Holes in a sweater, holes in life

Published 8:16 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

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Mama came by the other day.

I was putting flowers in the ground when she drove up. I was filled with sudden happiness. But, when I turned around, Mama wasn’t there.

Mama died on January 14, 1995. But, every now and then, she comes by. I can hear her in the kitchen singing one of “them ol’ hillbilly songs,” or the whistling of her tea kettle or the peddling of her sewing machine.

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My world is filled with memories of Mama.

Just the other day, I was reminded of Mama and her “job” at Green’s Antiques.

She loved being there and I would often have lunch with her.

“Today,“ I would say, “we are going to be pioneer women.” And I would “set” one of the old wood tables with glass plates, tie bonnets on our heads and devour Crowe’s Fried Chicken.

Other times, we would be Victorian women and be seated at a polished oak table and nibble on chicken salad.

Often, we would play nine holes of golf. Mama didn’t hit the ball far but it went as straight as an arrow down the fairway. She would sigh loudly when I knocked the ball a mile and into the pond or the piney woods.

When I dust the den shelves, they are filled with memories of Mama.

Just the other day, I stood holding a picture of Mama as a little girl. She was in the first grade and the children were having their school pictures taken. Mama’s family didn’t have a lot of money and her sweater had a big hole in the elbow. She said she was so ashamed to have her picture taken in that ragged sweater, so she crossed her arms and held her hand over the hole so no one could see it. She always seemed so sad when she told that story.

I thought about how much that hole in her sleeve hurt her and how easily she covered it. But, when she took her hand away, the hole was still there and so was the hurt.

I often think of the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay: “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world which I find myself walking around in the daytime and falling into at night. I miss you like hell.”

I can’t keep from stumbling into the hole Mama’s death left in my life, even after all these years.

I’ve had to learn the hard lesson of living around the emptiness of that hole in my life. At times, I move around it gingerly. Other times, I dance, and then there are times when I fall into a pit of dark sadness.

I can’t cover up that hole in my life any more than Mama could cover up the hole in her sweater.

And, “it hurts like hell.”

Sunday is Mother’s Day.

To borrow the words of the late Lewis Grizzard: Hug your mother today. I sure wish I could hug mine.