Outside the Box Kind of Mama

or…..I Wish I Were the Kind of Mama She Was

Y’all, confession time:

I need my sleep.

That’s why Mama told me I might need a nap.  Often.  If I don’t get enough sleep, I just can’t function properly.  “Properly” meaning up to and including not snapping at people or being downright rude.

I am reminded of this as I haven’t been getting enough sleep at night lately.  When one of the first thoughts you have when you wake up in the morning is whether or not you will be able to get a nap….you might have a sleeping problem.

It was the same when I was young.  I had an early bedtime.  I can remember it being as early as 8 p.m. and then 8:30 and finally 9 before it was up to me to set my bedtime.  As the oldest I was the first to have an advanced bedtime, and when I hit that 9 p.m. I thought I had arrived.

The problem with any and all of these bedtimes was that I couldn’t get up in the mornings.  At least the way Mama preferred.  Cheerfully.  That whole “Rise and shine and give God the glory glory” song?  Yeah, Mama could have written that.  That was her morning attitude–just all “isn’t this a wonderful day?” and “I can hardly wait to get started on all this awesomeness I have ahead of me.”


Don’t get me wrong.  I loved my Mama then and I still do today.  I miss that cheerfulness and sassiness that she would use to make me do right in any given situation.  (She loved me but she flat called me out on some stuff.)  But that early morning, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed…..let’s leave that to the squirrels, shall we?  I heard my oldest describe herself recently–she said that she wasn’t a night owl or a morning person…..more of a 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. kind of gal.  I’m thinking she comes by it honest.

When I was in second grade, I just couldn’t get up on my own very well.  Mama would try and try with all her cheery might, and I was still a grump.  Back then Mama sewed a lot of our clothes.  I remember the jeans with the contrasting denim pockets that I wore on the kaolin mines field trip and watched the blue get lighter as the day progressed.  And the bandana shirts.  I loved those.  She even made me a bathing suit.  It was a lovely 70’s shade of orangey-yellow.  But looking back I think the most precious thing she made that year was my nightgown.

I added the nightgown so lovingly made for me when Mess Cat and I were painting together on Saturday.  Happy memories.....
I added the nightgown so lovingly made for me when Mess Cat and I were painting together on Saturday. Happy memories…..

As I recall it was peach in color which could have been my favorite color at the time.  I’m not sure.  I loved it in the eighth grade when she made my graduation dress from the Oscar DeLaRenta pattern in a peach colored fabric with white ruffle trim.  It was my favorite again in college, when she made us curtains in a yellow gingham complete with tiebacks. I loved yellow too and somehow it coordinated with the yellow bedspreads and peach sheets…..my roommate and I were going for a pastel theme, okay?

The color and style of the sleeveless gown were not what made it so special.  What made it special was what Mama embroidered by hand on it.

A smiley face.

Mama was not only a problem solver, but she was a creative, outside of the box kind of thinker.  She was likely very frustrated with me for not cooperating and getting up.  At the time she had two little ones behind me to care for as well.  The last thing she needed was me, dragging and whining every morning.

So she gave me this gown.  I remember her pointing to the smiley face and saying, “I want you to look down and remember to be happy every morning.”  Later that would be her thing to say, “Happy Everyday!”

She was such a good Mama.

I’m so not her.

I wish I could remember to be a creative thinker and do things like this instead of losing my mind and my temper.

Her creativity came to the rescue more times than a few.  I remember when I broke my ankle and she came up with a great way for me to shower without getting my “boot” wet.  She covered it with a garbage bag and put me in the shower on her vinyl covered kitchen stool.  After each shower she would dry the stool off and put it away until the next day.

She could organize like nobody’s business and said that loading the dishwasher was like a different but fun version of the game Tetris.  Family lore has it that she fit a five foot swimming pool in a little bitty Falcon.  (She’d always say that when we said there wasn’t room for anything else in the dishwasher, “Sure there is.  I once fit a five foot swimming pool….” Or we’d say, “Ask Mama how to get all this organized, she once fit a…..”)

But most of all, loved ruled with her.

That’s why, instead of punishing me for not getting up like I should or chewing me up one side and down the other, she sat down and lovingly and cleverly made me a peach nightgown with a smiley face on it.

I have no idea what happened to the gown.  Maybe it made its way down through my two sisters–most likely, but it doesn’t matter.  I can still see it the way it looked in the light from the kitchen in our little five-room house on Boy Scout Road.  The silky thread of the smiley face shimmering in the light.  With color.  With happiness.  With love.

I was so lucky to have her.  And to be loved by her.

2 thoughts on “Outside the Box Kind of Mama”

  1. Sniff. My mom made me nightgowns, too, and I loved the warm snuggli-ness of the flannel. So much so that when Jessie was little I asked her to make a few for her and my niece for Christmas. She made 2 for her, out of the most precious pink flannels, and Jessie love love loved them. She wore them until they migrated from her ankles to above her knees and could no longer close around her back. 🙂

    For 5 years I’ve been so grateful that I asked her to do it when I did, because that was the last Christmas when she made home-made gifts. The next year she was too tired and anemic from her chemo, and she was gone in February. After she died, Jessie took to wearing them year-round, not just in the winter.

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