Mammy was my dad’s mother and she wanted us to call her “Mammy.” We often went to visit Mammy in Amarillo when I was growing up. Mammy was tall and stately—almost six feet tall with big bones, large, dark eyes and dark, tight, curly hair, which she wore very short. When I was little, she seemed enormous with long arms and exceptionally long fingers. When she went out she always dressed in suits with frilly blouses. I doubt if she ever owned a pair of pants, but she did love beautiful shoes and hats. On her fingers, she wore lovely rings that always seemed too loose and clinked, along with the many sturdy bracelets that she always wore. I inherited one of those beautiful antique rings and several of those bracelets which are made of ivory.
Mammy was very strict and I was always a little bit afraid of her. However, I still remember many bits of wise advice that she gave me. I liked helping her in the garden where she grew beautiful, tall flowers. One day I was having a wonderful time carrying dirt in a garden spade and piling it up on the sidewalk. Mammy noticed what I was doing and told me to put the dirt back where I got it and gave me a broom to sweep the sidewalk. I gave the dirt a casual brush or two with the broom and she told me to do a better job of cleaning up the sidewalk. I will never forget her words which have followed me through life: “If the job is worth doing, it is worth doing right.”
Another bit of advice Mammy often emphasized was to put all of my money in the bank and save it for a rainy day. She also gave me distinct instructions for only using four squares of toilet paper when I went to the bathroom because more would stop up the toilet. I often laugh when I roll off more than four squares of toilet paper and feel a twinge of guilt that perhaps Mammy is still watching somewhere over my shoulder.
Mammy loved old things, especially beautiful old things. She touched her old crystal vases with such a sense of awe and then talk about them with such seriousness that I soon grew to love old things myself. She sometimes let me hold the old pieces and stressed how important they were in our family history. Now I have some of her old pieces and I love to look at them and handle them, but I also gained a wonderful sense of the importance of family history from Mammy during those times when she shared her treasures and stories with me.
Fortunately, I was able to spend time with Mammy after she had several strokes. I was in high school at the time and I learned about her romantic side and her love of poetry. She was a great dreamer and told me many stories those last years of her life. Now, I wish I had paid more attention to her stories and written them down, but I was young and impatient to get on with my own life and did not understand the importance of the life lessons that she was teaching me.
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