Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Tomorrow brings memories and tears and maybe even some smiles. All I know is that I miss my Mama more than words can express, as this is our first Mother’s Day without her. As I think about the sadness and brokenness that many might feel on this day, I smile when I think of our friend on her first joy-filled Mother’s Day with her little guy whom she has waited on for so, so long. Remember that scene at the end of Steel Magnolias, where M’Lynn is pushing Jack Jr. on the swing, and Annelle talks about naming their expected baby Shelby, and M’Lynn says something about life going on, as it should be? Yes, that. That is the one thing that gives me hope. Life goes on, and Monday is coming, as a sweet friend reminded me yesterday.
One of my favorite things about my Mama was how she would wave “bye” to us as we pulled out of the yard. She would wave with her hands in the “I love you” of sign language.
I originally wrote the following on 21 July 2008 about the other HUGE way Mama has said “I love you” all these years. I send love to each one of you wherever you are on your journey on this day. Thank you for reading.
Before You Go…..
There are three words I love to hear my Mama say more than anything…..including “I love you.” In fact, I think it’s how she really says I love you. These words have evolved over the years in their meaning, and it didn’t hit me until Mama was telling my three year old daughter goodbye after a long day’s visit just how much they have evolved.
“Before you go…..”
As a small child, I probably heard this first followed by the words “…do you need to go to the bathroom?” (In truth the words were probably more like “before WE go.”) That ever present desire that passes from generation to generation to 1) avoid public restroom visits at just about all costs and 2) to avoid an accident. As I started school and Daddy drove me there, the words were likely followed by “…be sure to brush your teeth…” or “…don’t forget your lunch…” or “be sure to bring home all the books you need for your homework.” (Going back to the school for forgotten items was NOT an option—probably would be misconstrued as educational neglect today, back then it was called “teaching responsibility.”) When we would visit my Granny’s, never knowing what cousins would be there to play with, she would say, “Before we go, you remember NOT to leave ANYBODY out—don’t hurt anybody’s feelings.” Always ALWAYS, nearly every time I left the house without one or both of my parents, it was “Before you go, you be sure to mind your manners. Act like you are somebody.”
As I grew older and the boundaries between home and the outside world blurred, I began driving, got a job, and participated in social activities that didn’t always involve piling us four and our three or four cousins with Mama and our aunt in a Chevy II (ah, the days before mandatory car seats) or riding in the back of Daddy’s truck. Having a nearly thirteen year old, I can only imagine the terror that struck Mama’s heart every time she heard my key in the ignition. Then the “Before you go’s” were tinged with a deeper meaning….. “Before you go, be careful.” “Before you go, don’t forget to buckle up.” “Before you go, make sure you remember to call me when you get there.” “Before you go, do you know how to get there?” “Before you go, remember to lock your doors.”
Nearly six years ago, I packed up and moved my then seven year old daughter–the first grandchild– to Japan. I believe the hugs muffled the words, but they could still be heard. “Before you go, remember I love you. Take care of yourself and y’all be good to each other.” At least I think that’s right; I’m not sure of the exact words. Crying one’s eyes out will do that to a person.
Now that I have three chill’uns of my own, I find myself with all kinds of variations of “Before you go” spilling forth. I tell my almost 13 going on 25 year old, “Before you go, wash all that gunk off your face.” Or “Before you go, please remember to tell them thank you for having you.” And the ever popular “Before you go, did you unplug and turn everything off upstairs?” One that she shares with her three year old sister is “Before you go outside/to the car/to watch TV, y’all PLEASE flush that toilet!” (Oh my, a toilet that’s been forgotten…..but I digress.) My one year old little guy is just entering into the “Before you/we go” world. Pretty much his is, “…..let’s change your diaper” or “do you have your gulp gulp?” or “Mama has to go to the potty.”
It was two days ago, that I heard my Mama say it to our 3 year old princess. I held my breath and time moved as if frame by frame, as I waited to hear what would follow…..
“Before you go…..I need a big hug!”
Our girl grinned her biggest grin and all but leaped into Maemae’s arms.
It was then that I realized that it had all come full circle, and how some of life’s greatest treats these days were prefaced by Mama saying just those three words.
“Before you go…..let me fill up your sweet tea.”
“Before you go…..I’ll change his diaper for you.”
“Before you go…..let me show you this book I think you’ll love!”
“Before you go…..let me tell you what your Daddy just said—it cracked me up!”
“Before you go…..please let me fix up some of these leftovers for you to take home.” (NEVER EVER say no to this—good eatin’s…GOOD EATIN’s)
It occurred to me that this is the best way my Mama says I love you. Oh she says it in its purest linguistic form often enough. She uses the sign language form to wave goodbye. She says it in the “big hugs” she gives. She says it in the phone calls to check on us and in the many, MANY times she just listens when I call her. Somedays just the fact that she even answers the phone, despite knowing it’s me (ah, the marvels of modern technology), SCREAMS “I love you.” She says it every time she multiplies our joys and divides our sorrows. But…..
“Before you go, don’t you want to take these biscuits with you? I can make some more for us later.”
Is there any love greater than that?