Mama said. So many statements of my youth began with this phrase. Mama said not to do that. Mama said to come on home. Funny how two simple words can be taken for granted for so many years. Two words both loved and dreaded by me. Sometimes her words seemed ridiculous. Many times, those words were extremely wise. Most of all, they were filled with the best of intentions and always with love.
As Mother’s Day approaches, it would be nice to hear mama say something. Anything. But she can’t. She doesn’t physically live in this world anymore. She is in heaven. So, in honor of her and all mothers out there, I’d like to share some of my mamaisms. I’d also love to hear some of yours.
Mama said, “because I said so.” This was her default line used when she was tired and just didn’t want to argue anymore. Anytime this line was dropped on us, my sister and I knew it was time to wave the white flag and give in.
Mama said, “over yonder.” This was a term embedded into her vocabulary. I grew up hearing the term used often. However, when my oldest son was about five years old, he asked, “Mamaw, where is over yonder?” She cracked up.
Mama said, “I carried (insert name) to church today.” Mama never picked up or took anyone anywhere. She always carried them.
Mama said, “I’m fixin to (insert activity here),” to show she was about to do something.
Mama said, “Get off your high horse.” This phrase was used on me so many times I wanted to scream.
Mama said, “keep your chin up and don’t get your dauber down.” She used this to help me when I fell or was knocked off my high horse, which was many times!
Mama said, “nothing good happens after midnight.” I loved for her to use this phrase. I always countered by asking how she knew nothing good happened after midnight. I think she liked me asking that, but she never ever let on.
Mama said, “no, you are not going to (insert place or activity here), because we are going to church.” Enough said.
Mama said, “someday you are going to regret giving up on piano lessons.” Well I have to admit, it would be pretty cool to be able to tickle the ivory keys today.
Sometimes mama said some classics that just didn’t make sense. “You can go swimming when you learn how to swim.” Huh?
“If you get hurt in the game tonight, I’m coming on the field to check on you,” mama said.
One night I did get hurt. I broke my leg when I was in the ninth grade playing football. While in excruciating pain, my head was on a swivel, looking to see if mama was coming on the field. “Mama, nooooooooo!!!” was on the tip of my tongue, as I spotted her coming out of the bleachers.
“Keep studying. You need to get a good education,” mama said after every report card, whether a good or bad one.
“Time to come butter your biscuits,” mama said, every morning. She made the best biscuits in the entire world. I honestly cannot remember a time when she did not make breakfast for me. Mama spelled love with words like “FOOD” and “TIME.”
Unapologetically, mama said supper for our nighttime meal and dinner for our noon meal.
“We were so poor, we did not even know a depression was happening. We didn’t have anything to lose,” mama said,when asked what it was like to have lived through the great depression.
Mama genuinely believed she was a bona fide doctor. “Gargle with salt water,” mama said, anytime we had a head cold.
We learned to never complain about a stomach ache. “I’ll get the enema bag,” mama always said with a smile, anytime the word stomach and ache were used together.
Mama said, “I’ll just put a little mercurochrome on it,” as any cut, large or small, became orange and red, and about ten times larger than the actual cut. “It’ll only burn a little,” mama lied.
Mama did many things where her actions spoke so much louder than her words. Anytime someone in the community was sick, she would bake something to help them feel better. Of course, a visit was imminent to deliver the baked treat.
Mama attended or helped host most showers in our community, whether of the wedding or baby variety.
Mama shared anything she owned with anyone who was in need. Our garden was a community garden, intended to be shared.
Mama taught us to wear our Sunday best to church. “You are going to God’s house. You need to polish those shoes and wear your absolute best, to honor him,” mama said (I wish mamas taught this principal today, but that’s a topic for another day).
Mama taught me to be a gentleman. “Always walk on the inside of your lady, next to the road. If mud is splashed on anyone, it will be you,” mama said.
Mama taught us not to break the law. My favorite story about breaking laws had to do with seat belts. Mama and her sister, Aunt Louise Wallace drove to Monroe, Louisiana often to shop. Arkansas did not have a seat belt law at the time, but Louisiana did. Mama and Aunt Louise would pull off the road right at the state line and fasten their seat belts, so they would not break any laws. Of course, on their way back, they also stopped and unbuckled at the state line.
“What is this, mama?” I asked one day as I noticed this new-fangled device on the front bumper of her car.
Mama said, “It’s a deer whistle. It is supposed to make a high-pitched sound that keeps deer from running in front of your car.”
“Have you ever hit a deer?” I asked her.
“No, and I hope I never hit one,” mama said.
The next week she hit a deer. We never let her hear the end of that.
Mama said there would be days like this. Days when I would feel melancholy.
I miss my mama. But today, while thinking of her, I sense a little whiff of air rustle in this room. I hear words of encouragement.
“Hold your chin up! Don’t get your dauber down. I’m just over yonder,” I can hear mama say.
“I’m fixin to carry Suzan to church. I’m trying to stay off my high horse,” I whisper to myself.
Just because mama said.
Happy Mother’s Day to all Mama’s out there. If your mama is alive, hug her neck and thank her for all she taught you. Someday you will be feeling melancholy and wish you could!