Five Foot Two

She was chatty. She could strike up conversation with a brick. It was a gift. But grade-school teachers didn’t see it that way.

They tried to break her talkative habits. They moved her desk around the classroom. Disciplined her. It didn’t work.

She was the baby of four. Artistic. As a girl, she’d walk to town just to stare through Weaver’s store window. She studied what she saw.

Then, with a sewing machine and faded cotton fabric scraps, she sewed her own clothes.

In high school, she met a tall, skinny hick. He was a good-timer, but she loved him. They married in the public-park gazebo. It was a poorly attended wedding.

He was an iron-worker. She was five-foot-two. They were penniless, hard-working, and happy.

It didn’t take long before she grew tired of peanut-pay and long hours. She enrolled in college.

She put herself through school, using her own nickels. She studied her hindparts off. She graduated with flying colors. She worked in hospitals, she tended to the dying. Patients liked her.

Then she got pregnant.

And it was on a Wednesday, during the Liberty Bowl—Bear Bryant’s farewell football game—she gave birth to a seven-pound-eight-ounce frog.

“He was a lazy baby,” she remarked of her pale son. “He barely made any crying noise.”

The lazy redhead would call her Mama, and she would never go by another name in her own household.

They lived forty-five minutes from town. Her husband pulled overtime shifts. After full days welding column-splices, he’d work himself raw with chores.

She had another child. A girl. Life was going famously.

On her husband’s forty-first birthday, she cooked steak. A white-icing cake. She smiled. They laughed. There was singing. It was a good day.

Three days later, he placed the business-end of a twelve-gauge into his mouth.

Her life went to hell. She lost what she owned. The house. The land. Her job. She stayed locked in her room for a year. She sobbed so much, her jaws ached.

She wasn’t chatty anymore.

They moved into ratty houses. Hospitals weren’t hiring. She took odd-jobs to pay rent. Money became hard to find.

So did reasons to smile.

She cleaned condos, waited tables, worked the counter at Chick-Fil-A. She and her lazy son threw newspapers.

And it was one early morning, before the sun had risen, while she pitched the Daily News out a Nissan window, she cried.

She told her lazy son, “I wish life got easier.”

He didn’t answer, but he would go most of his life wishing he had.

Today, her children are grown. She’s retired, and her joints thank her for it. She is content.

Not a thing has been handed to her. Her life has been pained. But it hasn’t made her bitter. It’s done the opposite.

She still sews her lazy son’s trousers. And she can still whip up a conversation with a brick. She can’t help it, chattiness is a family trait.

I should know.

I’m just like Mama.

31 comments

  1. Roxanne Langley - April 6, 2017 10:46 am

    There are no words to adequately reply to or comment on this. Beautiful. Devastating. Raw. Poetic. Your words will roll around in my brain all day, and it will help me to be more kind, more considerate, more patient, and more grateful. Thank you for sharing this. It cannot have been easy.

    Reply
    • Marsha Hammac - April 7, 2017 12:41 am

      your comment made me cry. thank you.

      Reply
  2. Lilli Ann Snow - April 6, 2017 11:03 am

    Your devotion to your Mama is as clear as your devotion to your wife and your love of your life, your fellow human beings, your Southern homeland. People like me are quickly developing a devotion to you and your huge heart. Thank you, Sean, for all the goodthat flows from you. A flood of kindness and blessings lies in your wake.

    Reply
  3. Sandra Marrar - April 6, 2017 11:54 am

    Precious! Your Mama must be one fine lady. She’s so lucky to have a son like you.

    Reply
  4. Lydia - April 6, 2017 12:05 pm

    Oh, my, another tear jerker. How blessed you were to call that fine, hard- working woman “Mama”!

    Reply
  5. Faye Hippler Bowers - April 6, 2017 12:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing your God given gift of writing. Each time I read a message I am blessed. Today’s message Five Foot Two is endearing.

    Reply
  6. Karen Erwin-Brown - April 6, 2017 12:22 pm

    So good. Kiss your Momma for me

    Reply
  7. Judy - April 6, 2017 12:47 pm

    What a wonderful woman!!!!!

    Reply
  8. Terri Bryson - April 6, 2017 1:15 pm

    Beautiful story told many times over in the South. Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Dana Durden - April 6, 2017 1:16 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your devastating story. I, too, am a 5’2 woman who experienced the suicide of her husband with two small daughters to raise. And just like your mom, I lost my home and car. But God is good and we are happy. We must not be silent about suicide. I refuse to let my daughters feel shame over it. Depression, anxiety, mental illness is like a physical disease but it’s hidden and shameful. Keep sharing your beautiful testimonies and never shy away from your truth. It was hard fought, of this I’m sure. God bless you, Sean.

