Everyone loved Mama. And they loved stories about her. This is a column written before her death but never published. I decided to share it to celebrate Mama. She was a true Southern original.
My worst fears are about to be realized: Mama has announced her intentions to write a book.
My payback is coming.
Before the bombshell dropped, I was ruler of my own universe, which means that I also reigned royally over Mama. I was completely in control of my little kingdom. Then in a matter of seconds, the bomb exploded and there was a changing of the guard. Suddenly, I was dethroned and the new queen supremely took her seat and my power was relinquished.
After a trip to the grocery store, we were, for once, driving along in silence. I was lost in my thoughts when out of the blue, Mama said, “I’m going to write a book.”
It took a split second for the significance of that comment to sink in. When it fully hit me, it splintered my senses like a Louisville Slugger meeting a mighty top spinner. I jerked my head around. “What?”
She looked around calmly — see, this is how mighty kingdoms are tumbled in a single moment — and said, “I’m gonna write a book.”
I started laughing. First, at what I thought was the sheer ridiculousness of it. Then, my laughter became a defense mechanism. After all, if I could convince her of the silliness of such a venture, she’d give it up. Right?
“I’m serious,” she replied. She looked at me levelly, without flinching.
“What are you going to write a book about?”
“My life. It’s interesting.”
“It’s not that interesting.”
I was still on the offensive. I didn’t realize that my seat time on the throne was growing shorter by the moment.
She shrugged. “I have good stories to tell.” She smiled wickedly. “I have plenty about you I can tell.”
This is when the offensive changed to the defensive.
“Me!” My eyebrows shot up and my mouth dropped. “You can’t write about me.”
Mama narrowed her eyes. This is always a serious sign. “You write about me all the time and half of it ain’t true.”
“All of it is true. And I have witnesses who can verify just about everything I’ve ever written.”
“Don’t worry, little girl, I’ll be able to verify mine, too.” Just for the record: When Mama calls me “little girl,” the battle has begun.
I dismissed the idea and went merrily on my way. I did not realize at the time that my kingdom was in serious jeopardy. Then, I stopped by the house and found Mama settled comfortably in her easy chair, scribbling on a yellow, legal-sized notepad.
I eyed the pad suspiciously. “Whatta ya doin’?”
She grinned happily. “Workin’ on my book.”
Dismayed, I shook my head. I can only imagine my role in the book. I’m sure it won’t be much of a pretty story for me. But to be honest, Mama is a good writer and a stronger storyteller.
“I have a title,” she continued. “I’m gonna call it ‘Mama.’” Oh great. Mama has now joined the ranks of Dolly, Cher, Elvis and all the other one-name celebrities. It’s true, though, that strangers come up to her all the time and say, “Hi Mama” or “How’s Mama today?”
We even have one friend who calls her “Dr. Mama” because she successfully diagnosed his ailments by using her beloved “doctor’s book.”
I’m not sure what’s going to become of this book but I have heard some of the stories about me that she tells people and that leads me to only one conclusion.
At least for me, this book is not going to have a happy ending.