In the past year, a friend of ours has chastised both Tink and me for how much we work and the spare attention we pay to her.
The first time I received my reprimand by text, I was out of town, helping to take care of a loved one who was very sick and needed my full attention. For days, I slept no more than four hours nightly, rarely stopped and took time to eat quickly one meal a day. The text, as is the way of these things, happened to arrive at a particularly low point when I was close to tears due to frustration and exhaustion.
I sighed. “Atticus Finch, where are you when I need you?” This was a reference to the famed fictional character of “To Kill A Mockingbird” who scolded his daughter, Scout, when she dared to criticize someone.
“Don’t judge a man until you’ve climbed into his skin and walked around in it,” he opined.
A year later, Tink was pushing hard on a deadline for a Hallmark movie when he received the same chastising text. These kinds of words are guilt at their strongest. He was sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch of our house where he had a view of the pastures, the crisp shade trees, the rock wall and the dogs and cats who scampered joyfully across the backyard. To write Hallmark, it helps if you live it and we are blessed that we do.
Across the creek, on the front side of the Rondarosa, I sat on the red painted cement porch of the house that Mama and Daddy built. I was rocking in a red and white glider that Mama bought in 1961 and that our friend, Tom Eller, had recently restored perfectly. I was on deadline with a magazine story when Tink, withered by the reprimand, forwarded the text.
Deadlines for any working person can be challenging. For those of us who write and must rely on the hand of God and the kindness of a muse to inspire, deadlines can drive you straight to the killing field. We both can tell you that sometimes the harder we try to create, the quicker the words retreat to a hidden place and lock themselves away.
The text sidetracked us both. As I rocked gently in the glider where I once spent a summer reading Gone With The Wind and on which Mama and I sat many a time and shelled peas or strung green beans from the garden, the spirit of my parents came to visit.
I thought of Daddy’s rough, calloused hands and how Mama, always in an apron with pockets, would tote her pan of dishwater out every summer morning and water her flowers with it. It suddenly came to mind that these hardworking people only socialized on Sunday but it was an all day socializing. Sunday school, church, Sunday dinner with either friends or family, and an afternoon spent visiting loved ones and those who were growing long in years.
Every prayer Daddy said aloud included a humble plea of “Lord, please bless the workings of our hands.”
I come from people who worked hard, diligently, mindfully. I come from good people who loved their neighbor and was always there in a time of need. I arise from a breed of people who rather suffer than celebrate because you always tend to do what you know best.
The image of Mama sweeping her porch came to mind. I could hear her saying, as oft she did, “Make hay while the sun shines.”
From a long line of poor farmers come I and I always knew that rain was the greatest enemy to a farmer who needed to gather his hay from the field.
“Mama,” I said to the image from yesterday’s memories, “you’re sure lucky that you didn’t have text messages to distract you.”
They’re worse than rain when the hay is down.
[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.]