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More about LaMata

Posted on Friday, January 28, 2011 in Mom

I have more stories about my mother.

She was a dancer. She began as a child when her parents went to dances. She’d play and then wander into the room with all the coats, try to find a fur one or two, and snuggle in to fall asleep. She danced as an adult to Big Band music and dated men based on how well they could dance. I just heard a story about her dancing in the kitchen and kicking the handle off the stove. She and I would dance in her apartment to Brooks and Dunn, and Gretchen Wilson, and just let the assisted living staff laugh at us if they caught us. My father couldn’t dance at all.

So did my mother date a lot of men? Apparently she was the party girl. She said that her neighbors once commented that she was always coming home as they were getting up in the morning. Once we were visiting her folks in the late ’70s and a man came over and we all visited. After she left she wondered out loud, “I wonder why I never dated him.” She told her daughters that she was frequently just curious about what made some guy tick. I don’t think she dated anyone for very long.

Dad had MeMe (Mom’s future step-mother) to help his cause. MeMe had moved in with Mom and PaPa after leaving an abusive marriage. She took care of the house and shared a room with Mom. She was very interested in PaPa and getting his daughter married off was in her interest. She she kept inviting Daddy over for cake. My father never really like cake much, but he kept coming anyway. Mom decided that he’d be good to her and let the two of them lead her to the alter.

Retired in Texas.

Mom and Dad and MeMe and Papa got married one right after the other directly after a church service. It was a quick ceremony because the minister had to get somewhere else for a dinner. The two couples acted as each other’s witnesses. Mom and Dad honeymooned in the Ozarks. They would periodically quoted some weird sign they saw during the trip. I can’t remember the saying because it never made any sense to me, but it was special to them.

Mom had almost no chores as a child, but I think she did iron. She probably didn’t think of it as a chore. If Mom was upset, she liked to iron out her problems. She’d turn my corduroy pants inside out and give them a crease down the leg. I was the only kid in school with creases in her jeans and cords. One of Mom’s favorite memories of Bev’s childhood was playing Mrs. Chipmunk (little Beverly) and Mrs. Squirrel (Mom) while she ironed and Bev pretended the ironing board was a tree and made up stories.

LaMata also loved to weed. Daddy planted very large vegetable and flower gardens. Mom weeded them. She spent so much time weeding the huge strawberry patch that she burnt her back black. She was weeding just last fall. We walked over to the nursing home and she started weeding their foundation plantings when she fell, hit her head, and ended up getting two stitches. Daddy didn’t like it when she weeded public places, but she did it a lot. I do it, too.

She was a mean card player. Mean in a mostly good way. She refused to play Go Fish or War, but she would play Kings in the Corner with children. She once drew the entire draw pile without ever being able to play a card. (This is a favorite memory of those of us there, but I realize it doesn’t shine as an anecdote.) She would apologize for winning, but she never held back. Bev swears they played cribbage for two years before Bev won a game. Mom wouldn’t help her count or give suggestions. She and Dad played gin every night for years. Dad won so rarely that he recorded the dates on the card box. It seemed like she always knew what cards you had in your hand. I could beat her at Canasta with some regularity and am very proud of that fact.

There were a couple of things Mom perhaps didn’t do as well as other mothers. One was sing. She sang a lullaby which my sister and I love. Her grand-daughter and I both sang it to her as she was dying. But these are the words: bye, oh bye oh bye, oh bye oh bye, oh bye oh bye. It’s sung to the tune of the “Missouri Waltz.” I just now learned that it’s also known as “Hush a Bye Ma Baby” so apparently those were more words than Mom could recall.

The other thing I thought Mom was good at, but she didn’t, was cooking. She didn’t learn to make anything but pies until after her mother died. She suddenly had to cook for herself and her father and never felt confident in the kitchen. She frequently went to her neighbor for help. Then she married into a family of amazing cook. Some of her sisters-in-law literally cooked for thrashers. They made meringues back before power mixers. Their recipes fill church cook books. But Mom could hold her own. I didn’t know it then, but several of my elementary school classmates remember my mother as the one who baked snicker-doodles. She also made a great rabbit carry-out (think chicken and stuffing casserole) and pecan caramel rolls.

LaMata and FluffyI’m going to be a little ornery and end with three stories about my mother’s own orneriness. As a child she tried to make her own cigarettes. She tried corn silk, coffee grounds, and string. None of these worked. She started smoking the real things around age 16.

As an adult she was at a dance and a guy came by and said something she didn’t like. Nothing really offensive that she could later recall exactly. But enough that she wondered what it would be like to put her cigarette out on his face. Which she did. It was a bit more satisfying than regretful.

She threatened my husband, and apparently she did this only to my husband. Her words were something like “If you ever hurt my baby, I’ll come back and haunt you.” They got along fine and Mom seemed to like him. She came behind him at a dinner once and tweaked his ear, just because she felt the itch to do it. At least she didn’t say things just to try and make him blush like she did with my niece’s husband. She was still trying to find out what made a guy tick.

OK, one more. This isn’t ornery, but after she said this one word she wondered why she sometimes just let out whatever came to mind instead of watching what she said. My nieces and I were in the ER with Mom in Colorado and the doctor came in. He was a young handsome man and he asked “How are you feeling?” She replied, “Foxy.”

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