Thoughts on My Mother at 75

It’s allegedly a social faux pas to tell a woman’s age, but I reckon I’m going to do it anyway. Today, my Mother, Norma Grace Stephens Wright, turns 75 years old. How in God’s name did she do it?

She married at the ripe old age of seventeen and gave birth to yours truly nine and a half weeks before her eighteenth birthday. I’m sure that back in the dark ages of 1955 she thought I was a real corker of a birthday present. Over the years, she may have had an occasion or two to reassess that idea. But, despite anything you may have heard, I was a darling boy who grew into an even more darling man but I may have, may have mind you, given the poor woman one or two grey hairs.

Now to me, add five more! Good heavens to mergatroids! I can’t even begin to imagine what a pregnancy must be like, but it can’t be pleasant enough to want to do it repeatedly over a period of eight years! That’s right; eight years! She started building me sometime in late 1954 and finished up with Bonita in mid-1962. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Mother always had a way with words. The more memorable ones were usually pronounced as threats. To this day I’ve wondered where the hell those phrases came from. I’ve questioned her about it a few times over the years, but if she knows the origins she isn’t telling. If she were only mildly irritated she might say “Boy, I’ll slap you to sleep!” or “Boy, I’m gonna slap the hot water out of you!” If her last good nerve had been plucked by our good-natured boyish exuberance she would threaten to “slap the hot wax out of you!”

Well, don’t you just know that on one occasion; just one mind you, I made a reply. “But Mother, I ain’t been eating no candles!” Lord have mercy on a feeble-minded boy, why did I have to say that? Her eyes bulged and her face turned a frightening shade of reddish-purple. Her shaking hand lifted toward me and as I began my instinctive cower she burst into laughter. I always did have a problem controlling my mouth. For one thing, Mother was frequently “sick and tired” of a thing or another. Well, wouldn’t  you know that one day she was sick and tired of the way I was doing things and was telling me just how sick and tired she was. “Boy, I am sick…” Quick as a wink, being the ever helpful boy I was, I piped up and said “… and tired!” I saw the prettiest stars that day, and I can tell you for a fact that it is possible for one’s jaws to ring like dinner bells!

Nights, after she got us all bedded down she would drag out a battered copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and read a story to us. I think I liked this part of the day better than any other. As Mother read the tale to us, I sometimes didn’t care much for the outcomes provided by the brothers Grimm, so I always imagined it in a different way. Next day, I’d tell my brothers the story again with my own embellishments. All through Mother’s reading we hailed her with questions; “why did she do that?”, “what if he did this instead?”  It must have been frustrating as hell for her. I wonder if other parents faced the same thing? Do they even read the old yarns anymore, or has the world outgrown them?

Another of my favorite pastimes with Mother was cards. She played a mean game of Rummy at the kitchen table after supper. She was merciless, too. None of this crap of “letting” one of us win. She played for blood! She also kept the score… Dominos was another favorite of hers and I enjoy it to this day. Some years back she gave me a new set. They are ivory colored with black pips and heavy as hell! Not sure what they’re made of, but they are heavy. It’s rather difficult to find anyone nowadays who plays.

I wonder if the fact Mother started her family so young made her enjoy playing with us? She could be “mean as a striped snake” if she wanted to, but at the same time she could be as loving and fun as any kid could hope for.

When all is said and done I reckon Mother was just doing the best she could to make ends meet and take care of a houseful of kids, all of whom were wild as jackrabbits. It’s a testament to her resilience and inner strength that she’s even still around to celebrate seventy-five years on God’s green Earth.

Happy birthday, Mother! I love you and miss you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Ol' Big Jim

Ol' Big Jim, has been a storekeeper, an embalmer, a hospital orderly, a medical biller, and through it all, a teller of tall tales. Many of his stories, like his first book, New Yesterdays, are set in his hometown of Piedmont, Alabama. Since 2009 he has lived in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Amman, Jordan where he spends his time trying to visit each one of the thousands of Ammani coffee shops and scribbling in his ever-present notebook.
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25 Responses to Thoughts on My Mother at 75

  1. Barneysday says:

    A wonderful tribute. Well done

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  2. Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady! Happy birthday to Jim’s mom!

