I was relatively young when I lost my mother, and being an only child from a small family, it didn’t readily allow me a surrogate. But I managed to find my way to adulthood buoyed by the solid foundation and high standards my mother had instilled in me. Then about 27 years later, I was introduced to the Alabama-based mother of a Rhode Island friend, and it was a whole new ballgame! I was immediately "adopted," whether I liked it or not!
“Mama” could not be more different from my birth mother, yet she has since endowed me with her own brand of wit and wisdom that has given me direction, given me purpose — and at times, given me pause.
Mama is one of those mothers that does not take "no" for an answer. She loves unconditionally, but takes no prisoners in the process. She is firm in her resolve, allowing no one to change her mind about those things that are really important. Like family. Like children behaving properly (she ran her own day care center for years). Like traditions. And like celebrations; for when it comes to Mother's Day, her birthday, anniversary, or any other celebratory occasion, Mama lets you know well in advance exactly what she wants.
"Send me my flowers while I'm alive," she intones every year as each holiday or special occasion approaches. Like most mothers, Mama adores flowers, but the idea of one day lying in some funeral home surrounded by arrangements she can neither smell nor see angers her. "I want my flowers, and I want them now!"
Regrets. We all have them, and taking Mama’s advice can certainly eliminate some big ones. How many times have we wanted to go visit that relative or cherished friend we haven’t seen in a while, but it’s just not the “right” time? We have too much work, we’re too busy with other activities, the weather’s too cold, the weather’s too hot, we’re a little short on cash, we’ll do it soon. But then you get a phone call that this person is very ill, or worse, has died, and suddenly we’re able to drop everything because we “have to be there.”
Well, Mama is telling us, “get there now!” Prioritize what’s important in life; and according to her, what is most important are the people with whom we share a history, memories, and love.
Mama’s advice doesn’t necessarily apply just to the dire. It can be merely a matter of making that phone call you’ve been putting off, arranging the dinner you’ve been promising to share with those new neighbors, or spending time with a child. To a child, “Not now, later” can seem an eternity … and in many cases, it is. Yet it’s a funny thing about children. While we’re putting things off, that pencil mark on the wall keeps getting higher, because they’re growing up with or without our attention, and one day they won’t have time to “play” with us.
Mama is also one helluva cook, perhaps like your mother or grandmother. And in the true old-fashioned way that the nonnas and the bubbes, the memes and the avos had, not one recipe was ever written, no accurate unit of measurement ever taken. Certainly not entered into a computer! So if no one makes Sunday “gravy” like your nonna, no one concocts a chicken soup to cure every illness on the planet the way your bubbe does, and no one makes bread, cookies, pot roast, whatever it is — like whomever it is — record it now! Stand there in her kitchen and take notes, or tape it on that smartphone of yours.
Stolen moments. Missed opportunities. Regrets. All part of human nature, but in many cases it’s one of the few things we can alter.
Mama always corrected people when they would say to her or someone else, “You’re the best.” She never believed anyone was ever the best, but in typical Mama-fashion she’d chide,“You ain’t the best … but you’re some of ’em.”
Guess it’s time to go give her a call and order some flowers. It’s way beyond Mother’s Day, and her birthday’s not till September, but I don’t need any more reason to surprise her with a bunch of posies other than she’s alive … and she’s “some of ’em.”
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.