"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
When we think of Mama, we mostly think of her serious side. She was not to be trifled with. She was a strict disciplinarian. Much like Grandmama before her, she saw things largely in terms of right vs. wrong with no in between. She was more serious than Daddy, and often more serious than we would have liked. But she also loved games and play and having fun, and because that side of her was a bit rarer, we appreciated it all the more when she showed that side.
Growing up, there are a few memories that stand out where Mama was playful and we enjoyed her lighter side.
Jacks, or jack rocks, was one of Mama’s favorite games from her childhood. She taught me how to play, but she also taught lots of my friends to play as well. I remember when I was in late elementary school/early middle school, a new girl had started coming to our church -- Sharon. She came over to our house often and we could usually be found playing jacks/jack rocks -- with Mama on the floor with us -- tossing the ball and scooping jacks. She was better than us always, but oh, how we strove to beat her.
One of my favorite toys growing up was a hula hoop. Part of the reason is because it was one of the things Mama would do with us. She was a pretty good hula hooper! We spent hours and hours hula hooping together or taking turns or having contests. We were amazed (my brother and I) that Mama could throw the hula hoop out on the grass and make it return to her. We spent additional hours practicing until we could do that, too. One of our favorite hula hoop games that Mama played with us was this: she would roll the hula hoop into a grassy area of the yard and Dale and I would wait patiently and try to find just the right timing and just the right angle to jump through the hoop and land in the grass on the other side. We begged her to keep playing this one time and time again!
Mama was also really good at jumping rope. She always made sure we had a jump rope on hand. If Santa didn’t bring one at Christmas, rest assured it would find its way to us somehow during Christmas -- or other times, too. She taught us how to straight jump, skip jump, and jump backwards. She could even criss-cross the rope while jumping! As a child, it was amazing to see your mom be so good at something that everyone knew was of prime importance. And it was. This, at least, was an area I could hold my own with the kids at school because I was a fairly decent jumper -- thanks to Mama.
Over the years, board games became one of our favorite things to do together. Mama was always very competitive! And, often . . she won. I won't even lie. Sometimes, it was because she would cheat (or at least stretch the rules like a rubber band!). But it was also a reminder that Mama was brilliant and so good at so many things! As we grew older, and into adulthood, she especially enjoyed word games like Scrabble and Boggle. Up until the very end, she enjoyed her computer games and board games with the family.
Card games were another place where she excelled. Growing up, she taught me to play Solitaire and Rummy. Mama and Daddy and their dear friends, Don and Joyce (the same ones we visited in Virginia from my Doctor Mama stories) loved playing Canasta together. Oftentimes, we'd go visit them when they were living close and the grown-ups would play cards or talk theology while Donna, Susan, Dale, and I (and later their younger brother Donnie) played. I have rarely played a game of Canasta with Mama that she didn't win. Whatever she did, she did it with gusto and with the intention of being the best she could be. As years went on, Sunday afternoons often found us playing Canasta. We learned how to play with 5 players or 6 to accommodate whomever was available for play. It didn't matter who was on Mama's team -- she almost always ended up on the winning side!
I'll forever be grateful for all the things Mama taught me, and all the gifts her serious nature brought (even when I didn't enjoy it at the time . . .) But this side of Mama was one of my favorites, and I loved getting to play with her, no matter how old I got. It is for sure one of the things I miss the most now that she's not here any longer, and I'm sure if they have games available in Heaven, Mama has already found her way to the table and has won quite a few rounds of whatever they play.
I've tried a few times to learn to sew. I'm sure Mama tried to teach me, and I had a mentor when I was in middle school who did sewing lessons for me and a friend, I actually took a sewing class in college, and Shane's Grandma Nita helped me with a couple sewing projects after we married. Having said that, I still can't sew well at all. I can do very basic things like sewing on a button or repairing a seam that has split, but I missed out on the part of Mama's DNA that made her good at everything she tried. She had a gift for sewing and we all benefited. Read on to find out how:
Mama was an excellent seamstress, and her skills enhanced our lives in so many ways. She was quick to use her skills to save money, to help out, to bless others. She could make pretty much anything -- and often did. . .
One of my favorite ways that Mama used her sewing skills was by making clothes for my Barbie dolls. I loved Barbie and her friends (both name brand and generic). Such teeny tiny clothes for teeny tiny bodies, but Mama would use a few scraps, design and make clothes all the time fit for a Barbie. It was the season of polyester and one outfit I remember particularly was a polyester gold pantsuit for my doll. She enjoyed wearing it, I’m sure -- and I certainly enjoyed dressing my Barbies in all the clothes Mama designed and sewed for me and my dolls!
