by Barbara Jane Robinson
I was just a young girl in elementary school when I learned how to make Mom happy. She’d send me down the street to Gene’s Bakery for orders of toast for her breakfast, to Vinyard's Drugstore, or to the local donut shop. Funny thing, we didn’t own a toaster, and Mom loved toast with her morning coffee. She loved hot glazed donuts on a cold winter morning with a steaming cup of coffee, or some coffee with her sugar and cream, I should say. Another way to make her happy was my going to the local drugstore for her on a hot summer evening and bringing back an ice cream. We lived in the small town of Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and Mom could trust me to run errands for her. She used to brag, "Why, I could send Jane across the street with a $20 bill at five years old, and she'd cross the main highway and bring my correct change back!"
I was Mom’s little errand runner and Mom’s little lady. There wasn’t much time for being a little girl. You see, I was the oldest of three girls. It was up to me to set the example. I set some examples, that’s for sure. Sure, I made good grades in school, never got into trouble at school, and was Mom’s little lady, but I was also a curious tomboy of a girl. That part didn’t always set too well with Mom.
When I played in the red Mississippi clay at my Grandmother Russell's with the little doodle bugs, Mom would say, "You should stay neat and clean like your sister. Girls should be girls. She plays with dolls and tea sets. She’s like a little lady."
There were times I wanted to say, "Well, let her be your little lady then!" But instead, I said, "I love playing with these tiny bugs because they look like Volkswagon cars. Just look how they roll their little bodies up."
Of course, Mom didn’t care to look at bugs, so she’d just shake her head and walk away. I went on happily playing with my little doodle bugs or making mud pies. I wasn’t always such a little lady. I loved dirt and mud and, just like a boy, I usually splashed right through it instead of looking for a way around.
Over the years I made many footsteps to the bakery, donut shop, and local drugstore buying Mom all her favorites. She even taught me how to go to the drugstore and find her favorite haircolor in just the right shade. She made me memorize the hair shade number. The color was supposed to be dark brown, but it was totally black on Mom. Mom had pale white skin, hazel eyes, and she dyed her reddish-brown hair coal black because she hated the red highlights that kept shining through the brown. She had to have jet-black hair, red, red lips, and pearly white teeth. She always kept up her hair and wore it long, hanging straight down her back. In her earlier days as a young mother, she had it permed, but in her later years, she complained that the perms always frizzed her hair. So, she just wore it long and straight, like the young girl she always was at heart.
Mom always talked about growing up on Grandpa’s Louisiana strawberry farm in Springfield, Louisiana. She loved the strawberries, sunshine and fresh air. She didn’t like packing the berries though. She was a picker and a fast one! She could pick two or three handcarriers to my one. She had me picking strawberries at dawn when I was five years old before I went to school each morning. I picked again after school in the evenings.
Mom worked for a local schoolteacher who picked us up and took us to the farm, took me to school (the same school where she taught), took us back to her farm, and then drove us home at dark.
So, I was raised in the Louisiana strawberry fields and packing sheds. However, when I grew up I decided I liked packing better than picking, and I was a faster packer than I was a picker. I left the picking to Mom, who could outpick anyone around.
Remember, I told you Mom loved toast and butter with her sugar and cream and coffee. Well, I happened to get a two slice pop-up toaster for a wedding gift when I married. I remember driving to Mom’s early in the morning and bringing my toaster just so she could have her toast with her morning coffee. I wasn’t there to walk to the bakery for her anymore; besides, the bakery she loved so much had gone out of business. Years later, I wondered why Mom never broke down and bought herself a toaster. I guess it must have been because she was the only one in the family who was so toast crazy. Mom was like that. She wouldn’t have spent the money to buy herself a toaster. She figured the family needed the money for other things.
How I wish I could bring Mom toast and butter or a hot glazed donut for her morning coffee now! How I wish I could bring her an ice cream on a hot summer day! I miss her so much. Growing up, I shared candy and love notes with her. We talked about boys and puppy love. I miss Mom and our Mom-and-daughter talks. You see, she left a few years ago. She had cancer, and God called her home. Oh, what I wouldn’t give just to be able to bring Mom an order of toast and butter, an ice cream . . . or a hot glazed donut.
Barbara J. Robinson, award-winning writer and educator, is the author of Magnolia: A Wilting Flower and the soon to be released book titled The Lord had Something Better in Mind. Read a free prologue and poems at her web site by clicking here. Barbara’s books may be purchased at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble online, and WalMart.com.
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