“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”— Samuel Langhorne Clemens(aka Mark Twain)American writer, humorist(1835-1910)———Anyone who was, or still is, …
I count myself among the many … because frankly, in her living years, Mom was a humdinger.
So as not to mistakenly disrespect this special lady, I checked the Thesaurus for humdinger. Yep, that’s the ticket: Lollapalooza ... ripsnorter … peach … doozy … lulu … jim-dandy … dilly … whopper. Well, hold up on the latter. Mom might not have liked the reference to whopper.
Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever calling her a peach or dilly, either. That was Dad’s territory.
Cancer robbed us of our mother’s love in 2004, but not her memory. And when Mom got tickled, her laugh could light up a room. TVA could have learned a few things from this lady … effervescence without a rate increase.
Mom was always at her best, and her most athletic, when confronted with wildlife.
For example, in her later years when she lived alone after Dad’s passing over in Columbia, Mom used to love to spend a few days with us in Cleveland. She didn’t trust herself to drive long distances so I, or my wife, would drive over to pick her up, and the other would drive her back a few days later.
On one such visit, we journeyed up to Gatlinburg … another one of Mom’s favorite getaways, so long as the getaway came in the company of her grown kids and their families.
On this trip, my wife booked us at a quaint hotel on the edge of the forest and at the foot of a mountain … or, at least, a big hill. Several of us made the trip. On the first night, we heard a rattling of trashcans outside our ground-level room whose only door opened to the great outdoors.
Joking that it might be a bear, my sister-in-law poked her head outside, screeched and slammed the door shut. Her declaration: “It IS a bear!”
Panicked by the news, Mom jumped from one end of a couch, soared over a magazine rack and around the foot of a bed to the room’s far corner, where she hunkered down behind a recliner-rocker. Convinced that a black-bear invasion was imminent, Mom took shelter using this wall of stained wood, blue fabric and padded seat as her fortress.
From there, she instructed someone … anyone … to call the front desk. Uncertain what the night clerk could do, we nonetheless made the call.
“Oh, that’s just George,” the clerk explained from the other end. “He’s harmless. Just stay in your room and let him forage for food. He’ll leave after awhile.”
No one understood the limits of “awhile,” so we remained entrenched in the room, and Mom stood vigil behind her barricade until the “All Clear” sign was given.
We never ran into George again.
On another occasion, in my early teen years while living in a rented house out in the country about three miles west of Collierville on Highway 72, Mom was sitting in the den watching some old show on the Sears & Roebuck TV, our first foray into color television … probably in the late 1960s.
We noticed our dog Snoopy was poking around the bottom of a small bookcase. But, dogs do what dogs do so we thought nothing of it; at least, until the half-beagle, half-feist pulled out his prey.
There, in all its slithering glory, emerged a snake. Whether it was black or grey or rainbow-striped, I cannot say. Nor could my mother … because to her, the only good snake was a … well, you understand. And Mom, well, she watched the snake from a higher vantage … atop the chair on which she had been sitting.
Snoopy did his job by wrangling the serpent into submission. My older brother did the rest by grabbing it behind its head and escorting it back into the woods … deep, deep into the woods where dogs and Moms and reptiles would never cross paths again.
Speaking of snakes, roll back a few more chapters. At this point I am a boy — maybe 5 or 6 — living on my grandfather’s farm outside Falkner, Miss.
As was the case with most farmers, my grandfather had crops. He had a tractor. He had a barn. He had chickens. He had hogs. He had cows. And he had a pond.
Being of such a young age, I have only vague memory of the event, but its telling has survived the generations. Its humor grows with each account.
One hot Saturday afternoon, our family traipsed down to the muddy pond for a refreshing dip into the murky waters. Mom was not a swimmer so she remained on the grassy bank where she sat among the rocks and weeds and brush.
At the height of her scream, we — three kids and Dad, all of whom were already frolicking in the cool of the pond — realized something was amiss.
Looking to the bank, we witnessed Mom’s vertical jump — the height of which seemed improbable — and one that catapulted her into a full sprint, the likes of which we had never before witnessed. Adrenalin her ally and escape her intent, Mom finally stopped a third of the way around the pond.
“Snake!” she yelled. “Get out of the water!”
Sound advice, yet the snake remained on the bank … as did Mom, but at an extended distance.
By the time Dad climbed from the water and onto the slope, the snake had disappeared. Like George the Gatlinburg bear decades later, I’m pretty sure we never saw that snake again. The serpent was probably just as happy with our absence.
In her lifetime, Mom showed other extraordinary feats of athleticism. Whether inspired by snakes or spiders, bears or toads, her surprising acts of agility evoked smiles at the kitchen table and laughs of joy during spirited times of reunion.
Mom’s death 14 years ago brought great sadness to our family. Yet, time heals. No longer do I mourn this personal loss, nor do I feel the pain of emotional hurt.
Those days are gone. Now I remember the good times. I laugh at the funny times. And I am thankful for all our times … the good, the bad and the everyday in between.
Grieving is part of life. But it’s just a part of life.
Mom understood it. And thanks to her, so do I.
Anyone who was, or still is, blessed with the love of a mother likely has some funny stories to tell.
I am one such son. And Mom was one such lady.
(About the writer: Rick Norton is an associate editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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