Sunday, November 05, 2006


Excuse me if I write about my Ma once again. It was sometime back that I first mentioned her in a post called Does It Really Take the Entire Village? Ma was my dad’s mother. She was a skinny little snuff-dipping lady with about 4 feet of graying black hair rolled up in a tight bun, and held in place on the back of her head by long brown plastic hairpins. She was tough as they come. Pa did not dare cross her, and neither did her seven kids - six of which were good size boys.

With two boney little fingers pressed tightly against her lips, she could hit a tin “spit” can ten feet away! She ruled the roost with those boney little hands and even “whooped” her son Bob after he was married, and threatened to another.

She and her daughter Lois cooked with lard every meal, and without a doubt the best tasting seasoning a southern woman can use. Never mind that it is total artery clogging grease, you just do not care even knowing full well what it could do to you because it made things taste so darn good!

Together they made the best biscuits and cornbread the world has ever known. All of the children ate lard everyday, and if they had stayed on the farm, most of them would have lived as long as their parents did. Once they left, they got sedentary jobs like electricians, heavy equipment operators, and business owner/operators. These crafts just did not work the lard out off them, as farm work would have.

Ma came to East Tennessee once to visit. She was used to the flat land of lower Middle-Tennessee where you can see to the horizon and watch storm clouds coming your way for hours. The mountains were a new phenomenon to Ma and perplexed her greatly. I remember her running into our house one morning hollering, “Christine, come quick, the mountain is on fire!

Mom went with her outside and quickly explained that it was only the clouds hanging low over them. She studied it a bit, spit out a stream, accepted it, and moved on.

I can only remember Ma telling me one thing, besides that she was going to whip me if I did not behave! She once told me “If you do as good as you look son, you’ll go a long way.” Well, I may have looked good as a kid to her, but if she could see old Mushy today, she might take that statement back!

I remembered those words as I watched them open the lower lid on her casket, adjust the quilted drape that was ran around the edges of the coffin, and close it again. I was shocked that Ma did not have any shoes on – just her usual thick stockings lying loosely against her boney little legs. As a pallbearer, I was standing very close awaiting instructions to assume my position at her feet, and as a fourteen-year-old boy, that struck me as very strange.

As we made our way down the front porch steps, which were only about three feet wide, I had to hang in the air from the coffin handle, momentarily allowing my side to dip to one side. As soon as the taller cousins reached the ground the coffin leveled out and I again attempted to carry my part of Ma.

I wondered if Ma had been rolled around much during the inadvertent tilt, and again about her little stocking feet. I silently made her a promise to do my best at that very moment.

I believe I did pretty good Ma, and it was partly because of what you said. I always wanted you to be proud of me. I sure hope you are.


jan said...

Good tribute to a remarkable woman.

I still wonder if lard is so bad for us. They seemed to thrive on large amounts in their diets back then.

lilfeathers2000 said...

I am sure she is. Women like that are hard to come by these days. Tough as nails and a heart as big as Texas.

Fathairybastard said...

You know she is.

Of course, she was probably giggling about that perm years back...

but you've turned out pretty respectable.

Jose said...

Lovely tribute to your Ma, as I remember my "abuelita" tears roll down too. I only saw her once a year on our vacation and you can probably count with both hands the times we saw her before she passed. However we were the city kids and when we went to visit nothing else mattered, our cousings used to get so jealous but hey such was life.

Thank you so much for bringing such good memories back to my mind.

It seems to me that you project so much of you through your writing so I am sure Ma is up there is totally proud of you.

Debbie said...

Sorry you had trouble posting a comment at Right Truth today. I have no idea why. I don't block or delete anybody's comments as long as they are clean. TypePad must be having problems.

I've been gone all day, out in the monsoon rains. Also trying to get a contractor to do some work on our house. We had one lined up, or so we thought, and he skipped town. Is this a sign of things to come? We had another guy here to give a bid/estimate today. Maybe he won't skip town too.

bozette said...

Good tribute to your lovely mother.

Mushy said...

Boz - it was my grandmother, not "me little mum" which I posted in September. But thanks.

EC said...

For lack of a better literary phrase, your Ma sounded very cool!

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Just wonderful. Thanks.

phlegmfatale said...

This is lovely, and I'll bet Ma is bursting with pride at what a fine man you are. Any woman who spits her terbaccy the way my dad does has got to be a real jewel. Lovely post.