Posted by: Beth | May 8, 2021

LESSONS FROM MAMA

     I sit here typing on Mother’s Day Eve.  My emotions have been all over the place the last couple weeks. Wonderful things have happened in my circles of friends and family.  Not so great things have happened.  Memories, more emotions than events, have flooded my brain.  I’ve struggled with how to do things differently so we create more happy memories than ones we would rather forget. Then, in one instant, all these stories flashed through my mind.  My mama, my teacher. Yes! I can write something this Mother’s Day weekend!   

     Yes, Mama was a teacher. As a young woman, she did not go to college. She had no formal training in education.  But she was one of those natural-born teachers. Perhaps there is something in our blood, in our DNA, that carries that knack of communicating skills and ideas to others. There can be an intuitive side to knowing how to do a task, then figure out enough ways to explain it and demonstrate it so that others can understand and do it, too.
    I don’t remember learning to read. I don’t know how much I knew when I started school, but academics were mostly easy for me all the way through.  We had books.  Even when books were not cheap, we owned books.  We met the book mobile at the old schoolhouse every week during the summer and used the school library during the school year.  Mama made sure I had little math workbooks to do over the summer.  Now I know the educational value of that.  When I was eight, I just thought it was fun to play school. 

     Mama played games with us.  We had house rules for Monopoly and Scrabble decades before “house rules” were an acceptable thing. (I was shocked when I saw space to write house rules in some games we purchased last year.)  She helped us learn to count the Monopoly money.  She gave hints about words that could be made from our seven letters in Scrabble.  As adults, we would all help each other.  None of us became champion Scrabble players, but we had a good time and learned new words.

     Our daughter remembers Granny walking through the yard and woods, showing her which plants could be used for what things.  Years later during graduate school, she reviewed some of those facts. Either Mama was too busy taking care of three children for she and I to do that, or I simply didn’t pay attention.  I was that kind of child.

     Without saying “The arts are important” to overall education, Mama taught us that.  I started piano lessons when we could take them during the school day.  She drove to a friend’s house or our grandmother’s so I could practice that first year.  When during-the-school-day lessons were no longer an option, Mama made sure we got to piano lessons in the community.  During high school my sister played flute and bass drum in the marching band and participated in school plays.

     Mama taught me how to cook and freeze and can. I used to think everybody knew the difference in the consistency of cornbread, biscuits, and cake just before it goes into the pan.

     Occasionally while I’m crocheting someone will ask when I learned how.  I do not know; I’ve just always known. Cross-stitch I remember learning – I was 18.  That’s one thing Mama didn’t teach me. But, she did teach me embroidery and sewing which are close relatives of cross-stitch.

     I could write an entire blog post – or more – of the lessons in these two statements she made.  Our children were young and it was hard to decide sometimes which activities to do and which to skip.  I asked her opinion.  She said, “I have always regretted that I didn’t teach your sister how to make biscuits and that you didn’t get to take dance.  You just have to do the best you can with the information you have at the time and then move on.”

     You are not too old to learn.  When I was born, Mama became a stay-at-home mother until sixteen years later when she went to work in a shirt factory.  When clothing manufacturing moved to China, her factory closed.  A government-funded program paid for her to go to college.  She earned her degree as a licensed practical nurse at the age of 47 and worked in that field until shortly before her death.  I learned that lesson well; I went back to college at the age of 49.

     Community is important.  She and a friend became the leaders of a local 4H chapter so that children would have a place to learn about agriculture, cooking, sewing, electricity, public speaking, and oh so much more.  They MADE us do our jobs as secretary, treasurer, vice-president, and president.  Being shy or rambunctious were replaced with orderly, confident speaking.

    Children are unique and you must bring them up differently.  Our brother had a time academically, and it resulted in some funny stories.  He is also a hard worker and helped financially with the farm when no one else knew about it.  We all knew he was out there with Daddy getting the chores done.

     Children do not need to know everything.  I knew as a child that we didn’t have as much stuff as some other families. Mama told us she had to make payments at the dentist office.  He was more expensive than some others, but he provided care at an orphanage for no cost to those children, and he allowed payment arrangements so she would pay a little more. That taught me that you can manage what you have well enough that you can share with others who are less fortunate. After Daddy died and I had access to some old records, I gained a better idea of how much they had scrimped and saved so they wouldn’t be burden on anyone if they grew very old.  I also appreciate more that as a child I never knew any of that.  I only knew I was loved and cared for and had all my needs and some of my wants.  No need to spill all our adult troubles on our children.  Let them be children.

    There is great value in being at peace with life and death.  The last day I saw her alive she was propped on pillows in a bed at Spartanburg Regional Hospital.  Little 6-month-old grandson cuddled next to her for a while.  At one point she said, “I’m going home tomorrow, one way (pointing out the door) or another (pointing up).”  She died that night.

#bgwww21


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