I swore when I was a child – probably more a teenager, really, as they know everything – that I would never be like my Mama.
No, that skinny fire-breathing redhead was crazy.
She thought the silliest things were life-hazards, when riding in a Monte Carlo with her smoking and the windows rolled up was probably more hazardous to my health than me roller skating.
She was strict. More specifically, “controlling” was the word I used from age 15-23.
I thought her sole purpose was to make me a completely uncool spinster.
“Your mama is so nice,” my friends would say.
They would come over to talk to Mama about things they didn’t feel comfortable talking to their own mamas about.
This is the woman who would randomly show up at school in the middle of the day to peek in my class to make sure I was okay.
The woman who would point at me, then the floor, commanding me to come there so she could ask me if I had lunch money or not.
And my friends came over to ‘chill with my mom?’
“Why do my friends come over here and talk to you?” I asked her once bewildered.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Is it so hard to imagine that I am maybe a nice person and they want to talk to me?”
What in the world did this woman possibly have to talk about?
Other than her heedings and warnings about everything being dangerous, including air, she didn’t have a lot to say.
“What do you say to them?” I asked.
Mama shrugged again. “Nothing really.”
I approached Granny with this dilemma.
“You wanna know why your friends come over here to talk to your Mama? It’s because she’s quiet. She actually listens to them,” the old gal said.
“She does what?”
I reckon Mama has always done that. She is quite the good listener, especially if she is not injecting her listening with her words of warning.
“So my friends come over here because she listens? Don’t I listen?”
Granny shook her head.
“No, you too busy telling everyone what your opinion is like they care. They don’t want to know what you think of their boyfriends. Knowing you, you’ve already said it. They want someone that’ll listen to them and let them figure it out on their own.”
The old gal evidently missed the irony of her statement.
She spent a goodly portion of her time expressing her unrequested opinion on everyone along with her judgements. If Granny disagreed with what someone was doing, instead of trying to be a compassionate person as Mama does, she told them what she thought, holding nothing back.
And Mama was quiet. I think some folks may have thought she was aloof but she was really just more reserved and observant.
Granny, on the other hand, would not shut up.
“I’m shy and don’t feel comfortable talking to a bunch of strangers,” she said – an outright lie—out of the blue one day.
“I bet the greeter at Walmart wished that were true; you spent 15 minutes the other day discussing your hysterectomy with them.”
“They asked how I was, and I told them,” was her response.
Granny believing she was shy was almost comical. A bull in a China shop that had been poked with a fire was more subtle than this woman.
And she didn’t feel comfortable talking to strangers? She never met a stranger. She would go up and start talking to someone like she had known them for years.
I think when she worked in a sewing plant, she talked so much they had to move her away from one of her best friends. That didn’t work; she just started talking to whoever they moved her next to.
Mama was the quiet, compassionate empathizer and then there was Granny, the chatterbox full of judgements she felt needed to be shared.
Oh, sweet son of a biscuit eater.
I’m not like my Mama at all.
It’s worse. Much, much worse.