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.