Mama spoiled me. I will be the first to admit that. She didn’t spoil me with things, she spoiled me with words.
You know what I mean. Anything I had drawn with a crayon, cut out of construction paper, built with Lincoln Logs or written for a school assignment was a masterpiece to my Mama. She would ooh and aah and tell me how wonderful my work was and how talented I was.
No matter how ridiculous, any idea I came up with that showed the least bit of ingenuity, she would tell me how great of an idea it was. She never stopped. Her words were always encouraging.
Her words kept me going. Mama made me out to be much better than I could ever dream of being. As I got older, I realized how much I needed to hear Mama’s words.
Often, I find myself in situations or conversations where I want to stop and ask, “Please, don’t you have at least one positive thing to say?” I guess what Mama was teaching me was that positive words and encouragement are important for not just me, but for everyone.
Like Mama, I’m somewhat of a pack rat. The other night, I was going through an old cardboard box of things that I ended up with when my older brother and I were cleaning out Mama’s room at the retirement home.
There were a lot of pretty party napkins. Mama had limited space, but they were colorful and easy to store in a drawer, so I guess she enjoyed looking at them. It looked like she had probably kept one from each of the parties they had there at the retirement home. Maybe I will frame them.
The party napkins remind me of Mama’s words; they were not fancy or expensive, but they were pretty and meaningful.
In the napkins, I found an orange envelope with my name and birth date on it. It was sealed. I figure it was a card Mama was saving for me or had forgotten to give me.
My name was printed, the month was written in cursive. I laughed. I remembered a professor in college telling me that I probably had a learning disability because in some of the papers I submitted; I would sometimes go from cursive to printing and back again.
The professor worried me with this revelation, so I asked Mama about it. What did she say? Mama said, “Oh, I do the same thing.” That made it alright. I never worried about it anymore. These days, most of my words are typed and if I feel like printing, I will print. If I feel like writing in cursive, I will write in cursive. If I feel like doing both, I will do both.
Because Mama said it was alright.
Studying the envelope, I held up to the light. I couldn’t see through it. It was a birthday card; I knew it was.
I carried it around with me for awhile, trying to decide whether I should open it or wait until my birthday. I decided to put it back in the box with party napkins.
After a couple of days, I couldn’t take it anymore. Everyone was asleep; I started thinking about the envelope. I went down to the basement and sat with the box containing the napkins and the orange envelope.
I stared at the box and thought about what might be written in the card contained in the orange envelope.
I wanted it to be a long letter telling me how wonderful I was or that everything was going to be ok. I wanted it say, “I love you” or “I miss you.”
Maybe it didn’t have any writing in at all. I would have been really disappointed.
Then I started thinking about calling Mama and asking her what was in the orange envelope. We would have talked for an hour about what it could be. The conversation would have strayed to something unrelated; we would have laughed and Mama would have said, “I love you.” I would have said the same.
Mama is gone; I took the orange envelope out of the box and sat down in a chair to open it.
It was birthday card with a cartoon of an older fellow working on a beat up old truck. The truck was obviously falling apart. The words on the front said, “As we get older, we’re a lot like vintage cars…”
When I opened it, I read the punch line printed in the card. It said something about maintenance costs getting higher and parts being harder to find.
What did Mama write on the card?
The first time I read it, I was disappointed. No “I love you,” no advice on life and no heaping praise telling me how wonderful I was.
Then I read it again. My eyes filled up and my nose dripped.
It was exactly what I needed. The most beautiful word from the most wonderful woman who spent her life telling me and my brothers how great we were and how we could do anything we wanted to do.
She had written only one word. The first two letters were printed; the second two letters were in cursive.
She simply signed the card, “Mama.”
For with that one word, I have it all. I have every memory, every word of encouragement and all the love I could ever ask for.
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