Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Remembering Mama

Remembering Mama

As I was preparing his bath one night, my grandson Michael came running in, gave me a big hug and said, “Mama, you are the best mama in the whole world.” I would like to believe that—who wouldn’t—but I have to disagree because my grandmother was the best mama in the whole world. She’s gone now, but never forgotten.

Mama (we pronounced it Momma) was quite a lady, in every sense of the word. She always dressed, walked and talked like a lady—so much so we secretly called her ‘the duchess’. She taught me a lot about ‘ladylike’ behaviour, some of which I didn’t heed at the time because I believed, like most teenagers, that I knew it all. I have since learned those ‘old-fashioned’ ideas still hold true today.

Most clearly, I remember how it felt to be held in her arms when we would come for a visit. Mama gave the greatest hugs. Not only that, she smelled wonderful, too. She was always so glad to see us, she would make each one of us feel as if we were the most special person in her life. All of her grandchildren were special to her, each one in their own way. You really had it made though if you were a girl. She had three sons she loved dearly but Mama always regretted not having a daughter.

Don’t misunderstand. The male grandchildren didn’t miss out. She had more patience than Job with the boys’ antics, like the time my brother took her only clock apart and then put it back together with three pieces left over.

We could do no wrong, you see. But, on the off chance that one did do something to annoy her, Mama had her own revenge. All her most prized possessions were reputed to have a person’s name on the back, to be given to them at the time of her death. If you made her angry she simply threatened to take your name off. (I checked once to see if my name had come off something I coveted. It hadn’t. It had never been there in the first place.) That became the family joke. “Watch out! Mama will take your name off of….

My grandmother was much older in years than I am now, when I came along, and I find myself wondering how she had the energy to deal with our noise and games. Used to living alone (she was widowed in the late ‘30’s) we must have driven her crazy with our antics.

One of the things my sisters and I liked to do was pretend we operated the elevator in the department store where my grandmother worked. Mama’s house had been converted into three apartments to give her some extra income so her inside door was quite heavy. This became the back wall of the elevator. This was before elevators had back doors. We then took the door from the basement and opened it to meet the opened door for the closet. This gave us our enclosed elevator. All right, so it was a triangular elevator, but we didn’t care. One of us would be the elevator operator and the other children there at the time would be the store customers. The fight was usually over who would be the operator, and believe me we would fight, quite vocally, over the job. Once that was settled the doors would close. When they opened again it would be ‘First Floor—Ladies Underwear, Shoes and Dress Goods.” The doors would close and then, “Second Floor—Ladies Wear, Children’s Wear,” (and usually in deference to my Grandmother because Millinery (her department) was on an in-between floor not serviced by the elevator) “—Ladies Millinery”. I wonder if she told the store’s owners about this game because they eventually did move ladies hats to the second floor.

My mom and dad blessed my grandmother with five grandchildren, four girls and one poor solitary boy. Can you understand why he sat quietly and took clocks apart? The noise we girls made, squealing as only little girls can, probably drove him to it.

However did Mama stand the invasion? We would all come running into the house, get our hugs and kisses and proceed to help my father go through the cupboards looking for the candies she hid. We banged her cupboards, ran up and down (and sometimes fell down) her stairs, tried on her hats, shoes and jewellry, all while hollering to each other about the treasures we found.

We loved to go through Mama’s attic. It was a real cornucopia of delights. We never got tired of looking through boxes in dark corners of the back closet. The only thing I didn’t like doing up there was sleeping. My oldest sister loved to give us the ‘screaming meemies’ by telling us ghost stories that usually included the attic closet as a setting.

Have you noticed how certain smells can trigger a memory? I cannot smell fresh lemon without it reminding me of the smell of my grandmother’s kitchen. Roses remind me of Mama’s favorite perfume. She used it in her bath, her soap and as a cologne. Maybe that is why I love roses so much.

Most of all I remember Mama for all the love she gave us, unconditionally. Nothing was too good, nor was anyone good enough for her family. Sitting in the porch rocking chair with her as a little girl was one of my favourite things. My sisters and I would fight for possession of the seat beside her, the losers being relegated to the wide arms. We would rock quietly (the only time we were quiet I think) until a neighbour came along. Then my grandmother would sit up very straight (ladies do, you know) and with the dignity of a duchess, introduce us, proudly stating that her family had come to visit.

So you see, I cannot claim to be ‘the world’s greatest mama’ because I still have a lot to learn. I’m trying, though, Mama. I’m really trying.

5 Comments:

Blogger dee said...

Oh ScopeDope, that was a beautiful tribute to your Mama. Really, it was!
I have a Mama too. We say it the same way. I also ahd a Papa. I named them that, even though I was the 4th grandchild. It just stuck.
Recently, I've started calling her Grams, because my kids all call me "Momma" and it sounds too much the same, and it was confusing the babies. But still, I know what you mean. I still have a lot to learn.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Jen-t said...

Hi SDCB - you gave me chills. That was an amazing story. I had a MomMom and Pops and a Granny and Pappy. both my parents (mom and stepfather) and Mike's parents are Grandma and Grandpa.

I can't be at a lake and not think of my father and I can't see a bowl full of m & m's and not think of his parents.

If my book ever gets published, I track you down to give you my book.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Scope Dope Cherrybomb said...

Thanks ladies. This is a special piece to me. It always brings tears to my eyes when I reach the end. I lived with my grandmother for four years as a teen and it was hard for both of us at times but wonderful too because she gave such unconditional love.

As I told Dee this was published in two small town newspapers, one for Mother's Day. Since I was never paid for it, it still belongs to me.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Jen-t said...

Hi SDCB - I haven't seen Lani in a while. Hopefully she'll be at our meeting this weekend. I'll e-mail her. Thanks. I'm excited to find out what it is!

11:48 AM  
Blogger Jen-t said...

Hi SDCB - Looks like I will be making the meeting!

How are you feeling? here's my e-mail - jtalty@talty.com. Keep in touch.

6:07 PM  

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