Eyes shaped like a paisley teardrop and lips not even really there until the edge of her mouth. I picture her missing tooth and the way she tries not to smile too widely because of it. I see her age spots and her legs’ purplish hue from the infected fire-ant bites. I think of her round belly and cock-eyed hips. I smile when she complains that her beautiful white hair is flat and frizzy, just because the curls aren’t kinky-tight. But then again, the years of memories which have built relationship and knowing reveal a whole lot more.
Here she is, one hundred full years old, going on one hundred and one, with her head bowed over the yarn dishrag she’s knitting. She looks up as we approach, smiling big, and pronouncing, “There’s she!” You bend over for a hug, and she leans into you, patting your arm with her handful of dishrag, knitting needle and all. If you’re visiting, we’ll repeat your name three times before she gets it right, and she says, “Bless you, honey,” before turning back to her knitting. Her aqua-blue housedress peeps open between the buttons, but we don’t look, and a stain of brown from pecans and green from, well, greens, and yellow from who-knows-what graces the front. She looks up. “Honey, there’s a bit of paper there on the floor–no, yonder by the chair leg, that’s it.” We marvel, you and I, at her visual acuity. We patiently endure the story about the dishrags for the four-hundred-and-twelfth time. We smilingly accept her offering of dishrag and napkin caddy to take home. And we forget what Big Mommy is really made of.
Big Mommy doesn’t live in Arcadia anymore. Big Mommie doesn’t drive tractors–or cars, since she turned 95–anymore. And, even more importantly, Big Mommy doesn’t cook biscuits anymore. But I’ve been to the farm. I’ve ridden the tractor. I’ve sampled her biscuits. Those pieces of Big Mommy’s life that lie somewhere in the past shouldn’t be forgotten. Good or bad, I must try to remember all the trugars that have been forgotten along the way.
I remember going down to Arcadia, to Big Mommy’s house. Three hundred and fifty miles was an all-day drive. My dad pulled off the highway by the sentinel palm trees, I saw the cactus my cousin kicked, and the cows mooed at us from behind the fence. I didn’t marvel at the fact that the cows knew when I was coming; it was a momentous occasion to visit Big Mommy, so of course they would know! I couldn’t decide what to do first: pick an orange and eat it, feed a rotten one to the cows, check out the cookie jars, ride the tractor, what? But hugging Big Mommy superseded all those things. She was always in charge, always the one who cooked biscuits and pancakes and eggs and bacon for breakfast, always the one who drove the tractor. She was the farm, really.
I miss those days, but there is no way to go back the way they were, to bring my children to that farm the way I knew it and introduce them to the Big Mommy of old. But wait; maybe there is a way. Trugars. They are the magic that makes the past the present and the present the past. Big Mommy used to tell us trugars about her childhood, her young adulthood, her life. We would sit on the worn green carpet of that farmhouse and beg for them. We would take a seat and ask, “Oh Big Mommy, will you please, please tell us a trugar?”
“Oh pshaw, you don’t wanna hear any o’ that ol’ hogwash, do ya honey?”
“Yes, we do!” We nod our heads rapidly, open our eyes wide, and lift our eyebrows high to accentuate our eagerness. Big Mommy must feel wanted, above all.
And so she tells them, these stories we love. As children, we sit at her feet, wide-eyed in wonder at Big Mommy’s adventures. Or perhaps, as adults, we watch the younger generation and stand against the wall with arms folded, cynical because our adventures haven’t turned out the way we hoped for. But let’s back-track to simpler years for just a little while, sit on the floor in a comfy corner, and listen as Big Mommy tells us some trugars.