I Loved My Mother

I loved my mother. 

She wasn’t very good at parenting. She didn’t have the skills or backbone for discipline. She was the queen of denial and avoiding difficulty. She left the job of raising me up to our maid, Elizabeth aka Woosie, for the first six years of my life. After that I was pretty much on my own. 

When Mama found the cigarettes, I was smoking as a teenager she left me a note saying, “if these are yours, don’t smoke it’s a terrible habit,” no words were ever spoken as I watched her, and daddy smoke a pack or two per day. When my best friend, Elaine and I got caught sneaking out the car, our punishment was to sleep in separate bedrooms. We laughed as we meet in the hallway to play our usual game of double solitaire. It was easy to go camping with my boyfriend because I knew my parents would never check to make sure I really was sleeping over at Elaine’s. 

My parents divorced then remarried after a couple of years. It was just me and Mama in our two-story house. My older siblings had all flown the coup. Mama spent her evenings in her bedroom drinking her sorrows away. One evening I was off babysitting. When I got back home the house was locked. Banging on the door and the window right next to her bed didn’t wake Mama. I absolutely can’t remember how I got in that night or if I spent the night with a friend. My boyfriend often spent the night with me on the 2nd floor that I had full reign of. 

She didn’t speak to me for weeks, when I dropped out of sorority rush (because I thought it was a bunch of bullshit). I had disappointed Mama since I came from a lineage of the sought after Chi Omega and Tri Delta sororities. We had spent several days shopping for outfits just for rush. She had loved that I was debutante in my high school years, that we had a reason to go to New Orleans to find the perfect dress for the ball, that we attended and put on mother/daughter luncheons.
It was important to my mama that our family keep up appearances, fit into the high society crowd of our Southern city. That was a value she was raised with. Women’s education, thoughts and desires were not part of her upbringing. Her job was to stand by her husband, make a home, hire the right maid, keep up with society, join the Junior League and attend church. She succeeded in all those duties. 

With maturity I was able to see my mama as the flawed human being we all are. She was a product of her environment, raised in an upper-class Southern family, taught that appearances were everything. 

As an adult, I enjoyed my mother. She loved nothing more than to have all her “chickens”, her four children, in the same room. She loved it when her grown chickens landed in the kitchen raiding the refrigerator mainly to get to her lemony homemade mayonnaise to dip saltines in. She enjoyed cooking for us and having everyone around the table. She loved to laugh. She loved to take us shopping. She loved helping set up our homes. I was tickled by her can do spirit when she came to my newly bought home in Oregon. As we stared at the dated carpet, we began to wonder what was underneath. She got on her hands and knees to pull back a piece. There was a treasure of beautiful oak floors underneath. The rest of the day was spent pulling up carpet even moving the decorated Christmas tree. Nothing was going to stop her. 

My oldest sister threw a party for Mama’s 80th birthday. I told mama I wouldn’t be able to fly down. She only learned of my surprise when I rang her doorbell and offered to drive her to the party. She kept me by her side for the entirety of the party, sharing how pleased and surprised she was when she answered the door. 

When she wasn’t visiting or I wasn’t flying South for a visit, our regular Sunday phone calls kept us in touch. We ended our calls with “I love you” and meant it.  

Since her death in 2010, many Sundays I’ve longed to pick up the phone and call her.