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Darrell Huckaby: Always cherish your mother

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

If you still have your mother this Mother's Day, cherish her. If you do not, cherish her memory.

I lost my mother in December 1999 -- a week before Christmas -- but not a day goes by that I don't remember little things about her. My daddy worked nights when I was coming up and my mother was my constant companion. She used to tell me stories about her childhood during the Great Depression -- how much of the time the only thing her fatherless family had to eat was a pot of dried peas, simmering on the wood stove. She wasn't bitter, understand; she was grateful for the pot of peas.

She would tell about working in the school cafeteria to pay for her lunch every day and how she came in early and helped clean the school to earn enough money to buy a pair of basketball shoes, so that she could represent the Social Circle Lady Redskins on the hard court in her senior year of 1941.

Again -- she wasn't bitter, just grateful. I wonder how it would go over today if a student were asked to earn the free food they are given each day. I wonder if they would appreciate it more?

Mama moved to Atlanta during the war and worked as a telephone operator. I can't imagine Tommie Huckaby living in Atlanta -- even when it was a small Southern city. But she did. She did a lot of things during her lifetime because she had to -- or because it needed doing.

Mama was a big Georgia fan -- primarily, I suspect, because I was a big Georgia fan. We listened to so many games together on the little Philco radio that sat on a shelf above our kitchen sink. Later, when I started going to games in person, I would always find a pay phone and call her after the games. This was before cellphones and caller ID. I assume she learned to recognize "my ring" because she would always answer the phone, "Didn't we do it!" Later on in my life it would be "How 'bout them Dawgs!" I still find myself fumbling for the phone after a big win, wanting to call my mama.

She was such a great cook, too. We didn't have gourmet meals at our little house, but she would work over a stand of looms for eight hours every day, come home and take a short nap and then cook a full meal every evening. Daddy would come home from his job on the second shift at precisely six o'clock and supper was always on the table. We always had a meat and three vegetables and either cornbread or biscuits -- sometimes both.

Mama was never idle. After supper, when we retired to the living room to watch TV, she would have sewing in her lap. She made beautiful clothes for my sister Myron and sewed all my badges onto my Scout uniforms, and the badges of my friends whose mothers didn't sew -- or wouldn't take the time.

Our house was always the place we kids congregated. One of the big reasons is because Mama was always so giving and kind and happy to have people over. Our home was a happy home and my friends were always accepted unconditionally. There's much to be said about unconditional love.

My mother didn't see much of the world, but in 1964 she went to the New York World's Fair with the Porterdale Women's Club and talked about riding "It's a Small World" for the rest of her life. The first time I went to Walt Disney World I bought her a little music box that was decorated with the characters from that ride and played the haunting theme song when you opened the top. It is stained with the smoke of a million of the cigarettes that killed my mother, but still sits in a place of honor on a shelf in my home.

I still have many of the quilts she made, and we sit down and eat our meals each night from the same round pedestal table that she kept laden with delectable dishes. I have been able to keep a quilt for each of my children. I hope they have the good sense to appreciate the love that went into each stitch. Mostly, however, I have the memories she left behind.

My mother would not have been a very good TV mom. She was no June Cleaver, that's for sure. She only dressed up for church on Sunday and I don't recall her ever baking cookies. But she gave everything she had to her husband and her children and she did without all my life so that I could have.

I don't know if souls in heaven are aware of what happens here on Earth. If they do, I hope my mama is proud of me -- and I hope she knows how much I loved her and how I cherish her memory.

In the immortal words of the legendary Bear Bryant, "Have you called your mama today? I wish I could call mine."

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.