you always need your mama

You always need your Mama (3/18/2015)

“So, how are Mama and Uncle Bobby doing without Granny?” my friend Renee asked as she took a seat across the table from me.

I sighed. How to answer that?

Granny had always threatened to one day show Mama and Bobby how they couldn’t make it without her, saying she was going to get her an efficiency apartment in town, leaving them to their own devices.

“And prove what, old woman?” I asked. “That in their 60’s they can be on their own? They would probably go wild and throw a rave complete with Geritol shooters and a slew of Milk of Magnesia pills, lying around the place. It would be so wild, someone would make it a reality show: Party til Dusk – because none of them can see to drive after dark.”

She pronounced me a smart-alecky heathen and told me all of us would be lost without her.

“You’re wrong,” I said. “We would manage just fine.”

Sure, we’ve managed. But there is a void.

A big, loud void of righteousness that will never be filled by a presence other than hers.

I sighed again before I spoke.

“They are alright, I guess. Mama misses her, of course, and you know Bobby has never been one to talk a whole lot.

Truth be told, I think they are a little bit lost without her there telling them what to do. Bobby is buying a bunch of lottery tickets and now he’s taking in every stray that shows up since she is not there to scream about it.”

Granny would have a fit about all the animals my uncle took in; when I lived there, we both nearly drove her crazy.

She informed us once we only worked to pay the vet and buy dog and cat food. She wasn’t far off, either.

It was like the underworld stray community knew Granny was gone and they started just coming on in whenever my uncle opened the door. I think he has a standing appointment at the vet’s office on Mondays now.

“You leave Bobby alone,” Renee said. “One day, that man will win the lottery. He will.”

He believed he would, too. And then there were no telling how many strays he would take in.

But I worried about them. They were geriatric orphans.

Even though they are adults, I wonder who is taking care of them.

Do they know what to do if one of them gets sick?

How do they know who to call about things like Granny did?

When something happened to the HVAC or the plumbing, Granny knew what to do. She took care of, well, everything.

When they were supposed to get some snow a few weeks ago, Mama told me she hoped they didn’t lose power.

“Maybe Bobby should go get some firewood from town, just in case,” she said.

“No,” I said. “Y’all do not need to be building a fire in that fireplace – do either of you know how to build a fire?”

She paused to consider.

“No. Mama always built the fire.”

Granny probably rubbed two sticks together, too, to start it. Or told it to ignite and it did.

The old gal had a way about her that if she told anything – even wood, dirt, or whatnot – to do something, it did it.

“Alright, then,” I said. “Y’all leave that fireplace alone. Y’all don’t need to be messing with fire. Neither one of you.”

“What if the power goes out?”

“It won’t,” I declared.

If Granny could declare things, I could too.

Mama wasn’t so sure. She didn’t like the thought of them being cold, she didn’t like the thought of them possibly being without power, and more than anything, she didn’t like the fact I was telling her what to do.

“Why are you acting so bossy about this?” she asked.

“Because,” I began.

How do I even explain it?

“Mama, I worry about y’all. Who is taking care of y’all? I should be there, or y’all here, so I can take care of you. Granny’s gone…and y’all are just…alone.”

“We’re fine,” Mama said softly. “Granny was almost 93. There wasn’t a lot left she could do. We can take care of ourselves.”

Yes, there was. There was plenty. Even in a wheelchair, she still struck an intimidating form.

“Mama, I know she was old. I know she couldn’t get around anymore. But I felt better knowing she was there. She made sure y’all were OK.”

Mama had felt better, too, even if the old gal was fussing – usually at Mama – all day long.

There was comfort in her ordering everyone around. They were assured everything was in order and everything was done.

“I mean, honestly, Mama, who tells y’all what to do now? Y’all need someone to tell y’all.”

Mama quietly agreed.

“Yes, in some ways we do,” she said. “Because it doesn’t matter how old we are, we always need our Mama.”

