My girlfriends and I grew up wanting to be just like our mommas—to do our hair up big and prance around in saddle oxfords. Our mommas were beautiful soft-spoken ladies who minded their manners and their waistlines, not letting themselves get out of size 12, which was like an 8 back then.
But when us girls grew into young ladies ourselves (though a little rougher around the edges), we started to butt heads with our mommas, trying to make our own way in the world. Some were lucky—they passed through that stage and came out on the other side with a better understanding of each other. Sometimes they even became the best of friends.
But sometimes you don’t get the chance.
It would be easy to put on rose-colored glasses and tell y’all that I’m just like my momma—that like her, I’m all put together and poised. But that would be a boldface lie. Truth is, I’ve always been more like my Aunt Peggy. To this day, that woman loves cutting a business deal even better than eating. She’s tougher than a two-dollar steak and I credit her for making me into a strong woman. If Mother had been living, she would’ve said to me, “No honey, you can’t do that. You can’t. You’ll kill yourself.” But Aunt Peggy was there saying, “Yes you can, now do it. Get in there and do it.”
So I did.
I was only 23 when Momma passed away—just becoming a woman myself. If she’d been with me longer I might’ve turned out more like her, but the world had other plans for me. After Momma passed, my Aunt Peggy and the other wonderful women in my family came to my rescue, filling up that big ol’ hole in my heart with love and giving me the strength to do more than I ever could’ve imagined.
I loved my momma so much. I haven’t done everything the way she would’ve done it, but she’d be proud just the same. I believe she can see me through that little peephole in the clouds and I know that she’s beaming with pride. I just wish she could see it all from my side instead of from the clouds.
But wouldn’t you know there’s more to the story. You see, mothers can be complicated—and mine was no exception. Folks say that before I was born my momma was as mean as a snake. Feisty. A daredevil. They say that once I came into the world, she softened. She became very tolerant of people’s shortcomings and would walk five miles out of the way to keep the peace. Maybe that’s what happens to some of us when we have babies, even if it didn’t happen to me.
Like I said, maybe I’m not much like the momma I grew up knowing, but I take comfort in thinking that all that pepper she had once left her and came to me—her little spitfire. It’s just one of the many gifts that I’m grateful for this Mother’s Day.
Note: The images at the top of this article are of Paula, as a one year old toddler, and her Momma.