My mother, like all mothers, was not perfect. She tended to be a bit overprotective of her five children. She hung onto things like scraps of fabric, plastic butter tubs and used shopping bags a bit longer than necessary (a child of the depression, she thought she might need these things at some point). And she never quite forgave us for growing up.
But we never had to wonder if she loved us. She did, above all else. And she made sure we were educated. I think she and dad realized early on that we were not equipped to do any hard work, so an education would be necessary. Somehow, they put all five of us through college on the wages paid by the cotton mills. I can’t begin to imagine the sacrifices they made to get all five us through school.
Mother taught me to read long before I started to school. In fact, she instilled in all five of us a love for reading that endures to this day. Books were revered in our house as they continue to be in mine and my brothers’ and sister’s.
She wasn’t much for pomp and ceremony, so it seemed appropriate that following her funeral this past Monday that we and our families should gather in the tiny house where she and dad raised us and tell mama stories.
We shared a meal, graciously prepared by the ladies of the church where mother attended and taught Sunday school for as long as she was able. You can’t find better food on God’s green earth than that prepared by ladies of the church. Trust me.
So we ate—a lot—and then we told stories. My favorite is about the time mother shot a goat off her front porch because it refused to let her into her own yard to get to the mailbox. It’s a good story and I’ll tell it sometime, but not today.
We sat in the small living room, appropriately, where the bookcase is located, still filled with encyclopedias long out of date, classic literature and a smidgen of western and romance novels. Her—and our—tastes in literature could be described as eclectic.
We laughed. And we laughed some more. We poked fun at each other, as we always do when we get together. Those of you who know me well understand how much I enjoy a good laugh. Multiply that by five, with a chuckle or two from a witty spouse or niece or nephew who shares our DNA.
We chose not to mourn our mother’s passing but to celebrate her life.
I could almost envision my mother sitting in the straight-backed chair in front of the fireplace, grinning but with an occasional puzzled look on her face that seemed to say: “How could Aaron and I have produced such a pack of monkeys?” But I also imagine she was laughing with us and was pleased that we share a sense of humor that will get us through this and many other hard times.
As the afternoon waned into evening, we began to scatter—Brian to Florida, Brad to Beaufort, Rhonda—our only sister and our princess—to Columbia, Steve, the oldest to Spartanburg and the onerous task of beginning probate, and Pat and I on our two-day trek west to Texas.
We promised to get together—for a picnic, a barbecue or just for an afternoon of jollity. Someone suggested a Smith Family cruise, but I’m not sure a cruise line is ready for this pack of monkeys.
We were never wealthy, but we were always rich. Thank you mama, we love you.