|Mama, Aunt Phillis, Alice (my mother), and Daddy.|
Mama and Daddy were my aunt and mother's parents.
This image also reflects any gatherings of my family. We usually end up laughing at something and often it involves a story from the lives of one of these people or something one of us has done. We are a family of natural humorist. We are funny without trying to be funny. And we laugh most at ourselves.
This morning it occurred to me that this photo also depicts the three women who most profoundly affected my life and directed its course. These women determined my outlook, my character and my goals. They made me most of who I am today, good and bad. I can't imagine what my life would have become without them. They gave me the strength to survive trials and turmoil and grief and continue laughing, even through tears. They gave me a desire to become more. I love them, each in a slightly different way but far more than any of them could guess.
Mama would say, "My Cindy can do anything." My aunt always says, "You are so smart." My mother always said, "I'm proud of you." I had no idea who they were talking about. I wanted to be like all of them to one degree or another. I wanted to love the way Mama loved. I wanted to be the kind of Godly women Mama and my aunt were. I wanted to be as beautiful as my mother, to have that presence that made heads turn when you enter a room. She drew people like moths to a flame. I always thought if I could have inherited the best qualities of these three women I could shake the world. I do not think I've ever approached that goal.
I can't say my mother and I were close. Her parents raised me but I still loved her, with bitterness and then, with resignation. I loved her humor, her laughter, and her singing. She had a beautiful voice and I loved riding in the car with her and listening to her and Mama sing gospel songs. They'd let us kids sing with them but those two voices were about as close to a heavenly choir that I've ever gotten. I loved her ability to go out job hunting at 8 and come back with a job at 10.
Put her in a crowded room with boring people and where she was standing would be a party. When she was a waitress her customers were the happiest in the room. It was not unusual for her to carry home $200 in tips for an evening's work and that was in the 70's. People just flocked to her and she reveled in that. When I was a little girl and she came home from time to time, I loved the moments when I was the focus of that dazzling smile and I felt the warmth of that flame. I was special for a little while and when she left, I always missed her.
Thursday I will see her one last time. The flame of my mother's life is extinguished. She's left me again.