There was no getting past Mama.
The woman claimed she had eyes in the back of her head, which led me to dig furiously through her hair while she slept when I was a small child.
But Mama had a keen sense of when I was doing something I shouldn’t, was in trouble, or just all around in a pickle, often of my own doing.
I spent most of my earlier years wondering how my Mama knew what I was doing or more accurately, had done, outside of her presence.
And this was years, decades even, before we had the technology we have now.
No, Mama had her own GPS system that ran on what she called Mama ESP.
Once, when I was heading out with a friend, Mama cautioned us we better not be cruising with any boys, without looking up from her crossword puzzle.
“Oh, we won’t,” my friend replied.
A few hours later when we pulled back into the parking lot to pick up another friend’s car at the Winn-Dixie, there sat Mama, on the hood of her car, like a little skinny red-headed angry hood ornament, breathing fire from her Virginia Slim 120.
She tried to pull me from the backseat, the first of many occasions where she would try to pull me out of a moving vehicle.
“You lied!” she had screeched as she continued to try to pull me through the window. I am not entirely certain the window was even down but rather, she was executing something straight out of “The Matrix,” only about 20 years earlier.
I was embarrassed and more accurately, scared. I had been caught in a lie by the red-headed dragon herself. And I think she was going to do more than just put me on restriction or hide my phone.
Somehow, somehow, one of my friends saved me and used some Jedi mind trick to convince Mama to let me go home with her. I am still not sure how this happened, as Mama didn’t really like her, but the girl had pulled off a “This is not the droids you’re looking for” move with such aplomb, I would have thought she was Obi Wan Kenobi in the flesh.
When I got in my friend’s car, I looked at her and said, “I don’t know how you managed that, but thank you. You just spared the skin on my hinney.”
My friend shook her head, “I just don’t know how she knew where we were. It’s like she’s psychic or something.”
I asked Mama the next day how she knew where I was. She was barely speaking to me and giving me the silent treatment which meant she scowled at me with disappointment most of the day.
“I have my ways,” was all she said.
“What ways?” I asked.
Was it smoke signals she sent out from her Virginia Slim?
Did they go to other chain smoking mothers to keep a lookout for daughters with rebellious attitudes, big hair, and too much makeup? And boyfriends who could be described pretty much the same way?
Whatever it was, she knew where to find me, and where I had been.
On a few occasions, this internal tracking system came in handy in circumstances that didn’t involve me being caught in a lie.
Once after going to a friend’s house to sit out by the pool, I suffered a pretty severe sunburn. I was miserable. I also may have had a slight case of sun poisoning. I managed to whimper my way through a late night run of “Pretty Woman” at the theater, but only because I was promised extra butter on my popcorn.
I wouldn’t dream of asking my friends to drive me 30 minutes back home; I had to be a trouper and tough it out. Besides, wasn’t this how you got a good base tan?
But all I wanted was my Mama.
She had never been to my friends’ house, and it was late; I couldn’t ask her to drive all the way out there after she had worked until 2 in the morning.
I was so busy whimpering I didn’t see the headlights of Mama’s car as they flooded the driveway at my friend’s house. Even though it was late, Mama drove out there to get me.
She gave me an emphatic gasp when she saw how burned I was. “Oh, dear,” she began. “I am so glad I came on to get you; you may need to go to the emergency room.”
“Did someone call you?” I asked.
Mama shook her head, gently leading me to the car. Everything hurt. I felt like I was overcooked and even my hair felt extra crispy.
“No,” she said.
“Then how did you know?….”
“A mother just knows,” she said.
She never told me how she knew, or how she found my friend’s house in the dark when she had never been there before. This was decades before cell phones with Siri and navigation, which even now, I am sure my now fluffy, slightly darker haired smoke-free dragon would mess up.
She took me home where it took me a week and a lot of vinegar baths from Granny to survive the burn.
I still don’t know how she figured all these things out.
Just the other day, I asked Cole something, very direct when I already knew the answer.
He gasped in horror. “How did you know that, Mama? Are you violating my privacy? I have rights you know!”
I hadn’t violated any rights.
I was a mother.
And some things, we just know.