“Don’t get me talking about my mama,” he said. “Or I’ll start crying.”
The man in the necktie started talking about her anyway. There was no way he could help it. He’d just attended her funeral. According to him, it was a small affair. She was in her eighties.
“They did a good job on her,” he said. “She looked rested.”
It was late. The bartender was tired, musicians packed up instruments, waitresses swept floors, and this man wanted to talk about his mama.
Well, talking about your mother is a tradition in this part of the world. You can hear mama-stories in almost any waterhole across our region. And each tale carries the same weight as a Sunday-school Bible lesson. I don’t know if people from other parts talk about mothers quite as often, but I hope they do.
As a teenager, I remember sitting around an Andalusia campfire, watching three boys with beer cans swap mama-stories. Three of us had mothers. John did not.
“You know,” said John. “Before Mama died, I fell off the porch once. I broke my leg, I was in a cast for months…”
“I remember that,” said another.
John went on, “She cooked so much food, Daddy and I started getting fat.”
This drew a few laughs, but not too many. Because we knew what came next.
He closed his eyes. “Y’all don’t know how good you have it.”
John finally said, “You fellas reckon my mama’s in heaven?”
And since ignorant teenagers don’t know what to do in these situations, each of us took turns giving John a hug.
Males are strange animals. We pretend. In fact, we’ve been faking it a long time. We act like we know what we’re supposed to be. We go to work, change our motor oil, and—God-willing—mow our lawns every three months.
We make-believe we’re men, even though we’re about as tough as undercooked pudding. We’re not half as strong as we pretend. That’s why we talk about our mamas like we do.
Because mamas don’t pretend.
The man at the bar loosened his tie and ordered another drink. The bartender told him it was closing time. So, he tipped her a hundred-dollar bill, then walked outside. I found him sitting on the curb, looking upward at the moon.
“You think people go somewhere when they die?” he asked.
This man was a complete stranger. I didn’t know what to say.
I hope he didn’t mind the hug.
Deanna - April 13, 2017 10:53 am
Mamas are special to us all!
Marion Pitts - April 13, 2017 2:59 pm
Ah, I thought of my Momma yesterday, and loand behold you’re talking about Mommas today! I cried some more. My Momma died in 2004!
Ann - April 13, 2017 9:32 pm
Sean, you never fail to leave me with tears in my eyes and sometimes rolling down my cheeks. I don’t think I realized how much I loved my Mama until she was gone. I miss her every day!!! Thank you for your words on just about everything that is important in our lives.
Sammi McBride - April 13, 2017 9:35 pm
Sean, I am a mother who just lost a child of 42 who made some less than stellar life decisions. He was schizophrenic and had an extremely rough life. Yesterday at the funeral home as we began to pull out into the procession the funeral director handed us a brown zippered pouch with thank you cards, guest book and even some bookmarks with wild flower seeds embedded in a little paper heart. I looked at it and wanted to sling it out the window. I hate those brown zippered pouches. Can you write on this…my heart is hurting. I was mad at him when he died. Having a tough time every time I walk by that brown bag. Thank you…love your writing…southern mother.