My momma was sweet – that’s a great gift to have in a mother. She wasn’t perfect, but she was kind.
I grew up in East Tennessee, where the summers were hotter than a half f…..ed fox in a forest fire, as my dad used to say. He was in the Navy and literally cussed like a sailor. We didn’t have air conditioning when I was little, and in the middle of a hot summer night, with a wide-open window right next to your head to try to get some cool air in, it would come a thunder storm that shook the whole house. A flash of lighting spotlighted the bedroom, and thunder cracked and boomed like an explosion.
My eyes popped open, my heart hammered in my chest, I went rigid all over. Simultaneously all three of us kids lurched out of our beds, raced through the lightning bright hallway and lunged into the full size (not queen, not king) bed my mom occupied alone because dad worked out of town a lot. Three shaking children huddled as close to her as we could. She put both arms out so our little heads had a place to rest, pulling us even closer. She always let us stay there until the storm was over, usually about twenty minutes or a lifetime, depending on how severe it was, and if we fell asleep that was okay. What a sweet momma!
Other times in the night one of us was positive we heard a burglar. We’d tiptoe into momma’s room and whisper in her ear, “Momma, there’s a burglar in the house.” She always said, “I didn’t hear anything,” hoping to stave us off. Whoever heard the burglar was absolutely one hundred percent sure that Blackbeard the Pirate or one of his kin was in our house. “No, honest, I really did hear a burglar. I think he’s in the kitchen.”
By then all three of us were in the room, awakened by the loud whispers. Momma knew none of us would settle down believing a hooligan was just outside the bedroom door. She threw her warm covers off and grabbed the baseball bat she stashed behind the bedroom door for these emergencies. She walked out in front, in a pale flowered nightgown almost to the floor, both hands clutched on the skinny part of the bat, ready to swing. Momma was strong. We knew no burglar could survive a blow from that bat.
We lined up behind her, my brother’s hands on her waist, my hands on his waist, and my sister’s hands on my waist – the caboose. Our little train moved slowly from room to room, momma finding the light switch in each room, opening the closets and looking behind doors. “What about under the beds?” we whined. “You look under there,” she said, perhaps growing a little impatient with this ritual. “No, we’re too scared” She got on her hands and knees and looked under each bed. Luckily our house was small, but still, with her thorough survey, it took a few minutes. Then we’d whimper, “We’re too scared to go to bed,” and she’d lead us back to her room and we’d pile in, sandwiched against her – we were the bread, she was the cheese.