Posted May 7, 2010
When thinking about my mother, I have so many fond memories. I loved to watch her hands making biscuits from scratch using buttermilk. She had the lightest touch, the flakiest biscuits.
She taught me so many things:
How to recognize snow clouds.
How to roll paint on a wall.
How to make sawmill gravy.
How to make my first dress when I was twelve.
How to enjoy big band music and a tear jerking country ballad.
How to love those less fortunate.
How to tell a good story.
How to read poetry, especially John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snowbound."
"...The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts..."
And to never, ever, be caught dead wearing white before Easter or after Labor Day - always wearing clean underwear just in case I was in a car wreck was just plain common sense. "Surely you have more brains than God gave a goat."
We dug, divided and shared iris, peonies, and lillies, carrying them from home to home, state to state to make our houses, homes. Mother planted Burgundy Lace tulips around my Dogwood tree and bought my Magnolia for planting on my birthday - because every good southern girl needed the fragrance of a Magnolia tree in her front yard while sipping homemade mint tea.
At a tender age, when my darling grandmother had the audacity to suggest, "You need to make Vicki do the dishes," I loved my mother even more when she replied, "She'll have her own dishes to wash soon enough and for the rest of her life." I was the kind of child who would rather "do the guitar" while writing a new song, or throw a saddle on a horse that didn't want to be ridden. Grandmother might have been tired of holding the horses so I could trot to lug the ladder back to mount. I guess she reckoned dishes and soap suds were a whole lot safer than anything with striking hooves.
I sat next to Mother night after night in her four-poster cherry bed that was framed in between floor-length celery-green curtains while she listened to me recite passages from Heidi for a school contest. She'd hand sewn my Heidi costume the week before.
She took me to the downtown library to search for books on Saturdays and then to church on Sundays, having me tote my Bible while wearing black patent-leather Mary Jane's and a new Toni perm gone bad on a search to find Jesus. I didn't know a whole lot about Toni - who I figured was the devil incarnate because the smell from those perms had to be the smell straight from hell - but I knew a whole lot about Jesus and took it on faith at nine-years-old that where he came from smelled a whole lot nicer. And I began praying that Jesus would perform a miracle and put some curl into my hair to save me from Toni's next visit and Mother's words: "We're gonna put some curl in that hair or die trying."
Mother also helped nurture my children. They called her Meco because the first grandchild couldn't say grandmother or anything that sounded close. She was always stuffing them in baskets. I never knew where I would find my babies. "Mother, neither of my girls was dubbed Moses, nor are you Moses's mama."
She planned July 4th family reunions and could whip up a Dr. Pepper cake or a blackberry cobbler before the last chigger could say "Found me a live one boys - dig in and chow down!" Constantly trying out new recipes from Southern Living Magazine, Meco was southern living personified times ten.
One of my fondest memories was sharing a bedroom with her while at the beach outside of Charleston, South Carolina. I stayed up half the night listening to her tell stories from her Alabama childhood. I've never laughed so hard as I did that night when she described the colorful characters who either sashayed, pranced, strutted, or stumbled through the vignettes of her life. My ribs ached, I'd cracked the cucumber mud mask on my face, and the sheets were wet from tears of laughter before we finally turned out the lights in preparation for regaining our beauty sleep so we could find the perfect sweetgrass basket at the Charleston market the next day. Mother was always first to rise. Listen to her: "The crack of dawn is when you find the best sea shells. Time to hit the beach girls!"
But forgive me if I've put Meco on too high a pedestal. Though she was colorful with hazel-green eyes, naturally wavy raven hair and her Ruby Evelyn name, Mother was by no means perfect. As any memorable character from a Flannery O'Connor story, she was also flawed. Sometimes she would bad mouth another poor woman's "lousy potato salad without the first speck of onion" or rail about "the worst hush puppies I've ever put in my mouth - they're supposed to be light as a feather and float to the top of the grease. Not drown in it." Or, "Since cousin Beulah's German Shepherd dog bit me while I was trying to pay her a sick visit, I'll not darken her front porch with a German Chocolate cake ever again. Your daddy, smart alec that he is, had the gall to say, 'Guess now you'll stop trying to be a good Samaritan since your fanny looks like ground hamburger!'"
Of course, all was discussed in private. Meco would never have mentioned the lack of onion in someone's potato salad, the drowned condition of someone's hush puppy, nor the state of her derriere in public. Well, almost never. Well, maybe closer to her latter days like when Margaret Mitchell wrote in Gone with the Wind that it was permissable and acceptable to do some things after forty and not be socially shunned forever or chastised into eternity. Okay, some of those phrases were mine.
But once, Meco accused every person who'd ever helped peel a potato in her kitchen or propped their feet beneath her table of running off with her favorite paring knife. After decades of dinners and a half century of suppers, the knife finally fit her hand like something close kin between a second thumb and an extra index finger. She later found the alleged hijacked utensil tucked somewhere in between the extra crystal sweet tea pitcher and the ruby-red dishes reserved for special artery clogging desserts that required either a scoop of ice cream or a sauce that would intoxicate the whole state of Georgia - or both. Right where she'd left it. Of course, I never let her live that one down.
However, Mother never stopped helping others while also being an instigator of fun. Back when Daddy decided he was going to feed the entire free world and used his Saturdays to plant 60 acres of every kind of vegetable or fruit God had dreamed up, Meco would stand twelve rows over in the middle of a field on a hot summer's day and hit me right between the eyes in a free for all tomato fight. She was usually first to draw blood. I wore eau de tomato and nursed my wounds the entire hour back to our city home many a time - and me just a half grown child.
She was not only the best Mom, she was my best friend.
There are so many more stories about her, I could write a book. She was an unknown legend in her time, and I miss her something fierce as we say in the South.
And Mother, I know you're reading this so be sure to save a place for me on a fluffy cloud in the giggle corner because I know that's where I'll find you - wearing a lei and a smile like you've just been vacationing and deplaned off Aloha Airlines.
Oh, and Meco, even though I pitched a few hissy fits when you fried my straight hair into bouncing curls with those Toni perms so I would look more ladylike and less like a heathen, I never forgot about searching for Jesus. Just thought you'd like to know I've marked the passage in my Bible "...do not forsake your mother's teaching." Proverbs 1:8
Love you and see you soon.