My mother never wanted to be called “Mother.”

She was always “Mama.”  I think she thought “Mother” sounded pretentious – and that’s one thing that she was not.

Her father owned a store in a small town near Augusta, one that he lost during the Depression.  When I’d tease her that she was “small town society,” that made her mad.  Being a part of “society” was never one of her goals.

She was a college graduate, starting at Georgia Teachers College (now Georgia Southern University) where a math professor encouraged her to major in math.  She declined and went on to Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College, where my sister and I both earned degrees) and majored in Home Economics.  She loved her two years in Milledgeville, and based on her stories, it was the happiest time of her life.

From Milledgeville and GSCW she went on to her first job in Darien as the McIntosh County Home Demonstration Agent.  She loved being so close to the beach, and we have lots of pictures of her there, smiling and laughing as a 20-something who was full of life.

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Paddling on a lake we call “The Big Sea”

After a couple of years, she moved to Effingham County to be the Home Demonstration Agent there.  I doubt she realized then that that would be the last county she’d live in for the rest of her life.  There she met my father.  After a six-month engagement, they married.  Two years later they built a house, and two more years later had me, and three years after that had my sister.  It was a busy time, one that the two young folks enjoyed immensely.

When I was born, Mama quit her job, and from then on she devoted her life to her new role as a mother.

Mama helped make a good life for us.  We never lacked for anything and were surrounded by loving extended family and church family.  She took her mother role very seriously, trying her best to provide for us all that we needed.

She taught my sister and me to be honest and independent and helpful and considerate.  She taught us never to be pretentious.  She taught us that we were better than no one.  That’s one lesson I especially appreciate, because it’s one that comes to me over and over.  I know that we are all connected, that we all matter, that we all are human beings with loves and fears and shames and joys.

Mama loved us fiercely.  She had the Robinson temper that I saw in her brother and sister and which we’ve been told comes from our great grandmother, the one who was so fearsome that men, women, and children all stepped out of her way when she walked down the street.

One of my life lessons is to learn to be fierce and compassionate, to be both brave and loving.  It’s not easy finding the balance, that place of and.  It was a struggle for Mama, too.

Almost 10 years ago Mama finished her struggle on this earth and made her passage to the other side.  And these 10 years later, I still find myself thinking for a brief second every now and then that I’ll call Mama to share some news or some thought.  Then I remember that she’s been gone from this world for almost a decade.

And I’ll also remember that she already knows what I’m thinking I’d like to tell her.

Because she’s always present to me.  She lives in me, in both my good and bad qualities.  She and Daddy gave my sister and me both genetics and home environment.  They formed who we both are today.

But they did not completely determine who we have become, who we will ultimately become. They were our foundation. They gave us a launching pad.

But reaching the stars is up to us.

I’m grateful for that solid foundation, for the lessons I learned and am still learning, the ones that began in my first home.

I’m grateful for a mother who taught and exemplified independence and fierce love.

I’m grateful for my down-to-earth, non-pretentious Mama.  I’m still learning what she taught me through words and even more through example.  I’m still growing, still becoming a better person – a person she helped give every advantage.

Could I have been more blessed?

Hardly!

And so much of that blessing came through my mother.

Thank you, Mama.  And Happy Mother’s Day.

 

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