The year was 1976 and I was in third grade (Ms. Bowen’s class). The whole country was awash in excitement over our Bicentennial Anniversary -- 200 years for this fine country of ours. Celebrations were rampant! At Whiteville Primary School, we were having a big celebration, too! It consisted of square-dancing and patriotic music. We were all (I guess) dressing in period costumes for the event, so Mama made for me a long skirt and a round bonnet, trimmed with fabric matching my skirt. For Dale, it was knee breeches and a jacket with brass buttons and a tri-corn hat, too, I think. Not just for us, but for several classmates, too -- Mama put her sewing machine to work as grade-parent and we were outfitted with Bicentennial excellence -- suitable for singing and square-dancing!
That same third grade year, Mama also made stockings for my whole third grade class (and I think Dale’s whole class, too!) Not only did she sew the stockings, but also, added all my classmates’ names with glue and glitter, along with a glitter Christmas tree with a star on top. These were not just cheap felt stockings cut with pinking shears and barely stitched together either! These were really nice, thick-fabricked stockings with turned-under hems and no raw edges anywhere! Her willingness to use her skills and her gifts made a lot of kids happy that Christmas. We kept those same stockings and used them for years afterward, and I bet lots of other kids did, too!
Dreams of Red
As a child, my favorite color was red and I wanted a red bedroom from the time I was very young. In fact, Mama and Daddy got in “almost-trouble” with our cousin/landlord because someone misunderstood Mama and Daddy when they were telling someone else in the family that I wanted red walls and they thought Mama and Daddy had painted the walls in their house red . . .
So, when we got the new house at Pleasant Hill, and I had my own bedroom as a fifth grader, I wanted a red bedroom. While I wanted red walls, Mama and Daddy compromised with just a hint of red in the white paint (It really looked white -- not even pink. . .) and red carpet and bedroom linens. Mama scoured stores and bargains and found a red velvet bedspread, but to buy matching curtains was very expensive, so Mama bought maybe 3 bedspreads, which were a good price. We used one on the bed, and she used the other two to make curtains for my two windows and cover a chair that we had gotten from someone. The carpet was red and black shag carpet and thanks to Mama and her bargain-hunting and sewing/upholstery skills, I had my dream bedroom!
Daddy had a class reunion coming. I don’t remember what number -- maybe 20? That would have made it 1981, and that seems plausible. Daddy was wearing a mustache at the time. Mama made them matching outfits to wear for Daddy’s reunion. Remember, it was the era of polyester. Mama fashioned herself a long dress (Now they call them maxi-dresses) with long sleeves. Daddy had a matching short-sleeve shirt. The fabric was black polyester covered with pink roses. It was striking fabric, and they made a striking couple in such beautiful outfits. While that memory has NOTHING to do with me, it is one of my favorites.
Jr. Prom with my date (a friend), Wayland Nobles in the antebellum-style dress Mama and I found at the yard sale. The neckline was lower when we bought it. Mama added layers of lace, and also removed the bottom of the sleeves (big puffy bottoms) and poof! a prom dress for $3.00 plus labor and the cost of the lace :-) I actually loved this dress!!!
Mama was quick to make something from scratch or to modify something with what she had on hand.
Once, we were at a yard sale and found a beautiful powder blue antebellum dress with ruffles and lace and big balloon sleeves. It also showed a lot of cleavage. I loved the dress and wore it just for fun around the house as an upper middle-school/early high school student. It well- suited my romanticism. Mama reworked that same dress so that I could wear it for my junior prom. She removed the balloon sleeves, and added extra lace at the neckline so not-so-much cleavage was revealed. I loved the dress and I loved that I got to wear it to prom. Mama was a master at using what we had to make things special. I didn’t always appreciate that, but other times it was perfect -- like this time.
Next year’s prom wasn’t so smooth. Mama insisted on making my dress. It wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t the greatest time -- lots of arguing and hard times. In retrospect, I understand that the money just wasn’t there to buy a dress, and it really didn’t matter anyway. I respect all the effort that she put into the dress, and it turned out pretty. While it wouldn’t have been my first choice, I wish I had handled it differently, and I am so thankful for all the gifts and skills and resources that she used to try to make life good for all of us.
I wish I had pictures of the Barbies and the stockings and all the amazing work Mama did as seamstress for our family, but hopefully you can see her talent and hard work in these photos. I sure do appreciate how she wielded a needle and thread and wish I had learned more when I had the opportunity. My life was certainly richer for all her capabilities -- especially, this one.
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!
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