My wedding was probably one of the biggest wild ideas I had - I got engaged in May and told my mother I intended to get married in August - three months away. Being a good Southern Mama, she knew what was expected of a Southern Wedding. And even though she was under a deadline (and I was not about to budge on the date - I was getting married!), she managed to pull it altogether - along with a few mother-daughter thunderstorms along the way. Thankfully my sister Marilyn served as a go-between, calming those thunderstorms as they popped up.
Most of our married life, we lived away from my hometown of Starkville, Mississippi. However, any vacation was spent going back home. After my children started arriving, she would call everyday on her lunch break (she worked at the college campus phone office). Her calls would come just about the time I had the kids (two at the time) were asleep. And just about the time I was ready to nap. But I knew to wait for her call, and the proceed to grumpily tell her that my day was the same as yesterday - boring as usual. This pattern continued until I found out that I was pregnant with our third child - and six weeks later she found out she had stomach cancer.
Life changed because I realized that our time together, which sometimes held its share of conflicts, could be limited. And sure enough, six months later and six weeks before Molly arrived, Mama passed away. We all had been with her, but Marilyn was living in Chile and needed to return to get her children ready for school. I had to return to Florida to check in with my OB. My brother John was two hours away, and on call to get back home as needed. And once Marilyn and I had both returned to our homes and families, we got the call that she has passed away.
At this point in my life, I've lived longer without my mother than I did with her. I felt that at the point of her death, we had just begun to understand and accept each other for who we were as women. It's taken a bit of therapy to get through a lot of feelings both good and hurtful about our relationship. I have a lot of regrets and wishes. But today, in case you never met her, I would like to tell you the Top Ten Things about my mother.
1. We called her Mama. Not Mom (we lived in the South, y'all), not Mother, not Mommy. And she was your born and bred Southern Mama.
2. She was a great seamstress. She made our clothes and sometimes let us pick out our own patterns. She made curtains and tableclothes and lots of other sewing projects.
3. She was a great cook. My father was a farmer, so she always made a full dinner (that's lunch for some of you folks, but in the South, dinner was a full meal with meat, several vegetables, corn bread, salad, and of course, a dessert - supper was all those leftovers, plus some more fillers in case something got 'et up).
4. She took classes later in life, like cake decorating and painting (she painted the picture in the photo above). I wish I had asked her why, and what she would have done with her life, had she had the chance. She also finally learned to swim later in life. Clearly she was not finished living her life.
5. She was a protective mama. Once we were at the beach, playing in the waves. My brother and I somehow got in the undertow. I remember nothing except my mother pulling us up out of the water. She was also probably fussing at us, but I can only imagine her fear - and determination that the ocean was NOT going to get her babies! Another time, I was in grade school and decided I needed to call my mother at home (at that time she was a stay-at-home mom). There was a phone on the counter at the principal's office, and my friend and I decided to go use it. Well, the principal heard us and picked up the phone and promptly told my mother that we did not have permission to use the phone. To which she told the principal that her child had permission any time of day to call her. I still think I got in trouble, but I believe if the principal ever saw me on the phone again, he looked the other way.
6. As best she could, she encouraged me. She took us to swim lessons and later to swim team practices (I'm not sure this was all our idea, but she consistently took us where we needed to be). When my piano teacher and I declared World War III and one of us was determined that the other one was not coming out from our next lesson standing, my mother found me a new piano teacher. When I wanted to join band, she consented when the band director said apparently the only thing I could make a sound on was the saxophone. When I decided to become a majorette (when you quit laughing, you can continue reading), she found somebody to teach me (and yes, I did indeed twirl through my brief high school career). Sure, there were things that she did not encourage, but those get lost in the things she did encourage.
7. She kept a clean house. Sometimes we had a maid and sometimes we didn't. But the house was always spotless, no thanks to us kids. Of course, there was a living room that nobody dared enter. As a kid, I remember cleaning off the leaves of some houseplant. She also ironed a lot, including pillowcases (oh, you do too? I would, but I have to catch up on my blogging). She dusted, she swept, she washed, and when it was all done, she started over.
8. She was a lot of fun, I believe. I didn't always see this. But from the stories of her friends and family, she was indeed fun. I see pictures of her smiling and believe this. And I believe we would have had those fun days, had she been able to have more days.
9. She was a proud Mammaw. She loved her grandchildren, those she got to meet. She was proud of them and loved to show them off. And I believe that those she didn't get to meet, she somehow met them on their way down to Earth (spare me your theology). I think she would have enjoyed them as they grew up, and been that kind of Mammaw that would have loved them without reserve.
10. She loved all three of her kids the most. Once I became a mother, I realized what mother love was all about. It's about being willing to give up your life for your child's. It's about being willing to stand up for your child, even if they might be a little bit in the wrong. It's about protecting your child however you need to. It's about letting your heart be broken, if somehow it makes your child happy. I was blessed to be loved that way - I just wish it could have lasted a little longer on this Earth.
Today is a gift because: breakfast with Everley, Molly, and KB; Everley's play time with Miranda; Publix-ing with Molly; safe travel home for Steve; Mathieu airing up my tires