    Reply
  10. Susie Munz - April 6, 2017 1:34 pm

    I loved your Mom’s biography, Sean. It’s obvious, how much respect you have for your Mother. She did a good job raising you, and, you are FAR from lazy!

    Reply
  11. Jacque - April 6, 2017 1:59 pm

    All I can say is “Wow.”

    Reply
  12. Cindy Simmons - April 6, 2017 2:12 pm

    Dang it! You made me cry and I am at work, got to go put on more mascara….I bet your Mom is beautiful…inside and out!

    Reply
  13. Michelle Gilliland - April 6, 2017 2:33 pm

    Every day, I click on my email and there your words sit. My clicker finger is slow to open most emails. I might even say that it’s lazy. The thing about laziness is that it all boils down to either you want to do something or you don’t. And let me tell you, my clicker finger is like the road runner when your emails come through.

    Reply
  14. Angie - April 6, 2017 3:15 pm

    I so enjoy reading your stories every morning. Thank you for sharing your life memories with us, your readers. It sounds like you and your mom are very blessed to have each other, even if you are lazy. : )

    Reply
  15. Willie - April 6, 2017 3:27 pm

    God bless you and Mama.

    Reply
  16. beki - April 6, 2017 3:32 pm

    Dang it you always get me right in the middle of a workday. You’d think I’d learn to read this when I’m by myself! Thank you for sharing a part of your world that lots of folks keep hidden. Today is the one year anniversary of a local boy dying the same way your Daddy did. He left behind a young wife and almost 2 year old precious daughter. Because of your postt when I see her I will tell her that life will get easier. Thanks again for sharing and blessings to you, your Mama and sister.

    Reply
  17. Bobbie - April 6, 2017 4:23 pm

    Oh Sean, this one “brought me to my knees”…I was having a “me” day, but my priorities are back in place.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  18. Esteban Rudman - April 6, 2017 4:26 pm

    Sean you could be accused of being polyannish, always seeing the best in people and places. Those who read your blog regularly know better. Happiness is not a condition dependent on circumstance. It is a choice. You seem to be making very good choices as to where to focus your flashlight. A lot of us are struggling wirh money issues, declining health, a political atmosphere poisoned by our leaders (on both sides), family struggles, and so on. Your writing acknowledges the bad, but redirects us towards what is good, life-affirming, and constructive. Your column is very important, very needed. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Sam Hunneman - April 6, 2017 4:46 pm

    A friend of mine always says, “May his memories be a blessing” at the time of someone’s passing. Yours, as sometimes painful as they are, have become a blessing to all of us. Well done, and thanks.

    Reply
  20. june - April 6, 2017 7:12 pm

    A loving tribute from an appreciative son. Heartwarming!

    Reply
  21. Jody Herren - April 6, 2017 8:55 pm

    Love this, your mama is so PROUD of you..

    Reply
  22. Sue Watson - April 6, 2017 9:26 pm

    I can’t decide if I love or hate you. Daddy was 48.

    Reply
  23. Dianne Shafer - April 7, 2017 12:36 am

    Ah, Sean. I cried (again) when I read your blog. I’m here to tell you that I’ve been there with you–different scenario, but I’ve been there. The redeeming factor here is that lazy or not, frog or not, your mother adored you. She wrapped you is garments of love. All that is needed now is for you to forgive yourself–and let her love again envelop y0u–and then her life would not have been in vain. Life was hard but her love was amazing.

    Reply
  24. Marsha Hammac - April 7, 2017 12:39 am

    wet bitter-sweet memories are rolling down my cheeks.

    Reply
  25. Suzanne Wright - April 7, 2017 1:02 am

    Oh Sean…..your mama…..what bittersweet beauty you behold!

    Reply
  26. Michael Hawke - April 7, 2017 2:31 am

    May God bless you and your Mama.

    Reply
  27. Jane Carr - April 7, 2017 12:30 pm

    Poignant commentary. Bless your Mama’s heart.

    Reply
  28. Beverly Stovall - April 7, 2017 7:27 pm

    SHE WOULD BE SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!!!!!AS YOU ARE OF HER!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  29. Jeannie - April 7, 2017 8:44 pm

    What a wonderful mom you had! I am sorry that her life was so hard, but I know she loved her babies

    Reply
  30. Elizabeth Coplan - April 25, 2017 4:11 pm

    Powerfully sad and hopeful at the same time. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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