Here’s a Mother’s Day story for you about memories and love.
My mama was born in 1924. Her daddy, a sharecropper, left home in 1929 when she was, 5. Her mother and three siblings were destitute and if you know your history you know about hard times in rural Georgia. In 1929 times were about as hard as they got.
Somehow my grandmother made do and kept her family together. I heard stories growing up from my mother, but never in a whiny, complaining way. Just stories of her childhood and how things were.
Sometimes they would stay with family members, earning their keep by chopping cotton and picking in the fall for a penny a pound or “a dollar a hundred.” Sometimes the only sustenance for days came from the “pot of peas” my grandmother kept going on the wood stove. A chewed-up branch from a sweet gum tree served as a tooth brush and a hard candy Christmas would have been a treat. Not much candy came my mama’s way.
She attended Social Circle High School where she played basketball. The owner of the town’s only department store bought her basketball shoes. She was 6 feet tall when I left home, shrunken to 5 feet, 4 inches from osteoporosis when she died. Mama worked in the school cafeteria in exchange for lunch each day.
When her class, the class of 1941, graduated, their teachers escorted the entire bunch on a trip to Jacksonville Beach, Fla. Pearl Harbor was still six months away and times were still hard, but the businessmen in town donated all the money so that everyone could go. They stayed in a big boarding house a few blocks off the beach, and the teachers cooked all the meals.
Education has changed.
In Tommie Huckaby’s words, “We were leaving for the trip and my mama gave me all the money she had in the world to take with me for spending money. It was a dime.
“I saved my dime until the last night of the trip, when our teachers took us to the Boardwalk. I bought cotton candy for a nickel and used the other nickel to ride the Ferris wheel. I can still taste that cotton candy, and it was the sweetest thing I had ever put in my mouth.
“And I will never forget how beautiful the full moon was and how the moonbeams looked, shimmering off the surface of the ocean from the top of that Ferris wheel.
“My mama only had one dime to give me,” I heard my mother say many, many times throughout her life, “but that dime bought me a million dollars’ worth of memories.”
Memories. How precious they are and as we celebrate our mothers this weekend, I hope that your memories of yours warm your heart and make you happy. And if your mother is still with you, I hope you understand what a blessing that is.
My own mother has been gone for a long, long time now, but I will celebrate the day surrounded by many shining examples of what motherhood can and should be. My mother-in-law, Bitzi, will host Sunday dinner for our family. I know that’s bass-ackwards and that we should be feting her, but that’s how mothers are, and anyone who knows my mother-in-law knows that doing it her way makes life less complicated.
My own lovely wife, Lisa, has shown our three children unconditional love and has been a shining example of how strong, intelligent women can balance managing a household, raising children and excel at a profession.
Our first child, Jamie Leigh, is carrying on that family tradition with our first grandson, Sir Henley the Adorable. This year we will have a brand new mother at our celebration. My son Jackson’s wife, Brittney, gave birth to Prince Walker the Precious in February, just before the world took the craziest turn of our lifetime.
I hurt today. I hurt for mothers who are trapped in nursing homes and senior care facilities by this insidious virus that is creeping over the world and disrupting our lives. I hurt for mothers who go to sleep scared and wake up scared over what this pandemic will do to their ability to nurture and care for their families. I hurt for families who are separated by distance and fear at a time when being together is what we all need more than anything.
And I hurt for folks like me, whose mothers have crossed to the other side of the river of life.
But I treasure the memories. Oh, dear Lord, how I thank you for the memories. They are worth more than a million dollars.