NEWS FROM THE HILLS

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

 

To my mom—Alyce Faye,

 

I found a letter you wrote me when I was a teenager. I have kept it for almost 20 years. In it, you said, “… you are a child of my spirit, if not of my womb.” I remember, and I’m sure you do too, how mad it would make me when you would tell me that I was more like you than any child you had. And then, one day not too long ago, I realized I wasn’t just more like you than the rest of the kids, I was becoming you. It isn’t that we always start our housecleaning by scrubbing the toilet and throwing in a load of laundry to wash. Or that we can both spend hours in a grocery store. Or that I hate to sew. Or that I love to cook. That my greatest indulgence is a bubble bath after everyone else has gone to bed. Or that I read while I eat. It wasn’t even that I save bits of leftovers until they grow hair. It was the tennis shoes! My old, worn-out tennis shoes! Your tattered shoes used to embarrass the daylights out of me. If you couldn’t wear strappy high heels, couldn’t you have worn a pair that didn’t have holes in them? And then one day Patty brought me a pair of tennis shoes, because mine were so worn-out they embarrassed her when I had worn them while she was visiting me. I couldn’t deny it any longer. I also realized that you hadn’t worn them because they were so comfortable, but so that I could have the new pair.

Few children are privileged to have the kind of childhood I had. I appreciate it more now than I did then. I believed everyone had the same experience.

Didn’t everyone’s Mom make homemade buttermilk biscuits three times a day? I was a teenager before I ever ate bought spaghetti sauce. It was at a neighbor’s house, of course. I had never eaten sliced white bread with a meal until I was married. And yes, I served it. I still can’t bake biscuits like you. That’s why my kids ask for those “bread things” at your house.

It was nothing unusual to be welcomed into our home by the aroma of one of your “exotic” recipes, whether it was milkweed frying in cornmeal batter or orange buttermilk pie. I still wonder, did you ever find a recipe for eggplant that anyone could actually eat?

While I steer clear of using ingredients I have to scavenge through the woods for, you did instill a love for trying new recipes in me. And for nature. I find that in homeschooling my children, science is by far the highlight of the day. I catch myself rushing thru the 3 R’s some days just to get to science. They feel my excitement and often fight over who gets to sit beside me while I teach them; not just about the creation, but about the master designer who so awesomely created such a beautiful and diverse world for us to enjoy.

How many children do you know who have already started their bird life list? Or who sign up for a junior master gardening class because they want to? When I can’t identify a plant on one of our many nature outings, one of my kids will inevitably pipe up with, “If Mawmaw was here, she could tell us.”

I used to find your interest funny; now I share it. Didn’t everyone’s mom stay home and greet their children as they got off the bus after a long day at school? I remember how upset I would be if you weren’t right there when I got home. Not afraid — offended. Even if you were in the garden, I was disappointed. I wanted you to be there.

I had very high expectations of you, and my only complaint about your parenting was that I felt like you didn’t always listen to me. Keeping in mind that I was the youngest of six, was locked in the coat closet in kindergarten for talking during nap time and have been in trouble for it ever since, I concede that it was a wonderful way to maintain your sanity. I often wanted to feel like I was treated differently, but you were quick to point out, when I complained not too long ago, that you tuned us all out equally!

Some days when I’m overwhelmed trying to pour bowls of cold cereal for my own three children, I wonder how you ever managed. Not too long ago, you asked me to describe you in one word. I shot off, “forgiving,” which you are, but it would be impossible to describe you in one word. You are exactly what you represent in your column: a kind, gentle, simple and very intelligent country woman. You are also a complex, sensitive, deeply spiritual soul.

In the foolishness of my youth, I often mistook your gentleness for weakness. But, Mom, you are as steady as a rock, unwavering in your faith, even under the most difficult trials. The heritage of faith instilled in me came not from sitting in a church pew three times a week, but from listening to you pray countless hours in your “prayer closet.” In times of difficulty, that’s where I know I can find you, on your knees. Not because it knocks you down, but because you know where the source of true strength originates.

Mom, I appreciate you for so many things. For making room for one more child. For letting Patty mother me, too. For letting me drop out of kindergarten. For taking me weekly to visit Granny Evie. For reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series to me before bedtime. For letting me have sleepovers in the camper with my friends. For buying me hot dogs at the Dairy Queen when we went on our weekly grocery-shopping trip to Kroger’s. For making me feel that being adopted made me special. For always having extra food in case anyone dropped in … and they always did. For not hugging me in public when I went through “that stage.” I’m still so sorry for that. For letting me skip breakfast when I was a teenager so that I could sleep a few minutes longer. For loving me through those awful wild mood swings. For telling me you trusted me. For attending my wedding even though you thought I was making a big mistake. For teaching me over the phone how to make gravy to go with my canned biscuits. For not cooking pork for me when I visit. For hiding the last piece of pineapple cheesecake for me. For buying my girls books for Christmas. For lying in bed with me and crying when Caelan died. For not letting betrayals make you bitter. For being an example of a woman I can only strive to be. For never changing.

Mom, I know I will never be as kind as you. Certainly, as my family knows well, I’ll never be as forgiving. Not as spiritual. Not as gentle. I will never turn “the other cheek” with your ease. Obviously, I will never write with your skill. I will certainly not wind up in the hospital because I ate raw mushrooms. I doubt that I will break my back riding on a four-wheeler with my grandson. I will never, ever wear a whole slip. I will not identify foreign objects by taste. And I also know I will never be half the woman you are. I know that I’m not the child you depend on. Not the one that you lean on. Not the one that makes you laugh the loudest. But Mom, I am the one most like you. And I’ve matured enough to know that if anyone ever says I’m like you, it is a much greater compliment than I could ever deserve.

 

Mom, I want you to know I love, respect, honor, and admire you.

 

You are my hero. Happy Mother’s Day. You deserve it more than anyone I know.

 

I am Crystal, the youngest (adopted as an infant).

The Waynedale News Staff

Alyce Faye Bragg

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