To be truthful, I was ‘agin’ it from the beginning. To tell the unvarnished truth, I was quite a brat about it.
This has been a long time past so it hurts less to tell you how unseemly I acted. Of course, I was dealing with Mama and, on occasion, I could act unseemly, mainly motivated by something unseemly she said.
My first book was about to be published and had received some quite unexpected good reviews when the galley of the book had been sent out. People magazine, which, at the time, only reviewed two books per issue, had praised it and some major newspapers had given it a nod of approval. Since the book was about Southern women, who we are and how we are raised, a newspaper reporter decided it was quite a fine idea to call Mama. The reporter did this without my knowledge. I would never have agreed to it.
After all, Mama and her tongue were difficult to bridle in person. I could only imagine when I wasn’t around. Mama didn’t tell me that she had been interviewed — of course this made me even more suspicious — and it was only when the reporter came to my house for our interview, did I discover it.
I remember it clearly. The reporter, ankles crossed, was sipping a cup of coffee. She swallowed carefully, blinked her blue eyes and said, “Your mother was telling me….”
That’s all I remember. My heart dropped. My mouth went dry. I interrupted to ask disbelievingly, “You talked to Mama?”
She laughed. “Oh yes. We had quite a lovely talk.” She settled her gaze steadily on me. “She told me a lot about you.”
“I bet she did,” I mumbled. I could only imagine what Mama had said. I was certain that she began with what a plain, chubby child I was, then continued to how I toted books around all the time and, for the grand finale, announced, “Do you know she never went to a prom or a homecoming dance? I can’t believe she turned out like she did.”
As soon as I closed the front door behind the reporter, I ran to the phone. Mama answered and I screeched, “Why didn’t you tell me a newspaper reporter called you? What did you say?”
“I only spoke the gospel,” she replied coolly. “And I didn’t tell you because it’s none of your business.”
“None of my business!” I croaked. “It’s about ME. How could it not be my business?”
Let’s just stop there. Going into more of the disagreement that arose – and continued for the next five days until the article appeared – is not going to make you think more of me. I can promise that. Mama refused to repeat anything she had said in the interview.
For days, I fretted and fumed. On Sunday morning, the paper arrived and there on front page of the features/life section was a substantial layout which included a large photo, long story, the cover of my book and, yes, comments by Mama.
They were surprisingly nice. The writer must have caught Mama on a good day because usually she didn’t think she should brag too much on her children. It was too prideful.
“Ronda loved books but I always thought she’d be a fashion designer. She made clothes for her Barbies then for herself. Nobody can beat her when it comes to sewing.”
She was right. I showed more talent for sewing than writing and, to this day, it’s my heart’s second love. I called Mama to eat humble pie.
She answered and I cleared my throat. “I’m sorry. Your quotes were good.”
“I know,” she replied nonchalantly.
Dresses I’ve made, lined in satin and hand-finished, are hung in the spare closet. The other day I fingered one made of red silk, thinking deeply.
Maybe Mama was right. I may have missed my calling.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]