“I Remember Mama,” column for April 29, 2014

Every year when Mother’s Day cards show up in the stores, I remember the woman who brought me into this world and often threatened to take me out.


I remember her on other days, too, but especially at Mother’s Day. She never cared much for gifts. I could just send a card and give her a call and she’d be happy as a mother clam.

She died nearly 20 years ago of lung cancer after smoking for most of her 70 years. A few months later, I was in a grocery store picking out a Mother’s Day card when suddenly I realized I had no one to send it to.

I could send cards to several women who’d been like mothers to me. I loved them dearly. But there was only woman I called “Mama.” And she was gone.

It’s embarrassing to admit to having a major melt-down over a shelf of Hallmark cards in Safeway. But that is what I did. I drove home, leaving a cart of groceries in the aisle, ordered a pizza for dinner and started a new Mother’s Day tradition: Remembering my mother.

It’s not as easy. I’d rather mail a card or make a phone call.

Not that my mother isn’t memorable. She blazed through life sparking memories like a firecracker in a campfire. But her memories, much like some I’ll leave behind, are not all happy. It’s hard to live 70 years without a few regrets. My mother may have had more than a few. But she did the best she could. I try to remember that.

Each Mother’s Day, I pick a different theme, a different part of who she was that I want to recall. This time it’s some of the things she said. For example:

_”You will have children one day and you will know how I feel.” It was a threat more than a promise. She was right. I did.

_”You’ve got to learn to see danger.” I did that the minute I gave birth to my first child.

_”Pretty is as pretty does.” I’m still working on that one.

_”You can’t get blood from a turnip.” I never knew what that meant. I still don’t.

_”Try to use what little sense the good Lord gave you.” I try.

_ When I begged her not to send my brother, who was 7 years old and totally blind, to board at the state school, she said, “They’ll teach him to read Braille. If he’s ever going to have a life, he’s got to learn to read.” I didn’t know at the time those were some of the truest words I’d ever hear.

_When I was a teenager and dared to suggest that she ought to get a life, she replied, “I work five days a week, clean my house on Saturday, go to church and visit my mama every Sunday. I don’t need a life. I need help.”

_One Christmas, when we fell on hard times (so hard Santa couldn’t make it to our house and folks from church gave us a basket with a ham) she said: “Life is a bank. Sometimes you give, other times you take. Either way, it’s all the same bank. But try to remember how hard it is to take, because one day, you will do the giving.”

My mother was a very smart woman. I spent the first 40 years of my life thinking how different we were, she and I. Lately, I find myself thinking just how much we’re alike.

Her favorite question was “When are you coming home?”

My standard reply was, “As soon as I can.” It meant not soon and never often enough.

The last thing she said that I can’t forget: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

Mothers come in all varieties. Some never give birth, but spend their lives caring for children who need them.
We all have different styles, different philosophies, different definitions of what it means to be a mother. But one thing most of us can agree on is this: We’d like to be remembered by our children.

I remember my mother. And someday, when I’m gone, I hope my children will remember me.

But in the meantime, I’ll gladly settle for a card or a phone call.

Comments

  1. Gina says:

    Sharon,
    You capture the essence of my mother so well, and that hole in one’s heart that is never filed once your mother is gone. Well written! I shared your column with so many friends who have lost their mothers. Thank you for changing our outlook on Mother’s Day.

  2. Sharon,

    I just love the way you shame your children into doing exactly what you want. I wonder if your mother was like that?

    Grace and peace,

    Bruce

  3. Dorothy Ezell says:

    Every week I enjoy your column so very much and every week I think I will tell you. You write such wonderful things an I look forward to them every week. Do you have any of your columns in a book?

  4. John Sanchez says:

    I love reading your editorials especially “I Remember Mama”.
    That was touching and beautiful and reminded of my mama.
    Thank You for your thoughts and cherish moments. I love reading about them!

  5. Kaye Hinson says:

    I enjoy reading your column every Sunday. This Sunday, “I remember Mama” was very special for me. I just lost my Mom about a month ago. It has been devastating to me. We were very close and best friends. I was not sure how to get through this coming Mother’s Day. I may borrow from your words and think about a special part of my Mom that day. Thank you.

  6. Andy Bedell says:

    Thanks so much, Sharon. You autographed your book for my mom and your columns always meant so much to her. Happy Mothers Day!
    Peace.
    Andy

  7. shashi says:

    Mothers are always remembered specially by daughters like you who keep
    them alive with beautiful articles .

  8. Kathy Gurthrie says:

    That was Beautiful Sharon! I am sure you touched a lot of mother’s and daughter’s hearts.

  9. Oh yes Mama. We remember you with softer hearts,greater understanding and generosity. Most of all.We miss you more now than when your spirit slipped away December 5th 1995

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