My parents have been dead for a long time now. Sometimes, I forget what life was like when I had them. It is almost like a separate life existed, one that is barely recognizable to me with the distance that time has placed between then and now. Maybe that is a protection of sorts. Perhaps it’s just too hard remembering everything that is lost.
My daily life carries on. I don’t even think about my parents as a rule. But, occasionally something will happen that takes me right back. Perhaps it is a sound or a smell from my childhood; a glimpse or a flash of something that was tender and beautiful. I want more time with it, to understand it better because if I do, then maybe I will feel as if I am closer to something long gone. Maybe, I will hang onto the memory a little tighter.
Sometimes, I look for clues to understand my past. My cousin, Piper lives close by and we like to have lunch and visit when we can. One of the things that is so nice about our time together is that I can still see bits of my mother when I am with her. You see my mother was a kind and gentle soul, like Piper. Her mannerisms sometimes, catch me off guard, triggering a memory that I had forgotten about.
One day, I dropped by Piper’s house and she had a couple of friends there. One of the ladies said, “Which bathroom should I use? I need to tee-tee.”
Let me preface the ‘rest of the story’ with a disclaimer…or two. I know that a total stranger’s bathroom habits are really none of my business. And, please remember that I am the country cousin and I do have a point which I am trying ever so delicately to head towards…
But, when this lady said that she needed to ‘tee-tee’, my ADD brain lit up like a Christmas tree and before I could stop myself, I blurted out this very relevant question: “Are you from Mississippi?”
She looked a little puzzled but responded, “Why?” Then “Yes, I am.”
You see folks, ladies from Mississippi do NOT pee. No sir. They tee-tee. My grandmother, mother, aunts and cousins all tee-tee. They would never, in a million years, entertain the idea of peeing. It just isn’t done when you’ve grown up in Tupelo Mississippi like my Mama did.
For a while, I thought that this term was just used in my grandmother’s generation. But, then I moved up north near Cleveland Ohio. I learned that they are anything but gentile as they often pee. Sometimes, the delicate will tinkle but I’ve never heard of one of them that tee-tees, unless they have Mississippi roots.
I gave birth to all three children in Ohio and since I was usually the fodder du jour every single time I opened my mouth, I didn’t dare use the word ‘tee-tee’ with them as they potty-trained. Ohioans already kept a running tally of my syllables-per-word. I wasn’t giving them anymore ammunition. My kids pottied. It wasn’t nearly as brash as peeing and it kept me out of trouble.
When we moved south, to Nashville, I felt a lot more at home. Nashville has become quite the melting pot, being that it is now considered an “it city”. I met my best friend Michele the first year that we moved here. And, Michele pees. She seemed like a good person…and yet, she pees. I guess I’ll blame her wild western roots.
Over time, I began hearing my own daughter’s using the “P” word. Oh my, Mema (the name given to my mother by my oldest niece–which I thought was so unique until Sheldon Cooper came along) would be mortified. I wonder what she would think of that? And, I could almost hear my brother Rodney say, “Your Mama (she was only ‘my Mama’ when he wanted to try to manipulate me into coming around to his way of thinking) would roll over in her grave if she knew that.” Full disclosure : my brother tends to lean towards the dramatic.
Actually, I think she might chuckle. Then she might say, “Now Ellen, that isn’t very lady-like.” I know this because I was a very active participant in un-lady-like behavior. But, she was a different woman as a Mema than she was as a Mama. I guess that is as God intends.
So let’s get back to the point. The point is this. I can gather all sorts of data from one little word that was unique to my Mama and her Mississippi roots. One little bathroom label says so much. I may not remember that she always called me Saturdays after she talked to both of her sisters just so she could keep me updated. But, I can see that I am formed from bits and pieces of generations past.
So, every now and then, when I am lucky enough to catch a glimpse of my past, I look a little bit closer. I study the snapshot and hope to pay attention to all of the little pixels that make up it’s image. It’s just my way of staying in touch.
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.