Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Steel Magnolia

My Mom was a steel magnolia long before the popular movie acquainted the masses with the term that describes a southern woman who is strong and independent yet very feminine. In fact, she comes from a long line of steel magnolias that weave a colorful history.

This woman whom others call Bettye but has always been "Mom" to me is of the generation that wore white gloves and pillbox hats. Her influence surpassed that of Jackie Kennedy Onasis, especially in our house.

After all, she taught me everything I needed to know for success in life before I was 12. It just took me the next 20 years to realize she's right about almost everything.

When I was just a little girl she began my schooling on how to be a lady with instructions on how to sit, (cross your legs at the ankle and angle them to the side), chew (never chew with food in your mouth and forego the gum – it makes you look like Bessie the cow chewing her cud) and stand (chest out, stomach in, shoulders back). Inappropriate behavior was labeled as rude, crude and uncouth. Totally unacceptable words or actions were deemed vulgar.

Proper grammar was and still is emphasized and enforced when you’re around my mom. She earned a master’s degree in library science and enthusiastically shares her passion for books and for the written and spoken word. To hear her read aloud is like listening to music as she gives eloquent expression in a soft southern accent.

She instilled in me a value for the truly important things in life; faith and family. Laughter is as essential to her as breathing and she keeps the bar high for generosity of spirit. She fills her days and her handwritten notes with exclamation points!

I have countless images stored in my memory of meaningful moments of a lifetime with her.

I see her reading greeting cards in the aisle of the store with her twin sister and laughing so hard they gasped for air as tears rolled down their faces.

Fun and playful; I love that about my Mom.

I see her trekking across Europe pushing Dad in a wheel chair, fulfilling his life-long dream to go to Austria, though his days were numbered. Alongside her, I pushed a stroller with my 6 week old infant. We formed quite an entourage while we made every moment count.

Adventurous and bold; I love that about my Mom.

I see her preparing for my wedding reception in her own backyard with only 2 months notice. Every detail attended to, the party was fabulous; from the lovely heirloom silver candelabras set lovingly on my great grandmother’s wedding tablecloth to the sumptuous buffet.

Charming and gracious; I love that about my Mom.

I see her pulling the shirt she was wearing off over her head and handing it to me because I had admired it. (We were alone in the house!)

Generous and spontaneous; I love that about my Mom.

I see her driving to an unsettled and unsafe area of town to teach at a segregated school because of her love for children and her desire to help in the transition to integrated schools.

Pioneering and strong; I love that about my Mom.

I see her spending months at a time in my grandmother’s teeny-tiny hometown so LouLou could have as much time as possible in her own home before she had to leave it behind as old age claimed her freedom.

Thoughtful and patient; I love that about my Mom.

Recently, my 102 year old grandmother was introducing several generations of family to a group of strangers. She loudly declared, “these women are all lovely and charming and educated. In fact, my family is to be respected and admired.” An amused smirk and raised eyebrows were some of the reactions I noted from the strangers. But I realized right then why low self-esteem is not an issue among the women in our family.

My mom is a young eighty years old this year and the southern gentility that she was steeped in is indeed the gentle fragrance of a showy blossom; a steel magnolia. She adores company, so if you’re ever in town, you would be richer from a visit with my Mom.

For those of you following my regular installments of the Cracker Chronicles, Bettye is technically a Florida cracker as she was born in Wauchula. The generational influence on her makes her more of a southern tea cookie than a cracker.

*The timing of this particular post coincides with Scribbet's Monthly Writing Contest which is being judged this month by Antique Mommy. I'm looking forward to learning from her comments.


Chatty Kelly said...

You are so blessed! I loved this post. I pray that one day my children will also rise up and call me blessed!

I'd love to know your mom. But I can see glimpses of her in you as well. So that makes me blessed too.

Have a great day!

My ADHD Me said...

She sounds like a beautiful lady.

She also reminds me of someone...YOU!

I absolutely LOVE that picture!

Greg C said...

What a great tribute to your Mom. She sounds like a wonderful woman. She was a nice looking woman too. :)

Scribbit said...

"Southern tea cookie" v "Cracker"? Oh how I love that metaphor :)

Sheila said...

what a lovely post about your mom. aren't they great!

Rosezilla said...

Such a lovely tribute, and very well written indeed. Your family will treasure this. What a beautiful mother, inside and out.

somethingaboutparenting said...

You are blessed—and so is your mom.

http://somethingaboutparenting.typepad.comTwitter: AboutParenting

hlstewart said...

There is no way that anyone who has never had a southern tea cookie could ever really understand! :-)

Fuschia said...

If this post doesn't win, I'll be shocked! Absolutely lovely.

Does Bettye live here? I'm coming over for a visit!! :)

sara said...

what a great tribute to your are so blessed!

Merrie said...

again... What a heritage you have! Beautiful story and life! The wonderful thing about these charming Southern women is the strength and dignity in the face of trials and adversity. Yes, the tea cookie perfectly describes them. My grandmother had the same beautiful spirit. I can see it in you. I pray that my grandchildren will recognize what it is!
Thanks again for sharing your life.

Antique Mommy said...

What a lovely tribute to your mom. She sounds absolutely charming and makes me wish I could know her too. Beautifully written!

Ballerina Girl said...

I think this is a great post and so inspiring to write about my own Mom!

Your Mom sounds wonderful, and she must feel proud to have you as a daughter also!

Thank you for sharing!


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