There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t remember Mama. Many of the times that she crosses my mind, I am doing something that she taught me how to do.
A few weeks ago when I altered a dress, I clipped the thread at an angle before I wrangled it through the needle and smiled as I remembered Mama showing me how and telling me how much easier it made it. When I dropped the foot and slowly began the machine, I carefully “back-tacked” and heard her saying, “This is very important so that the seam won’t unravel. Now, listen to me. Do you hear?”
Every time I empty a bowl of batter, Mama’s voice rings in my ears, “Scrape that bowl again. You left two tablespoons of batter.” She would always tell the story of her friend, Mildred, who was never a good money manager and who wasted far more than she used. “She’d leave half of the batter in the bowl. You scrape it until you have every drop out. Listen to me. Do you hear?” And, truly, when Mama finished emptying a dish of cornbread, biscuit or cake batter, her bowl would look practically washed.
When spring tiptoed in, I began to plant the baskets that hang on the back porch. Carefully and with thoughts of Mama, I placed small rocks and broken ceramic pieces in the bottom to provide good drainage. Sentimentalist that I am, some of those baskets still have rocks that Mama used when she helped me to pot flowers a decade ago. I find it hard to throw away anything that had to do with Mama.
I’m the only one who makes biscuits the way she instructed – never a rolling pin or a cutter. Whenever I pinch off a piece of dough and roll it quickly with my hand before placing it on the pan, I think of all the times I watched Mama do just that. For most of her life, she made a hearty, hot breakfast every morning with eggs, sausage or country cured ham, sawmill gravy and always a steaming pan of buttermilk biscuits. In her later years, she took to cooking “breakfast for supper” and calling the family to come. We still enjoy breakfast for lunch or supper.
Mama was always one for “figuring”. Her mind was sharp and she could think out of the box in typical Scotch-Irish style with plain common sense and thriftiness. As we were spring cleaning this year, the gate presented a problem. It needed to be scrubbed down but was too far away from the house for the garden hose to reach.
“I know!” I exclaimed after a few moments of pondering. “We’ll use that ‘spaceman sprayer backpack’ we have for the weeds. We’ll put water in it and rinse with that.” It worked perfectly and I winked toward heaven at Mama. She taught me to think for solutions like that.
“When you come up hard like I did, you have to figure out how to do things,” she often said. Many of those times, her “figuring” called for masking or duct tape.
Whenever I see towels and bed linens on sale, I always pause to think of Mama and something she said when I was eleven. I had found a pair of sheets she wanted – most of her household linens were forced to last for 20 or 30 years – and excitedly ran over to tell her. “I’ll wait,” she said with a shrug. “I might be able to afford them more when they’re not on sale than I can afford them now.” If you think about it, it does make a lot of sense.
So, it’s the season we celebrate mothers but I can honestly say that every day is Mother’s Day to me because without all she taught me, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed or make it through the day.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know About Faith. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.