My Mom gave so many gifts to me over the years. The biggest one…I didn’t really notice until she was gone. Now, to be clear…I expressed my love and appreciation to Mom long before she left this earth. I knew she loved my Dad and her “two boys” more than anything in the world. She was the kind of Mom you knew you wanted on your side. She was tough, purposeful, opinionated and she would join any fight…do anything…climb any mountain…straighten out any teacher…turn the world upside down…i f she thought it would benefit her family. And, she would do all of this while having the house in perfect order, cooking 3 incredible meals a day, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
My Mom could throw a meal together that would be the most delicious food you ever had when there was “nothing to eat” in the house. She was a practical psychologist (not by degree) though I experienced most of it in “reverse.” She was good at it…I mean really good. Anything you ever needed for any conceivable need was located in her purse. If a tree had fallen across the road blocking our vacation to Daytona Beach, I believe Mom could have pulled a chainsaw out of her purse. Now to be clear, she would not have used the chainsaw herself but would have overseen the tree removal project with exhaustive oversight and exact instructions for all involved. For her, though, the purse wasn’t magic it was just thinking ahead. So, if you needed medicine for allergies, sore throat or a stomach ache it was a piece of cake.
Speaking of cake, Mom made the most incredible “Texas Sheet Cake” for her son’s birthdays every year. You might think that would get old but you haven’t had the cake. Unbelievable. It was chocolate cake leaning slightly towards brownie-ish in texture with spectacular fudge icing and pecans. I t was always “made from scratch” with no shortcuts. The big treat was getting to “lick the spoon” after she had put on the icing. And…she always made a little more icing than she needed. I would come home from school, walk in the door and she would be standing there with an outstretched arm and a big spoonful of fudge icing invitingly held before my eyes. She would give me the spoon with one hand and then the mixing bowl with the other. “Enjoy sweetheart.” That was just some kind of good! In fact, even if it was my brother’s birthday she would still have a little extra icing set aside for me. That’s the kind of thinking ahead I love.
When I came home from college she didn’t mind if I brought my laundry. In fact, I think she enjoyed doing it for me. Can you believe that? It’s like she missed having me around. Plus, she would have the menu planned out with food she knew I really liked. You’re probably catching on to the food theme by now…right? She would make Swiss steak with lima beans and rice…one of my favorites. Or, a Tex/Mex Irish stew… another favorite. Of course, there would be a big jar of Tabasco on the table. She would have her special recipe of pimento cheese with jalapenos ready for a quick snack any time. Plus, she would have a ginormous bowl of her famous Tuna fish salad. There would be “all you could eat Fritos and Bean dip” and she would have the whole cheese dip “thang” working with Velveeta cheese and Rotel tomatoes. She’d make a ham with the world’s best potato salad, yellow squash, green bean casserole…I’m starting to cry thinking about all this food. (OK, give me a minute. I can’t see what I’m writing.) The first thing I would do when I came home from UGA was to drop my bags by the door, walk to the refrigerator, open it, stare at all the food and smile, “It’s so good to be home.”
She had soft arms and loved for me to walk up behind her, wrap my arms around her and kiss her on the neck. I liked this, too, and did it often. One of my favorite pictures of all time is of her standing at the kitchen sink with me doing just that. I love the smile on her face. Of course, I put a few other expressions on her face over the years, as well. Later in life she refused to let me or my brother tell her “what really happened” about anything from our past. She would say, “I don’t want to know because I’ll worry about it all over again.”
I am indescribably blessed that she was my “mom”. As a human on this planet, I’m just glad to have had the opportunity to have known her. Three years ago she passed away and I shared about her at the funeral. I was emotionally “together” until I started talking about “how good her gravy was”. Can you believe that? That’s when I lost control and could not stop crying... “gravy”. It was a few days after the memorial when I realized I had received her greatest gift. She gave me the gift of her presence. I live with her in my heart and mind just as I always have. She is a part of who I am and I am intensely grateful. Occasionally, even 3 years later I pick up the phone to call Mom to share some news that I know she would enjoy. It takes my breath away...knowing again that she is gone from this world. To the right of this article is a You Tube video of Mom's favorite song. It's how she felt about my brother and I which is also why...it is her favorite. Enjoy.
“Mom, you inspire me to love intensely, to act decisively and to live powerful.
Always Your Little Boy,