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.
BETTER WITH A BISCUIT
Summertime always brings with it memories of summers past, growing up in Northeast Tennessee my first 10 years of life. We lived on a mountain top, my mama, daddy, sister, brother, and me. My surroundings were some of the most ideal any child could ever hope for. Not because we had a big house, fancy furnishings, or a lot of toys. But because of the many little things we shared daily.
My Mama was a wonderful cook. A true Southern cook. It was typical for her to cook three meals a day, seven days a week. And with each of those meals, homemade bread was served. Either her biscuits, or her cornbread. Anyone who knew my mama’s biscuits and cornbread, knows there are not enough words in the Webster’s dictionary to describe just how good they were! Mama took great pride in making her biscuits or cast-iron skillet of cornbread perfect, every time!
During the summer, it was not unusual to have an entire dinner consist of fresh veggies, cooked or raw, from my daddy’s garden. Meat wasn’t as plentiful in the hot months. But it also wasn’t needed. Not with the bounty my daddy would provide from his garden. A typical dinner would be corn on the cob, fried potatoes, green beans, sliced onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. With Mama’s hot biscuits and cornbread, it was a dinner for kings! We never, ever, complained there was no meat on the table. Our taste buds were blissfully satisfied and our tummies sufficiently filled. Add a cold glass of milk or buttermilk and your mouth is watering. We left the dinner table happy and healthy.
I never thought much then about my mama making hot biscuits or cornbread at every meal. I guess I took it for granted. It was our norm. But now I realize one of the reasons she did it was to make the simple ingredients she had to prepare more substantial. It probably grieved her that she didn’t have meat for every supper being the perfectionist that she was. Likely, she questioned her ability as a mother providing for her children. But without even knowing it, she set a standard that I myself have never been able to meet.
Mama was right when she used to say that everything is better with a biscuit. Maybe one of her biscuits! To this day, I have never had a biscuit or cornbread that can hold a candle to my mama’s. What I wouldn’t give to sit down to that table just one more time. Slice up the cornbread, pass out the biscuits, and enjoy the love that surrounded me there.