One of Mama’s constraint refrains was, “None of y’uns realize how much I do for this family. When I’m gone, y’all will all realize it.”
Consider it realized.
“Mama made it so easy for me to make a living,” I said to Tink recently while we were readying for a trip. “All I had to do was call Mama and say, ‘I’m dropping Dixie Dew off for two days.’ It was easy.”
Not anymore. Now, we schedule sitters — usually night and someone during the day — and I have to clean the house (somewhat) and change the linens. Then, there’s elaborate instructions to leave for the dogs, the barn cats, horses and miniature donkey.
That’s just one of the many things I could count on. I took it for granted. In fact — let’s be honest — I normally rolled my eyes when she started that. As usual, she proved to be right.
Because of this, I’ve begun to notice other mamas and all they do to keep their families going. Like Shelli Fuller, our pastor’s wife. Not for one day would I want her schedule — she’s the mother of four, preacher’s wife (with all those obligations), a teacher, a school administrator and leader of the church youth choir. That’s just the high points. She gets up at four to take a run every day. She is always pretty and polished while keeping a strong eye of discipline on four extremely kind, well-mannered, respectful children. Whenever there’s a job needing a volunteer, she doesn’t hesitate. She’s the first one to step forward.
I think of my friend, Bess Thompson, who juggles so much but is one of the most dependable people who ever crossed my life. Take this story for example: I had been on St. Simons Island, sequestered at the historic King and Prince, working on a new book. I discovered that Hallmark was shooting a Mother’s Day movie in Savannah (“Love Takes Flight”) so I took the day off and went over to see a friend, Barbara Niven, who was co-starring in the movie.
Bess arranged a private tour for us at Bonaventure Cemetery then guided us to other high spots in the town where she had grown up. I was a good hour into the 90-minute drive back to the island when my phone rang. Barbara was calling to say she had left her make-up bag in the car which she needed before shooting the next day. I offered to turn around and drive back.
“Absolutely not,” she said firmly. “We’ll figure out something.”
“I’ll ask the front desk for help,” I promised.
Bess popped to mind so I called her and explained. Immediately, she chirped — Bess chirps happily much of the time — “I’m going to Savannah tomorrow. I’ll just take it to her.”
I dropped the bag at Bess’s house and called Barbara. “I promise it will be there by 11. Bess does exactly what she says.”
And she did, with cheer. She sets a strong example for her three children by stepping up to help others and by keeping her word. It’s one of my most comforting friendships.
We never outgrow the need of a loving, comforting mother. My “sister friend,” Pat Cooper, has generously shared her amazing mother, Anne Hodnett, with me for several years. Anne loves, encourages and cooks for me. She has the wonderful, warm gift of making me feel like I’m the only special non-family daughter to her. But I know better. Her heart is huge and she sprinkles that kind of love on many. I’m just happy to have a small piece of her rock-like affection.
To all the mamas like Shelli, Bess and Anne, thank you for the help you give to people like me.
And thank you for the children you’ve taught by stellar example.Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.