreciate how safe I knew she was with a phone that she could get clear reception no matter where she may be. That was priceless given the fact we live in a very rural area.
Fast forward to everyone having a cute little flip phone that fits neatly in their pocket. I resisted again, at first. Then I realized my teenage daughters needed one for their safety and my ability to track them and know they were safe. And since they had one, I needed one since I was the mom. Pretty soon, everyone in the family had the latest and best phone.
The cell phone is, without a doubt, the most convenient gadget I have ever owned. It has gotten better and better over the years as well as more and more expensive. But it’s funny to think back at how it all started. From desktop computers to laptops, tiny flip cell phones, large “smart” phones that now do everything your big clunky computer once did! It truly is impressive.
I realized just how addicted I was to the convenience a smartphone gave when mine began to act up after almost five years of use. It began to cut off on me and no longer hold a charge. It had gotten to the point that it could no longer keep up.
I panicked! What would I do without my smartphone? I had no way to communicate with anyone! What if I needed my daughters? What if they needed me? I can’t even use my laptop now without driving to McDonald’s. Ha, ha, ha! I was pretty bent out of shape for several days.
I had to calm myself down and remind myself that it was not the end of the world as it felt. I was simply being inconvenienced, not attacked. I could get some kind of phone that I would at least be able to make calls or texts from, and I would save up my money for a new phone. I was not above visiting a place such as McDonald’s to use free WiFi so I could do my writing on my laptop. I had done that very thing for several years, and I could do it again.
Just as I had my plan in order, a special angel in my life gifted me a brand new smartphone. Maybe I should call him my smartphone angel because he also gifted me my very first smartphone. The one that just died. Ha, ha.
So I sit here happy as a fat cat who just finished a plate of tuna. Glad I have a new smartphone and no worries about being inconvenienced. Oh, that sounds just horrible. We are spoiled, folks! Something else to ponder.
This is dedicated to my Mama. My Mama is very special to me. She has helped me
through so much in my life while helping others at the same time. People go to
her when they need help because she is very easy to talk to about personal
problems. She always knows what to say, that is why I go to her all the time. For
example, when I broke down and had a panic attack because I was so upset by
basketball, I went to her. I was so sad, but after she wrapped her arms around me
tight and talked to me in her soothing and comforting tone, I knew I was okay. She
prays over me when I’m anxious and sad. She picks me up when I’m down. I don’t
know what I would do without her.
She means the world to me. I know every kid says to their mom that she is the
best in the whole wide world, but Mama, “You are the best in the whole wide
world!” I mean it with all my heart and no other kid can mean it as much as me! I
love you, and I want to help you like you help me. When you are down and trip
over a stump, I want to help pick you up like you do me. When you are scared and
see a pot hole ahead of you on the road, I want to help you move around it like
you do me. I want to be someone that you can talk to and get help from like you are
No one can replace you Mama. Know that that will never change! I love you and
always will no matter what! Never forget that! You mean the world to me. You try
to make me happy even if it causes you trouble.
I appreciate you and everything you do. You fight for this family, and you fight for
me. You try your best to get me where I need to be, get my two siblings where
they need to be, and get yourself where you need to be. I do not know how you
do it but you do.
I for one am proud of you. Might I just say that I am a fan of your work. Also….
just so you know… I love and miss you the most, no backsies.
P.S. Many of you reading this will not know what that means in my family.
As a little girl in the 1960s and 70s, I would best describe my life as humble. My favorite television show back then was The Brady Bunch. I can accurately say that our family life was the exact opposite of the Brady family. I lived in a very rural setting for the first 11 years of my life. I could not imagine a big, modern brick home with an upstairs and wall to wall carpet. I had seen nothing close to that with my own eyes. Not to mention the beautiful modern clothes that the Brady sisters wore daily. I could only assume that the show was based on a fairy tale. Looking back, I think it was healthier for me to not know what I was missing and remain content in my world.
