The first time it dawned on me that Mama had been ‘someone’ other than a mom, I was 19 years old.
Sad, I know. But up until that point, I had just always seen her as a mother, keeping me from danger and fun, fighting motherly battles, all while clinging to her Virginia Slim 120.
It was when I wanted to go on a trip with my ex and his family that some truths were revealed.
Mama was steadfast against it and refused to let me go, stating emphatically I was too young, until Granny interceded.
“I didn’t go off on trips with my boyfriend and his family when I was your age,” she stated.
“No, Jean, you didn’t,” Granny interrupted. “When you were her age, you was already divorced and back living with me and your daddy.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
Mama shot Granny a look through her cigarette smoke.
“That’s right,” Granny said. “Your mama was already dee-vorced when she was your age. Not galavanting around with a boyfriend and his family.”
To say I was intrigued was an understatement. I knew my mother had been married before she married my father but I had no idea how old she had been.
Mama continued to glare. “That’s not important,” she said.
“Yes, it is, too. It’s very important. Sudie ain’t going to do anything foolish and his family will be there. There’s nothing wrong with her going on this trip and you know it; you’re just being controlling.”
Now, if this wasn’t the pot calling out the kettle.
Mama sighed and mumbled something about how she’d think about it.
Granny looked at me and winked.
“So, she was married when she was a teenager?” I was hot on Granny’s heels, full of questions.
“You and Pop let her get married?”
Granny snorted. “Let her? Let me tell you something about your mama. She’s as stubborn as an old mule. We couldn’t make her do nothing. If she had her mind made up, she was going to do it.”
That pot didn’t fall far from that kettle tree.
I was shocked. That didn’t sound like my Crazy Redhead.
“It’s like the time she stole some boy’s motorcycle and wrecked it,” Granny continued. “She had been told not to ride it, so what did she do? She hopped on it and took off. She’s lucky she didn’t get charged with stealing it and wrecking it.”
“She did what?”
My mouth had somehow lost its jaw hinge and was hanging wide open.
Mama stole a motorcycle?
This is the woman who was super-protective and never let me do anything that was remotely fun.
“She hasn’t told you about that?”
Granny grunted. “She probably don’t want you to know she did that such of a thing. But she did. She got on that motorcycle and took off.”
“I didn’t know she knew how to ride a motorcycle,” I said dumbfounded.
“Ha! She didn’t, which is why she ended up in a ditch. She’s lucky she didn’t kill her fool self or someone else. I don’t know what she was thinking. Me and your granddaddy had told her not to get on one, not to go with no boy that had one, and she didn’t listen to us.”
Mama was quite the little rebel.
“If she did all of that stuff, why is so strict with me?”
Granny considered my question for a moment. “Jean wasn’t a bad kid, just stubborn and bull-headed. You’re kind of like her in those ways.”
Funny, Mama has always accused me of being like Granny.
“But maybe she’s worried that if she doesn’t keep a tight rein on you, you’ll do something wild and crazy.”
Yeah, wild and crazy — those words are often used to describe me. They didn’t really fit Mama either.
“A mama is supposed to have a past though,” Granny continued. “Doesn’t mean they did anything wrong or bad. It just means they had a life a long time before they were a mother.”
“What did you do?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.
Granny gave me a sideways glance. “None of your business, Lil’ Un.”
Thinking Mama had some secrets from her younger, carefree days was an interesting concept. It was hard to see her in that light, but that’s part of the mystery. What was she like before she was a crossword filling, chain smoking, flaming-haired dragon mom?
I’m sure to my own teenager, I am a fuddy duddy, and that’s fine. Maybe a mother’s intuition and wisdom comes from some of the antics and escapades she got into when she was younger and those experiences help us foresee dangers and mistakes lurking around the corner.
I was going through some old photos recently when one caught my son’s eye.
“Is this you?” Cole asked, picking up an old photo of me dressed up to go out with one of my friends when I was a teenager. I remembered that night well.
He looked at the girl in the photo, in her all funky, punkish clothes, wearing a hat and posing like she was definitely up to absolute shenanigans.
“Where were you going? What were you doing?”
I shrugged. “Just ... going to Athens with one of my friends.”
Mamas do need to keep a few secrets to themselves.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.