Thoughts of Mama: 33 Years After

January 31, 2011

So yesterday, January 30, 2011, was the 33rd Anniversary of the death of my mother, Irma Johnson Smith.  She wasn’t just any kind of mother either.  I could (and did) talk to her about any and everything.  Now don’t get me wrong, Mama wasn’t one of these mothers who bragged about being “friends” with me.  It was always perfectly clear that she was the only adult in the relations.  Mama was just one of those rare and special adults who really listened.

I never missed the fact that I was very fortunate to have her as my mother I realized that I was enjoying something that many of my friends didn’t have – a mother who not only loved me, but one I liked!  One that I could talk to about the things that mattered to me (even if they must’ve sounded childish and sometimes a little crazy.)  In hindsight, I like to think that God knew we didn’t have time to waste with the common “mother-daughter” stuff that sometimes separates mothers and daughters for years and years.

Mama gave me a gift, that as a parent, I’ve tried to give my son – the gift of being SEEN and HEARD.  Mama listened to it all.  And believe me as much as I liked to talk there was plenty – LOL.  She made room for me to figure out things on my own without leaving me alone (BIG difference.)  I was even free to think my own thoughts, figure out what worked and didn’t work for me.  I was even free to disagree (respectfully of course) with Mama without fearing repercussions.

Thoughts of Mama stayed with me more than usual this year.  I welcomed each thought or flash of memory with a smile and a silent praying; hoping Mama would be proud as she watched over me from above.

I thought about sitting down and writing her a letter, to catch her up on things.  Got busy and that didn’t happen.  Instead, this morning as my night’s sleep slipped away to welcome a new day, the following was On My Heart

My brain couldn’t get around the fact that she was gone.  I had nothing to measure the loss against. 

Must be a mistake.  Mama’d never left me before.  It took me a while to realize that what I was feeling was ALONE.  With Mama, I’d never felt that before.  How could she just leave me?

Who would smile at me first thing in the morning or remind me to have a good day before I left for school?

How could Mama just be no more?  Who would listen to all I had to say now?  Must be a mistake; I mean I was only 17 and wasn’t this the time a girl needed her mother the most?  Was I even sitll a girl?  Was I still a daughter now that Mama was gone?

How could she just be gone.  Daddy didn’t know me and I wasn’t all that familiar with him, either.  Anyway, he didn’t get off work until 5pm.  Who’d come to award assemblies or bake cupcakes for the class Valentine’s Day party?  Who’d go on field trips and write notes so I could leave 6th period a little early to get to away football games?  Who’d be there to ask “How was your day?”  when I got home from school at 4pm?

I’d always imagined Mama would keep my room the same when I went away to college and fix all my favorite foods when I came home for a visit. 

Who’d take picures of me on prom night and wait up for me to get home,  so I could relive every moment?

I’m probably getting ahead of myself, I mean I’m only 17, but who would help me shop for my wedding dress or come home with me from the hospital after my first child was born?

Now that Mama was gone, who’d listen to my every dream and make me believe they’d all come true?  Would I be expected to take her place?

Breast cancer?  Mama always joked about not having “much up there” in the first place.  How had cancer had room?

I must’ve fallen asleep and woke up in somebody else’s life.  Mama wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.

Better get my brain together.  Better let it know she’s not here anymore.  Better hope my brain can remember to make the beds, fix dinner and help my little sister figure out Mama is gone.  Yeah, better hurry up and get my brain around the space Mama left because it’s going to take a while for my heart to get it.

dedicated to Mama . Irma Smith. Oct. 17, 1924 – Jan. 30, 1978

33 years is a long time.   Today in the place where sorrow, anger, fear and doubt came to visit after Mama passed, is only a deep sense of gratitude for the lessons learned along the way, for the countless “Angels” who came to guide me in her physical absence, for the valleys where I got to learn that “Mama’s Girl” was as beautiful, capable and strong as Mama always believed, for those times on the mountain where I could catch my breath and thank God for sunshine in the midst of my rainy days.

One Response to “Thoughts of Mama: 33 Years After”

  1. Juanita Reynolds Says:

    Thank you for this. Your mama was sooo special.

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