Autobiographical memory is usually feelings-based and often episodic, almost like watching an unedited film of one’s life made by a camera man on “chill pills,” but it can also include remembering old addresses and phone numbers. And sometimes we repress bad memories until, years after a traumatic event, something triggers them. But it’s happy memories I want to share for Mother’s Day.
Our phone number in the 1950s was CY7-0831, an eight-party line that facilitated the spread of gossip at break-neck speed since several of the eight parties had no qualms about eavesdropping on other people’s phone conversations. Some households in our community did not have a phone; those who did not came to our house or store to make their calls. As a child, I pretty much knew everybody’s business. When Mama’s friends, Katharine, Janie, or Kate came over, I listened in on their discussions, too. Along with having Justice of the Peace court in our kitchen on Saturdays, all of those overheard stories most likely led to me becoming a writer.
The best recollections run like a grainy old movie: my young mama sunbathing on a beach towel in the back yard while Daddy was at work in Columbus; Mama holding my hand while we walked the old dirt road, now overgrown, and crossed the old iron bridge, now gone, to Kite’s store (the original one also gone) to buy what Mama called “oatmeal cookie cakes” for our afternoon snack. I have no idea why that memory stands out over other ones that I’ve forgotten, but I think of it often. We also rather stupidly walked the railway trestle to Omaha, GA, and toward the end of our adventure, hearing the train whistle in the distance, had the choice of running or jumping several hundred feet to keep from being run over by the train; we ran.
Among my cache of reminiscences are quite a few pieces of motherly advice that have served me well:
1) Drink your coffee black with no sugar added. “If you’re old enough to drink coffee, you’re old enough to drink it straight.” (And the same with tea, though lemon and mint are encouraged.) 2) Put mustard on almost anything, but be very careful about mayonnaise. “Mayonnaise is the downfall of the southern woman.” 3) Don’t let rude or ignorant people have an effect on you. “Consider the source.” 4) Be frugal. “If you can’t pay cash for it, learn to do without it.” 5) Don’t ruminate over things you can’t change. “Roll with it, and remember that this too shall pass.”
I’d say Mama did a pretty good job teaching me basic survival skills. Of all the sagacity she imparted, the most valuable has been that “laughter is the best medicine – especially the ability to laugh at our-selves.”
Marian Carcache welcomes
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.