Hug your mama today while you still can

Published 3:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mama died on January 14, 1995. The next day would have been her birthday.

Not a day has gone by since that I haven’t thought about Mama, haven’t spoken her name.

Mama had a way of saying things, doing things that ingrained her in my memory forever.

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My first memory of Mama is of her singing in the kitchen in the early morning hours – “What a friend we have in Jesus …” Then, I would hear her teakettle whistle and smell the coffee as she poured it in “her” cup.

And, all those Saturday nights I sat at her knees playing paper dolls while we listened to the Grand Ol’ Opry from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Many nights, Mama and I would walk up to the school auditorium to the all-night singing. The Happy Rhythm Boys and the Tadlocks were our favorites. We’d clap until our hands stung but we never got tired of listening. We loved gospel music “Mama and me.”

Mama had a less than soft side and my behind end often stung from the switching she gave me. Her favorite Bible verse was “spared the rod and spoil the child” and she didn’t spare the rod or the keen switch that lived on top of our refrigerator.

Mama’s yeast rolls, her banana puddin’ and her sweet potato custard top anything I’ve ever eaten.

I cherish the days when she would call me and say she’d cooked a pot of dumplin’s. We would sit at the kitchen table, eat dumplin’s and chicken livers and watch “As the World Turns.”

Some of the most special times in my life were spent in the kitchen with Mama. She would wash and I would dry.  She never had a dishwasher. Neither have I. Something magical happens when one washes and one dries.

On cold winter days Mama would put on her “old head rag” and go out and pick up pecans. She loved doing that and she loved her dog, Fluffy, but she couldn’t stand a cat rubbin’ on her legs.

Mama was real pa’ticlar. She didn’t want to go out to eat and seldom did. She wouldn’t touch a bite of food at family reunions unless she knew who cooked it — and many times if she did know who cooked it.

Late in life Mama got a “little ol’ job” working at Green’s Antiques. Her wish was to be a teacher but she didn’t have the opportunity. She would have been a good one.

Some days, I would go down to the antique shop and have dinner with her.

“Today, we’re going to be pioneer women,” I’d say and set the dinner table at an old plank table. Or “today, we’re going to be high society” and I’d set the table with fine china from the shop.”

Those were great dinners together.

At the heritage center in Clio last Saturday, I stepped in the room dedicated to Dr. Stroud Jackson and memories of Mama came flooding back. He was Mama’s doctor. His office in Clio was always packed and you’d have to wait all day in hopes of “Miss Ruth” calling you back to see the doctor. I’d beg Mama, “let’s go.” But Mama said all she needed to do was see Dr. Jackson’s face and she’d be better.

Mama got sick in May 1994 but Dr. Jackson had died. I kept thinking, if only Mama could see his face … maybe she would get better.

To borrow a quote from Lewis Grizzard, “Hug your mama today.”

I sure wish I could hug mine.