This one is very personal to me. Several years ago, when Mom was just starting to lose her memory, I decided to write for her, on Mother’s Day, some reflections about our times together. Ms. Brugger helped me make a special crafty card of this for her. As simple as it was, I believe Mom valued this gift more than any I had ever given to her. This is my love letter to her.
My earliest memory of you was being abandoned in the Kroger parking lot on Spruce Street. On shopping day, you’d go inside the store — I suspect for no more than five minutes — while I stayed in the car. I remember pressing my face against the window and crying for you to come back because I didn’t know what went on inside that building. I figured it must be some awful place where mothers went in and never came out again. Then, when you did come out, I wanted to sing for joy — but of course I couldn’t sing because I was too young to even talk.
In the summertime, we’d often go to the swimming pool at Lynwood, down by Dupont. That’s where I learned to swim. I remember you leading me by the hand across the hot gravel parking lot to the pool, you wearing a big, floppy pink hat. You sure did look funny.
Sometimes, you’d take me down to the Park-Mor restaurant on Memorial Blvd, where we’d get pizza, which we ate in Dad’s old black and white Ford. To me, that car was a rocket ship. I’d wear my raincoat and the space helmet I had inherited from my cousins because it was kind of like being an astronaut. And many a Friday, Dad would take you, Alan, and me to the Broad Street Hotel restaurant. Alan and I thought the stairs leading up from the front desk were scary because it was so dark up there. The place seemed truly mysterious, but I don’t imagine any kid could have loved a good mystery more than I.
Throughout the 1960s, the Fireman’s Bazaar was held at Brown Street Field, across from the old high school. Going there was always exciting. I remember riding the ferris wheel for the first time and being pretty scared, but Dad went with me and was very reassuring—except when he warned me the ferris wheel was old and rickety and that I ought not breathe too hard because a big wind might blow it down. Yeah, there was no way in heaven or hell you were going to get on that thing. But once, when we went to Six Flags Over Georgia, you ended up boarding the Dahlonega Mine Train ride with me, not realizing it was a roller coaster. It wasn’t all that big, but it was fast, and you kept telling me to “hold on tight!” I ended up loving it. I think you did not, although the worst that actually happened was that it messed up your hair.
I’m sure you know how much I loved visiting the grandparents in Gainesville and Atlanta. In Gainesville, whenever our Papa came home from work at the dry cleaning plant, I’d hide behind one of the living room chairs. He’d hear me breathing and exclaim there must be a puff adder in the house. I recall your mom, Neenie, playing organ at the Old Hickory BBQ restaurant. I found this pleasant enough, but it wasn’t rock and roll. Summertime visits were great, but Christmas was the most special time of all, the most memorable being the year the alarm clock didn’t work right. Excited beyond words about Santa Claus’s visit, I woke up sometime before dawn. Well, hours and hours would pass, but our apparently defective clock showed that only ten minutes had gone by. You always taught me to be helpful and responsible, so I ran the clock forward a few times. To this day, I have never understood why that one clock read seven a.m. when all the others in the house said it was only five. Making me go back to bed for the next two hours was cruel and unusual punishment, I have to say.
We’d always end our visits with you and Dad offering to give Neenie and Papa some money for all their trouble, but they would never hear of it. This always worried me a bit because I was afraid that if you didn’t hush, they would invite us to leave and not come back.
In my young adulthood, I sometimes went looking through the photos in your wedding album and feeling warm and wonderful about how happy you and Dad appeared. All through my childhood and even beyond, you both inspired me, comforted me, and provided for me. Only as an adult could I see how profoundly you are responsible for every good thing there is about me. And I’m sure the bad stuff is not your fault; for that, we can blame the Wickliffes, for they were decadent.
|Mum and Martha Wickliffe|
Speaking of the Wickliffes, there was a time in my 30s when Martha revealed a startling fact. Now, although you rarely drank alcohol, I know you enjoyed a wee spot of red wine now and again. Apparently, at some gathering y’all had attended, you drank a glass or two too many. Stunned, I asked Martha what you were like when a little bit oiled. She said, “Same as always, only louder.”
I wrote these reflections hoping they might give you some sense of how truly I appreciate you as my mom. I’ve always known that I was loved, and that I am loved. I loved you deeply when I was a youngster, and now, as an adult, I love you all the more. You are the dearest and most precious person in my life now and forever.
I love you, Mom.