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When it comes to Mama's advice, you can take it or give it

Occasionally, I'll send Brandon, the nice young man who helps me out around the house, over to Mama's to do errands or yard work for her.

He loves her.

"Your mama is the smartest woman in the world," he declared one day after a visit with her. He caught himself immediately. "Except for you, of course. I can tell where you get all your smartness. I just love to talk to her. She gives the best advice."

Now, this is just what Mama's been wanting and probably praying for - someone who actually thrives on her advice.

"Well, I'll tell you what," I said to Brandon. "You can have my share of her advice."

Fine and dandy with him. So the next time Mama started to offer her unsolicited opinion to me, I held up a hand for her to stop.

"Don't start," I said. "I gave Brandon my share of your advice, so you need to call him and give it to him. It would be unfair for me to take it after I gave it to him."

Another friend is a big fan and supporter of Mama's. One day he stopped by to see me, and Mama just happened to be at my house. He was delighted and rushed right over to hug her.

Then, with one arm around her shoulder while casting an evil eye in my direction, he said, "I just wanted to tell you how sorry that I am that you have such a mean daughter. It's terrible how she writes about you."

Mama nodded and said, "I thought I had raised her better than that."

I shook a finger in his direction. "You just wait. If you stick around long enough, your time will come. Trust me. No one escapes Mama."

The other day his time arrived, and I couldn't rush to the phone fast enough to call him and break the news.

"I love him like he's one of my own children," she said over lunch. Then she proved it by what she said next.

"But I'll tell you that something bad is wrong with him. He's so unhappy in his eyes. It's showing up in age all over his face." She shook her head woefully.

Quietness overtook him when I relayed the conversation, and you can be assured that he wasn't singing the praises of Mama. Yet another voice had been silenced.

I sniggered. "Welcome to my world."

"I still love her," he said.

She went with me to a luncheon the other day. When I picked her up, she said, "I've spent all morning getting ready."

"I got ready in 30 minutes, including washing my hair," I replied.

She glanced at me. "And it looks like it, too." She paused. "You know I liked your hair much better back when you used to actually comb it."

Before I gave my share of Mama's advice away to Brandon, I actually gave her brief control over my life. All the decisions I was making on a particular situation weren't working, so I figured I had nothing to lose by following her counsel.

"This is the chance you've been dreaming of," I told her. "You just tell me what to do and I'll do exactly what you say."

"Really?" She was incredulous, and rightly so.

"Absolutely."

She hesitated. "Now, I don't know that I want that responsibility."

"Oh no, you can't do that. You've wanted to run my life for years. Here's your chance."

So, she gave me her advice, I followed it to the letter and it failed worse than when I was running my life.

After that, I now say when she starts commentary on the shape of my life, "Don't do that. I let you run my life once and you did worse than I do."

She smiles sinisterly. "But I plan to keep trying 'til I get it right."

And so it goes.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)" and "The Town That Came A-Courtin'."