In our family my Mamma was the equivalent of The Oracle of Delphi. She was her generation’s chosen vessel for passing along cryptic myths, legends and any random facts that got caught in her net.
How did the owl get its feathers? ….. Why do you eat Tom Thumb one week after New Years and what IS Tom Thumb? …. What was Harry Truman’s hat size?
A Pierian Spring of Obscure Knowledge sprang forth around the start of the 20th Century. That is 110 years ago for those of you who were publicly educated within the past 10 years. Imagine my Mamma as a Mason jar that was dipped in that spring and from which I and my cuzzins drank during the 50s and early 60s.
My Daddy was a vociferous sponge for literature and history as a youth. He actually read “all the classics” and could discuss them. Mamma thought books were for dusting not for reading. I never saw my Mamma reading a book ….. or eating a collard green or wearing erotic lingerie.
She was, however, forever bringing up “you know what they say” stuff. A memorable example – “An inch isn’t very long unless you put it on the end of your nose.”
Her theys were usually Aunt Leone and/or Uncle Mab. I never knew either of’em. I figured Mamma made’em up like Jerry Clower’s Leadbetter Family. I learned years later that lots of her material came from late night radio shows and “Heloise”.
A nine year-old’s mind is like Velcro. Stuff sticks for intellectual digestion years later. Her “they says” float to the surface of my conscious thought at odd times. Ideally not while in heavy traffic and a thunderstorm. I can’t pick the time or circumstance.
Mamma was a crop circle. Like those mysterious creations in Welsh cornfields, no one ever really knew what Mamma meant. Was there some deeper message she was bringing to us from a parallel universe? Or is a crop circle just a crop circle.
Mamma was never much for follow-ups to her “they says”. Lively debates were not the order of the day at our dinner table. It was not frowned upon or verboten. We simply ate traditional Southern meals swimming in bacon grease and lots of Swanson TV dinners while watching Bonanza on Sunday night.
The closest we ever got to a debate came on a visit back home in the late 70s. Mamma was a yellow dog Democrat because her Daddy was a Democrat. Actually he was ideologically quite the Conservative Repub back in those days when Algore’s daddy was railing against The Civil Rights Act. The labels got flipped in mid-century but no one told my Mamma. Granddaddy having died in the 30s. Mamma was a yellow dog Democrat in the same way that some blu-dog Tar Heels believe Butch simply ‘cause he’s our coach by golly.
There was an election coming. Mamma said she was gonna vote for whatever scoundrel was the Democ candidate at that time. Probably Peanut Jimmy. I shoulda known better but I reminded her that she was supporting the same galoot that Jesse Jackson was aggressively supporting. …… It got so quiet in the room that you could hear the grandfather clock ticking in the parlour down the hall.
Mamma’s socio-cultural-political path had a few curious forks, blind alleys and deep potholes. ….. She gave me that same look that my cat, Annabelle, gives me now if I let the remote linger on a Women’s Basketball game on ESPN2. Total disbelief with a heavy dose of serious Indignation.
I broke the silence with “… any rutabegas left over from lunch?” We never discussed such matters ever again.
I’ve made my share of career and business errors in my life. Choices so screamingly stoopid that I had to scale high walls and swim shark-infested rivers to even implement them. None involved tattoos, hallucinogenic drugs or buying an AMC Gremlin or Pacer but decisions far afield from the good sense I was born with.
I can write about human absurdum. I been there and done it and have a steamer trunkload of t-shirts from it ….. Not a single one of my “You did what’s?” was my Mamma’s or my Daddy’s fault. I did every one all by myself. Thank you very much.
Without their lovin’ raising I would probably be a cadaver in a psych ward today being studied by the bottom 10% of Harvard Med School geeks. Instead I’m an Internet messiah to 1,000s. Ain’t Life Grand!
Oh, and Mamma could take a linen handkerchief and create shapes of more domesticated farm animals than you can find in an NC State pin-up calendar. I wish I had had her teach me how to do that. I could do a YouTube video teaching other folks how and make a fortune. ….. uh oh …. yet another brilliant bizness idea ….. aaaiiieeeiiiii !
2011 will go down as “a year that BobLee got Valentine’s Day right”. My batting average on gifts for Blondie is above The Mendoza Line but there have been a few “backward K’s”. But a stand-up triple this year ….. an exotic plant (an Antherium !!) and something personal in red pleather.
….. Oh come on? A “backward K” is how you score a called third strike in a baseball scorebook. Coach Reed, PLEASE tell me YOU knew that.