My mama deserved only the best

It's Mother's Day weekend - again. Didn't we just have one last year?

Don't get your dander up, y'all. I'm just joshing, but it is a standing joke in our family about the difference in how the nation honors our mothers on the second Sunday in May and our fathers when June arrives - which is a little akin to the difference between night and day, actually.

The standard Father's Day gift is a new tie. One year, I got a pair of wool boxers with a picture of a moose across the seat. That's quite a contrast to all the ads you've all seen and heard as Mother's Day approaches. Roses and silks and heart-shaped diamond pendants; and Tom Shane works overtime, his boring monotone voice blaring out over the airwaves on every radio station in town - AM and FM.

I never, ever listen to Tom Shane. Every time I hear his voice, I change the station. One day last week, I had to listen to 17 straight minutes of rap to avoid hearing him, but it was worth it. But that's another story for another day. We were talking about all the fuss that is made over Mother's Day - and every ounce of it deserved, I might add. Mothers are a special gift from God.

You know, you can't hardly get two or three ol' Southern boys together late at night when they don't get teary-eyed and start carrying on about their mamas, particularly if they don't have them anymore. During those late night philosophical discussions, they finally seem to recognize and appreciate all the sacrifices their mothers made for them - sacrifices they probably took for granted for a long, long time.

Lord, I know I feel ashamed of myself when I look back on all the times I took my mother's unconditional love for granted.

I remember one Saturday night when I was probably 16 or 17. It was winter, almost Christmas, and my mama was working a double at the mill. That means she went in at 7 a.m. and didn't get off until 11 p.m. If you've never stood over a stand of looms for 16 hours at a stretch, you have no possible way of comprehending what working a double in the cotton mill entailed.

But it was, as I said, almost Christmas, and she probably wanted to buy something special, like maybe an eight-track tape player for me or maybe a new dress for my sister or a suit of clothes for my daddy. She had driven the car to work because, as I said, it was winter and she was working 16 hours.

But I knew where the spare key was and I wanted to go somewhere. I already told you I was 16 or 17 - old enough to drive and young enough to be real stupid. I might have wanted to take Kim Puckett to the show, or maybe I just wanted to ride around town with Kevin Price and Wallace Christian. At any rate, I walked down to the mill parking lot and took the car - without asking. I told myself that I would have it back by the time she got off at 11, and I am sure that I intended to.

But I didn't. I almost did, but I didn't. I can't for the life of me remember why I didn't, but I will never forget the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I drove toward the Osprey Mill and realized that it was 10 minutes after shift-changing time. I will never forget how I felt when I saw my mother, her head bent against the cold walking up that long hill toward our house.

I pulled up beside her and begged her to get in the car, but she just looked at me and kept walking - all the way home.

When I was younger and did stupid things, she would send me to cut a switch and the punishment was swift and just. Not this time. This time I had to stew in my own juices - and did so for a long, long time.

But here's the thing about my mother: She never mentioned the incident. Never.

The next morning - a Sunday - she, who had worked a double-shift the day before and walked home in the cold, was up at the crack of dawn fixing breakfast for my sorry self who had been out gallivanting the night before in her car.

I learned a little about love that morning, and you can bet your sweet bippy I never took her car again without permission.

Don't get me wrong. That wasn't the last time I did something stupid or the last time I needed my mother's forgiveness. I just found new ways to screw up. But it didn't matter. It was impossible for me to move beyond my mother's love - which is one of the main reasons, I suppose, that we make such a fuss about what's coming tomorrow.

I wish I still had my mama. I wish I had another chance to tell her I was sorry for my shortcomings and show my appreciation for her sacrifices.

I might even buy her something from Tom Shane - if I didn't have to listen to him talk.

Oh, shoot-fire. Maybe I would even do that. She was certainly deserving.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.

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