Being a mother of three daughters myself, I can understand how my mama must have felt when it came to the needs of her 2 little girls. She rarely had the money for anything brand new for us to wear. Usually, new clothes were bought once a year, at the beginning of the new school year. And yes, these outfits lasted the entire school year. That being said, many times did my mama buy a dress that was too long so it could grow with me. She would hem it and let it out and re-hem as needed. The same with pants. I did not mind the dresses being hemmed so much, but it was much more noticeable on the pants. I hated that and felt some embarrassment wearing them.
I remember one pair of new pants that I had in third grade. They were lime green, my favorite color, and stretch polyester. Very much in style at that time. They fit well and were extremely comfortable. One day after school, I boarded the school bus and when I sat down, I sat in someone’s used bubble gum. It horrified me. I tried and tried to remove the gum, but it was stuck to the weave of that polyester material like glue. That gum and polyester had become one! I remember telling my mama. Her reaction was that they are brand new pants and still must do me for the rest of the school year. Yes, that meant I had to wear them anyway. Gum spot and all. And I did. Many times, until I either outgrew them, or I wore them out. I admit, I felt embarrassed each time. I never forgot that gum was there. I did however learn a valuable lesson, to look before I sit down!
I guess some would think my mother was mean for making me wear those lime green pants with a gum stain, and I probably felt it was unfair every time I wore them. But now, after raising my own children, and struggling to clothe them, I am a lot more understanding of my mother’s choices.
I remember in the summer; new clothes were even more rare. It did not really matter if we wore clothes from the previous Summer, my sister and I spent 95% of our time playing at home on our spacious 11 acres. No one cared if our shorts were too short or too tight. Or that I was wearing my big sister’s hand-me-downs. But sometimes we just needed Summer clothes. I remember a couple Summers when the Salvation Army moved into a vacant warehouse downtown. They filled the immense space with racks and racks of clothes. There were hundreds of items.
Now my mother had a lot of pride. She did not mind wearing a hand-me-down, but she did not want anyone to know it was a hand-me-down. She would walk down the street where the warehouse was located and check out every customer in the store across the street, in the warehouse, walking down that street, to check if she saw anyone she knew. When she felt sure the coast was clear, she would say “Come on!” We knew to run as fast as we could up the ramp and through the doors of the warehouse.
I can still remember the smell of that Salvation Army warehouse. It was a mixture of mothballs, and a musty old house smell. It was dark because they did not have electricity for lights. It made it difficult to look through the racks of clothes. My mama always went into a smaller room where children’s clothes were piled up in bins. She was never interested in the hanging clothes. I assume they were all adult. Usually, she might find one item for either me or my sister. I remember vaguely a pair of shorts.
Shoes were a whole other problem growing up. And you guessed it, we would buy them with extra room in the toes so my feet could grow into them. I would stuff tissue paper in the toe until then. When I was in elementary school, there were several charities that would treat needy children to a new pair of shoes once a year. They chose me about 3 times for this. I felt embarrassed at first, but once I got those new shoes in my hands, it melted away.
I do not remember my Dad ever voicing an opinion on these charities or Mama’s thrifting. I wonder now if he was even aware. I can see where maybe he would not have been okay with it all. And my mama was superb at keeping things a secret. Not meaning any harm, but just to keep the boat steady. I can look back now, 50 years later, and see the many things that Mama did to make things “work”. The sacrifices she often made, just so me or my sister could have more of what she thought we deserved. Whether it was school clothes and Christmas gifts being put on layaway or ducking into the old Salvation Army thrift store.
Later in life, thrift stores became popular. My mama thoroughly enjoyed that. I took after her and have always loved thrift shopping. Not always so much for need anymore, but for the fun of it. Finding a huge bargain is fun! And now in 2020, you are just downright wasteful if you do not re-use items to avoid them being thrown into a dump somewhere. I think my mother would be in her element if she were alive today. Thanks for all the school clothes Mama.