Things Mama Told Me… by JoAnn

A child holding letters that spell out mama.

My Mama was a very unique woman—strong, independent, and stubborn. Yet feminine and loving to a fault. She wore her heart on her sleeve and paid the price of getting it broken several times. She never learned to drive because it made her too nervous. Yet she endured some of the most challenging times of anyone I have known. She could be prim and proper if need be but let loose with us kids and roll on the floor with the giggles. Thunderstorms would stop her in her tracks, and she’d make me and my sister lie on the bed with her till it was over. Yet when sick, she refused to take to her bed.

Mama was very wise. At some time in my adulthood, I realized that every piece of advice she had ever given me, unsolicited or requested, had turned out to be true. How did she know so much? Now that I am 60 years old, that question is no longer a mystery. She had lived through it all to know, much like I feel now. I am sure I still have a few things to learn, though.

Mama has been gone since February 2000. But I can still hear her voice in my head. Some of the old wives’ tales she told us, I still remember with a smile. Don’t go barefoot before summer, or you’ll catch a cold. Don’t play in the rain, or you’ll catch pneumonia. Don’t drink soda pop with ice cream, or you’ll get bubbles in your belly. Eat a watermelon seed, and a watermelon will grow in your stomach. One of my favorites, she always told my dad, when scolding him for overeating, that you can fatten a hog on apples. Meaning that eating too much of anything, no matter how healthy, is not good. He never won those arguments.

Those are silly little things that lots of parents say to their kids. But Mama would tell us some things she believed to be true. She had been raised in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee. Most people lived a difficult, poor life up in the mountains. Many of those mountain people had superstitions that had been handed down to them through generations. They believed these superstitions to be the truth. My Mama was no different.

Mama was a believer in bad luck. She told us never to open an umbrella in the house because it was bad luck. If a bird flew into the house, it meant someone was going to die. If she had a bad dream, it was more than a nightmare. It was a premonition and warning to be taken very seriously. I remember one story she told me that stuck with me more than any other. She said that if a pregnant woman sees something upsetting or ugly, it will “mark” her baby. For example, if a pregnant woman had been frightened by a mean dog, her baby may be born looking like a dog. It sounds ridiculous, but my Mama believed it to be true, just as her mother and grandmother had before her.

Mama also told me some funny pieces of wisdom. Like you can’t make sense with a drunk, and a drunk will pee anywhere! Unfortunately, I have experienced both of those things to be very accurate. I’ll never tell you how I know this, so don’t ask me. Just know Mama was right again.

My Mama was a unique, beautiful woman, inside and out. She could be bold or peculiar and sometimes make you think she was downright mean. Then the love would twinkle in her eyes and soften her voice. Mama was quite a character, and I loved her exactly that way! I miss her every day.

Till we meet again, Mama, keep Daddy in line.