Ma and Pa lived down a long dirt country road in a little town called Walnut Grove. There was a ditch and beside it a trailing rose bush; windows would be rolled down and the smell of hundreds of baby roses would tell Mama that she had arrived home.
Year after year my sister and I would stand on an old church floor beside a worn-out pulpit with our Sunday best on and a rose from that same dirt road perfume on our shoulder. Mother's Day after Mother's Day we quoted
Roses on my shoulder,
slippers on my feet.
I'm Mama's little baby,
don't you think I'm sweet?
Barely walking through the door of nineteen years, Mama gave birth to her first child. Fourteen months later a second child - another girl, me.
That was 1964 and 1965. Janice and me.
1971 comes along and brings with it my little sister, Penny - another girl. Two beauties.
Then comes May of 1982 and Mama becomes a mama again. This time to my baby sister, Wendy. This child would become her comfort and best friend.
Mama loved us and worried for us and prayed for us. Still does, all of those, mixed up with letting us go again and again, day after day.
This week I looked through her old cards with her.
Those are the hands that held me, spanked me, and wiped away my tears.
I found this card, dated 2006.
We almost lost her in 2005. The day my family was gathered in to say goodbye was the hardest day of my life. Tears flowing from my daddy's eyes. The eyes that had loved her for 42 years. It was a Friday afternoon and on the following Monday prayers were answered and a miracle was granted.
Thank you, Father, for leaving her here a little longer. I promise to take better care of her than I did before.
Below are tributes to Mama, or Tot, or Tee, or Tee Texas Tot, from my three sisters.
My mother lives with me. Others may think that she resides in MS, but she actually lives in my house in North Carolina. Oh, you may not be able to see her visibly, but I know that she is here, because I hear her voice every day. Sometimes, I can hear it out loud. It seems to be coming from my throat, but I know that that cannot be because I promised myself when I was young and knew everything that I would not be like my mother when I grew up and had children. No, she must be hiding in the house somewhere. I would never say such things as, "When you grow up, you will understand" or "Because I have lived longer than you, and I just know" or "We do not put folded clothes into the laundry basket just because we do not want to take the time to put them into the drawer; I do not wash clean clothes!"
Sometimes I can hear her in my head. She is admonishing me to be careful when I am out after dark by myself. She is encouraging me by saying that I can do whatever I put my mind to. She is reminding me to carry a quarter with me so I can always make a phone call to her if I get into trouble. Because it does not matter how old I get, I can always go to her when I am in trouble.
I see her sometimes, too. She is standing next to me as I cook supper each night, as I wash and fold laundry, as I kiss each of my sleeping children good night. She is laughing when I want to pull out my hair over preteen hormones, crying when I think of how my two oldest will go off to college in a year, and frowning when I lose my temper or ignore her grandchildren. She looks at me from the other side of the mirror each morning and night.
Yes, my mother lives with me. She is a part of me, a part of me that I cherish. She taught me to love God, my husband, and my children. It was Mama--with her strengths and her weaknesses--that had the primary influence on the first half of my life. I thank God that He chose to place me within her circle of influence. Mama, I am rising up and calling you "blessed." I love you.
Today is Thursday. I have spent the better part of the afternoon at my kitchen table with your granddaughter, Susan. She had been anxiously awaiting her new swimsuit pattern to come in the mail and today was the day. After she danced around for a few moments with the package in her hand, she proceeded to try to talk me into sewing with her for the afternoon, instead of doing laundry like I had planned.
While we were bent over the table trying our best to make 1 1/2 yards of swimwear fabric do the job of 2 1/2 yards (we weren’t successful), I couldn’t help but remember all the times I saw you sewing when I was growing up. By the time I came along, you were mostly just sewing dresses for Ma. You really didn’t spend too much time sewing for me like you had on Janice and Marie. I guess it wasn’t as much of a necessity by then. Anyway, as I was cutting the swimsuit out with Susan today I thought about my favorite sewing memory. Do you remember Mandy? Of course you do. What mother wouldn’t remember their daughter’s favorite doll. Susan’s was Baby Jesus, remember that? I’ll never forget how she carried that baby doll everywhere with her, calling it Baby Jesus, and dressing it in pink dresses when it wasn’t in it’s “swaddling clothes”.
Oh well, I am getting off the subject—back to Mandy. I don’t think I will ever forget coming home from school in either 1st or 2nd grade and finding you at the sewing machine. You had spent all day making me clothes for Mandy. Do you remember? The patterns had come in the packages with the clothes you and Daddy had gotten Mandy for Christmas that year. Looking back on it now, I bet you would have opened the packages and removed those patterns had you known they were in there! I don’t remember this part, but I am pretty sure that I begged you REPEATEDLY to make those clothes. The one dress that I remember the most was the little purple and blue flower print. You put lilac lace trim on the sleeves and collar. It was my favorite. I also remember one time when Susan was only about two that I decided to make her doll a nightgown. (This was not Baby Jesus by the way. It was my favorite doll of hers that I was sewing for in an attempt to get her to like it better than Baby Jesus because I hadn’t been the one to buy her Baby Jesus. Ugh...what stupid things we do as first time mothers...oh well) Anyway, I wanted to put lace on it like you had, but after messing with those tiny sleeves for quite some time, I decided that it wasn’t worth it! I’ll never forget struggling with those little sleeves and remembering all those clothes you had made for Mandy that day.
I’ve never made doll clothes for Susan (or anybody else) since then. A few years ago I did get brave and made a rag doll for her. Afterwards she wanted to make it a dress. I cringed. But, you know what? I sat down and together, Susan and I, made a doll dress for her new doll, Hannah-Diana. Her little fingers did all the little arm seams. That dress was beautiful and special in it’s own right, but in my eyes, it will never compare to that purple flower one you made for Mandy. Of course, if I were to ask Susan, I bet she would think differently.
Mamas and Daughters.
What a beautiful thing.
So, just in case I’ve never told you, thank you. Thank you for sewing. Because you did, I watched and learned. And I desired to do the same thing once I became a mother. That simple skill that you passed along to me has created some wonderful memories for Susan and I. Today was one of them. I got to spend the afternoon with my 15 year old daughter. Not because she had nothing better to do, but because she WANTED to sew with me. Your gift was so much more than just a doll dress. It was a lifetime of memories for me with my daughter. Memories that I would not take anything for. Anything, except maybe one more look at that little purple flower dress with the lilac lace trim. :)
I found this poem and I thought it said everything perfectly! I thank God each and every night that he blessed me to have you as my mother. You’ve always been my closest friend and for that I am thankful. I love you!
I Said A Mother's Prayer For You
I said a Mother's Day prayer for you
to thank the Lord above
for blessing me with a lifetime
of your tenderhearted love.
I thanked God for the caring
you've shown me through the years,
for the closeness we've enjoyed
in time of laughter and of tears.
And so, I thank you from the heart
for all you've done for me
and I bless the Lord for giving me
the best mother there could be!
- Author Unknown