In the middle of a deep discussion yesterday, someone asked me when I realized I was no longer a child. I guess they assumed I had finally grown up, which is open for debate in some circles.
But my answer was easy. I knew I was no longer a child the day my mother died. I was 29 years old and she was only fifty-four, but I was forced to grow up that April day in 1977. That’s the last time there would be anyone in the world who always put me before herself.
She lives on in many ways – through her recipes I cook for my family, through her declarations which were sometimes the product of her own imagination. (Example: She always warned me not to sit too close to the TV set, else I’d get mutations. I wasn’t clear on the concept, but I imagined growing a second nose or something equally horrific.) Twenty years later I was telling my boys the same thing.
She was a woman of many talents (she never had a day of piano lessons but could sit down and play any tune you could hum) but the one that fascinated me the most was her ability to touch her nose with her top lip!
She was very petite, sweet and funny, and I often wondered if I was adopted. When we would go shopping together, store clerks assumed we were sisters which delighted her to no end.
My favorite photo of her is where she is sitting on her mother’s sofa pretending to smoke a cigar. Believe me, tobacco never touched those lips.
So, today I remember and honor by mother, Vivian Lee Braddock.
Her portrait hangs in my parlor and sometimes on a warm summer night, I imagine I can hear her calling me to come on home. She always called me in sing-song fashion, “Em ie lee, come home” with three syllables. I knew that meant business.
I also remember when her eyesight began to go fuzzy, and she broke down and bought some glasses. She went berserk when she put them on and discovered our dining room wall paper had stripes. She never liked stripes.
I begged her over and over to tell the story of Orson Well’s “War of the Worlds” and how my grandmother tuned it in on the radio, and made her and her three sisters get under the bed when the “aliens” began their fictional invasion.
I remember the time Larry McHaney uttered the “s” word which I’d never heard before. I ran to the back door and asked her through the screen what “s-h-i-t” was. I remember her hand coming out the door to pull me inside and telling me I could never play with him again.
In retrospect, I’m surprised she even knew the word. I never heard an obscenity uttered from her lips. I wasn’t even allowed to say Dadgummit.
The funniest story was told to me only recently. We had a Boston terrier named Tubby and our next door neighbor was named Tubby Foster. The neighbors speculated about Mother who was always walking up and down the street calling for Tubby (the dog, of course, not Mr. Foster).
Her greatest accomplishment was to graduate from Mississippi State University in the spring of 1977, but she never got to receive her degree because she died of cancer a week before graduation. The diploma was awarded posthumously. I have it in my office.
For all you mothers out there – and even if you’re not – I bet you’ve “mothered” someone along the way – I hope you have a wonderful day. What this world needs is more “mothering.”