In defense of the BLT’s (3/12/2014)


I’ve been called bossy before. When I was younger, I think there were more comparisons to Lucy from “Peanuts” than to any fairy tale princesses or damsels in distress. Bossy, assertive, stood up for myself – those are not traits a girl is supposed to possess.

If I had been a boy, someone would have declared me to be the future president of the United States.

But no, I was a girl – and a girl should not exhibit any sign of bossiness.

“She’s a BLT,” I heard someone comment once. Think it was a friend of my grandfathers who had overheard my sassy demands.

This BLT had nothing to do with bacon.

Instead, it stood for “Bossy Little Thing.”

My grandfather thought that was funny; he knew I was bossy and a pint sized task masker. I had asked him once for a raise and he had refused, saying my only responsibility was writing up his invoices by hand – a job he had taught me to do since I was five.

I went on strike, complete with picket line and made him enter his own home by the back door. 
After a week of that, he wisely met my demands.

“Bossy” did not sound as positive when it was used to describe a little girl wearing black patent leather Mary Janes and white socks to her knees. It was meant to be a negative term and one that would make me shirk away from the actions that made me seem bossy. It didn’t really stop me.

When I got older, that bossy was replaced with another “b” word. Still didn’t stop me – I just figured I was irritating the right folks.

Cole befriended a little girl when he was in day care. They became the best of friends.

“What do you like about her?” I asked my then 3-year-old son.

“She reminds me of you,” he had said.

Oh, how sweet, I thought.

“How does she remind you of me?”

“She’s bossy,” he answered simply.

He meant no mal intent by his statement. He was stating a fact: She was a BLT, too.

After I got to know the little girl, I realized how wonderful it was that here was this tiny person, two feet tall so aware of the innate power she held and wasn’t afraid to use it.

No one had yet had the foolishness to tell her to not be bossy, that “girls did not act that way.”

No one had told her that, so she wielded her bossy with a fierceness. I was thoroughly impressed.

“She’s going to be the first female president,” I told her mother one day.

“You think so?” she asked, a smile beaming from ear to ear.

“Heck yeah,” I replied earnestly. “I’d vote for her now!”

That little girl remains confident, self-assured and assertive – not ‘bossy.’

I teased a friend of mine one day, calling her my “BLT.”

I told Cole that was her new nickname. He thought on this for a second, nodding slowly as he stewed this over in his brain. He had never heard me say this before unless it was in reference to a sandwich, which was made with turkey bacon of course.

Of course, his first concern was if this involved bacon. I assured him it did not as I explained the meaning behind the acronym.

“She’s spunky and has chutzpah – it suits her! I like it!”

It does suit her. She is spunky, she’s assertive, can run circles around anyone and I think she is fabulous – so why in the world would anybody think calling a female ‘bossy’ is such a bad way to describe us?
If a male shows emotion or sensitivity, he’s weak.

If a woman shows strength and intelligence, she’s…well, she’s a lot of bad, horrible words. Words I have been called before by both sexes. It hurt worse when it came from my own gender than it did when it came from a man. Why?

Because even when we are strong, intelligent, assertive and all those power words, we are still supposed to be the nurturing ones and should understand that about our fellow females.

“Who’s the better leader, Mama?” Cole asked me recently. “Boys or girls? There’s a debate going on at school and I wasn’t sure who would win.”

I sighed. It had nothing to do with gender. This argument had been going on for decades. Who’s smarter, who’s stronger, who’s this and who’s that.

“Cole, it completely depends on the individual,” was my answer. “Has nothing to do with boy or girl. You know that.”

He nodded, deep in thought.

“I don’t know why they are worried about it – some folks say it should be a guy leader, but I think hey, let’s give a girl a chance, you know? I mean, what if, one day, that stuff didn’t matter,” he said, thinking aloud. “You know, Mama? What if one day, no one said ‘she’s a girl, so she shouldn’t try out for that?’ because really, it shouldn’t matter. Don’t you agree?”

I do.

And one day, maybe that little thing like gender won’t matter and being a bossy little thing will be a point of pride.