This Mother’s Day, remember what’s pricelessPublished 4:09pm Wednesday, May 7, 2014
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Mine is a mother made in the 1930s.
Birthed in a long-gone house where a cow pasture now stands, she was the youngest of nine, her sharecropper parents’ late-in-life gift.
Bennie and Alice had apparently tired of coming up with names, though, opting instead to give the honor to another. So that April day, while the wild dogwoods bloomed and a baby was cleaned up, my uncle returned from Mrs. Floy Lowery’s front porch with a neatly folded slip of paper. Anita was carefully written inside.
Black and white photos from family albums don’t deny the hard times: everyone, including young Anita in the pinafore, was rib-counting thin. “There were cracks in the floorboards of our house big enough for me to feed the chickens pecking underneath,” she would try to tell me whenever I pored over the pictures – a description hard to fathom for me, a daughter who took baton lessons and knew cotton only as an adjective preceding candy.
This mother of mine, before she mothered, lived through a world war and another that took her G.I. husband away for a year. What could top that? So after the babies came and “umpteen” (her word) moves were made, she easily weathered the tornado at Candlestick Park, after-assassination riots that shook Memphis, even the stuff those pink ribbons are for.
There were, of course, memories to be made in between, like the time Mom took me to an Elvis concert for my seventh birthday (at least she said it was for me). I recall she screamed at one point, although I am sure she does not remember that part. Other moments of significance we purposed to forget as well, like when our worlds – and words – collided over the high cost of Izod sweaters and a bent fender on the Cutlass Supreme.
How someone meticulous enough to rake shag carpet could raise sons with motorcycles and lamb chop sideburns, not to mention a daughter with a blue-inside wedding cake, I do not know.
All I can say is that above all, she is a practical woman – no Clairol has ever colored her hair, and she never once considered piercing her ears. That’s why I mostly think of my mother as one molded by the Great Depression. She is undeniable in frugalities, like when she combs the woods, rather than a garden center, for bedding plants. It’s apparent in her attic where she keeps the discards “we might need one day.”
But I’m not complaining. I love having a mom who can tell me exactly where to find that avocado green ice bucket from the ’70s, and I’m proud that she sews clothes rather than crafts. Her garage sale finds and “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” mentalities dot the landscape of my life, and my own home is the better for it.
Having – still having – a mother born more than 80 years ago means I should count my blessings this Mother’s Day, something I saw very clearly at a son’s wedding rehearsal dinner a while back. Slipping my heels off and taking a swig of sweet tea, I zoomed in on a striking couple taking the dance floor. What a picture. Mom, mellowed, grayed and in the arms of my 15-year-old, swaying to “Love Me Tender.”
And the truth is, I really didn’t need MasterCard’s familiar advertising campaign to tell me the worth of that moment. I’ve got a Depression-made mother. She’s been teaching me that principle of economics for years.
Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.