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  3. What a poignant tribute to an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing.

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    • olbigjim says:

      Thanks J Anne! I appreciate you stopping by! Amazing, yes, and even more so these days. I should’ve mentioned that she’s primary care-giver for my Dad these days. That’s a job that could potentially do anyone in!

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    • Norma says:

      If there is anything amazing about me it’s the wonderful children I raised, love the all more than life it’s self.

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  4. As usual, a great tribute!! Really heart warming… And a very happy birthday to your mom!! 🙂

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  5. Some great memories there, Jim, and well expressed. My own mother passed away in April at the age of 82. She was tiny (five ft nothing) but she was immense, too. Enjoy your mother while you can, Get a few more hands of Rummy in at that kitchen table.

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    • olbigjim says:

      Thanks for stopping! I sure wish I could play a few more hands of Rummy, but sadly I live 10,000 miles away these days. Hope to see her soon, though!

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    • Norma says:

      Thank you, so sorry to hear that you lost your own mother, She mush have been about my size, just under 5 ft and 100 pounds. I wish I could play a few hands of rummy with Jim I loved those days when they were growing up, I did not ‘let them win’ to teach them that in life you don’t always win but you have to be a good sport even when you lose. A valuable lesson I think.

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  6. very warm and sentimental words u put up there jim , it,s a blessing that u got a mother as sweet and caring as this,happy birthday Mrs. wright , u have a great son 😀

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  7. Sandra Smith says:

    This so much reminded me of some of my childhood. My mum had she lived past 60 would have been 79 and I miss her so much. The games I played were rummy and dominoes and even darts. The bad side of it all my mum was the victim of domestic abuse when dad came home drunk or in a bad mood having lost at darts or 5&3s which is a domino game. Through all that she carried on, taught us all good manners, politeness, justice and faith. How to cook clean, iron, and manage on little. To this day I remember things like “if you don’t behave I will kick you to kingdom come” or “you are so dirty even the coalman thought you had come off his wagon” Mum used to say she was sick and tired of us, but one day she was sick and tired she had cancer and there was nothing they could do as it was advanced, but through all the agony she told each one of that she loved us and to just have a better life than this, then she passed away. I am now 58 and I have 2 boys and a girl and I have the joys of being a grandma in fact my daughter of 23 is having her first in February next year.I like you I am sure are happy. So enjoy your mum until she goes and give back to her the love you have been given and more and she will always be happy.

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  8. Norma says:

    Thank you all for the well wishes and most of all the kind and sweet words. I’m very proud to be Jim’s mother and the Mother of the other children. I love them all dearly.I am also the grandmother os some great kids and the g-grandmother of some wondefful kids. Again thank you all, I would love to meet each and every one of you and give you a big hug.
    Mrs Norma Wright

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  9. Wanda Kirk says:

    Happy Birthday Norma, This made me smile and also brought tears to my eyes. Jim, I’m so glad you realize what a prize you have, so many people now just seem to throw their parents and grandparents away. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have my Mama here, 29 years with her just wasn’t long enough. You would think after 42 years the pain of losing her would go away, but, it doesn’t, I don’t really know if gets any easier. And, yes, Jim, you are damned lucky to have her. Cherish her like there want be a tomorrow. I Love You, Norma. And I Love You, Jim. I miss those days we spent together so much.

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    • olbigjim says:

      Thank you for that Wanda Jean! After we lost your Mama, our families seemed to merge. We had always been close, but somehow it became more so. I’m sure Mother was a poor substitute for your own Mama, but she did the best she could for y’all, and all of us were, and still are, very fortunate to have her in our lives. Thanks again for coming by, and don’t be a stranger here! Love ya!

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