Reflections on Mother’s Day and Mama

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The writer's daughter, Anna Batts, painted this rendition of her grandmother's recipe for lemon pound cake.
The writer's daughter, Anna Batts, painted this rendition of her grandmother's recipe for lemon pound cake.
Contributed Photo

If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always told them a pediatrician or a children’s book author.

But what I wanted most of all was to be a wife and mama.

I dreamed of having a baby of my own to hold and cuddle, to dress in pretty clothes, to play with and love. That’s all I wanted.

I played with baby dolls and pretended they were real, and I dressed our kittens in cute little doll clothes. I was always practicing to be a mama one day!

Mama loved children, too. And she showed me the joy she found in motherhood. I guess, in reality, I wanted to be like my mama.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I think about Mama more and more and the lessons I learned from her.

Mama was kind and gentle. And she was as patient as any mother of two girls can be.

She taught me by example not to judge people but to think the best of people. She taught me to go to church, to love my family, to cherish my husband, to keep close ties with aunts, uncles and so many precious cousins.

In addition to her life lessons, Mama taught me practical things.

She stood me at the ironing board with a stack of Daddy’s white handkerchiefs and taught me how to use an iron.

She showed me how to make a bed and clean the bathroom grout with bleach and an old toothbrush.

Mama stood by my side and taught me how to use her old pedal sewing machine and later a newer electric model. She also showed me how to crochet and embroider.

I sat beside Mama and Daddy on the sofa and shelled peas and butter beans. Susan and I worked alongside them to freeze corn or make ice cream in Daddy’s hand-crank ice cream freezer.

Mama was such a good cook. And although I don’t remember specific cooking lessons, she taught Susan and me how to cook by letting us watch and learn.

I learned to save bacon drippings to season the vegetables that grew in the Boykin family garden. I learned how to collect bananas until they were ripe enough to make incredibly delicious banana nut bread. And I watched and learned as she used her strong hands to make taffy, or pull candy.

I stood near the stove while Mama fried chicken to perfection, then let it drain on folded newspapers topped with paper towels. And I learned how to make spaghetti sauce that made my mouth water as soon as I smelled it cooking.

And although I watched her make biscuits and follow her recipe, I still can’t make them taste as good as Mama’s. In fact, none of my food tastes as good as Mama’s!

Since my mama’s death, I’ve come to appreciate her even more: the lessons she taught, the love she doled out, the lasting impression she made on my sister and me as well as her own grandchildren.

I find myself eating off her pretty plates, making her recipes and teaching my granddaughter some of the same lessons she taught me. Anything and everything to help me feel close to her.

On Sunday, I will remember Mama. I will think of past Mother’s Days where Susan and I attempted to make breakfast for her and designed cards with our broken crayons. I’ll remember how we wore red roses to church and how Mama and Daddy wore white. The red roses meant our mama was living; the white roses honored our deceased grandmothers.

And I will try to remember that I’m a mama too! This day is for me as well.

I have loved being a mother, even on the hard days, and I am more than thankful for my two children. Although they no longer let me dress them in cute clothes or rock them to sleep, they still bring me unmeasurable joy.

I am so very thankful my dream came true.