My friend in Center, Texas, Tem Morrison called last week to ask if I would take a look at some old car parts. That’s tantamount to asking my dog if he wants to take a look at a pork chop. Tem asked me Thursday and I told him I’d see him early Friday. Problem is, my “light didn’t come on” until late Friday morning.
Blazing a straight line across the downtown square to his office, I apologized profusely while painfully admitting that lapses in memory were occurring at an alarmingly increased rate with me in recent years.
I related to Tem the story of businessman, Cortez Boatner. Mr. Boatner owned a furniture store in my hometown of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and was a well-known and successful businessman. He always wore a dress shirt and a tie when he came in Perry Brothers to visit with my father. For that matter, my father and most of the other businessmen in town also wore dress shirts and ties then. Mr. Boatner always had a small spiral notebook and pen in his shirt pocket. At some point during most conversations, out came the notebook and Mr. Boatner started making notes.
“As a youngster,” I told Tem, “I used to think that was funny. But you know, as I’ve gotten older, I’m finding it hard to remember now exactly what I thought was so funny about it.”
As youngsters, my sisters and I delighted in teasing our mother about her memory, or the lack thereof. Actually, it probably wasn’t that bad. She probably wasn’t any worse at forgetting things, its just that she had this uncanny, comical way of dong it.
Banana pudding was my dad’s favorite dessert and mom made it often. That was during an ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ time when the entire family sat down together for the evening meal. About three bites into dessert one evening, dad stared into the pudding bowl, stirred it with his spoon as if searching for something, then asked, “I don’t think there’s any bananas in mine.”
Right on cue, the rest of us did the same search to discover that there really were no bananas in any of our bowls either, just pudding and vanilla wafers.
“Oh no,” mom exclaimed on the verge of tears. “I must have forgotten to put the bananas in it.” Sure enough, the unpeeled bananas were still on the kitchen counter where she had prepared the evening meal. We consoled her as we ate every morsel in an effort to sooth her remorse.
Then there was the when her sewing scissors mysteriously disappeared. “They were right here,” she said as the frustration in her voice registered higher with each word. “I just had them in my hand.”
“Had what, mom?”
“My sewing scissors.”
In the 50s and 60s , back before it was dangerous for kids to play with scissors, mom’s sewing scissors were the best to fashion a pirate’s hat or a princess’s tiara from scrap paper. However, the “scissors rule” was that we were never, ever, ever to use mom’s good sewing scissors for one of our fun projects, at least don’t get caught doing it.
“Did one of you get my good scissors,” she quizzed us.
“No,” we chimed in unison. “Besides, mom. You said you just had them.” As mom continued searching for her scissors, I raided the refrigerator searching for leftover banana pudding, preferably some with bananas. Moving the bowls around, certain there was pudding in there somewhere, I saw them. There they were. On the shelf right beside the ironing bag. Mom’s good sewing scissors.
These days, a cloths iron is almost an antique. But there was a time when clothes waiting to be ironed were sprinkled with water and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Everything was ironed. My mother ironed school clothes, she ironed church clothes, she ironed play clothes, she ironed my father’s work clothes, she ironed sheets and pillowcases.
“Mom,” I called out trying to contain my laughter. “Were you ironing before you were sewing?” We giggled as mom retrieved them from the refrigerator, and she would graciously smile each time over the years that we recounted the story, time and again.
I think about my mother on days I make lists like Mr. Boatner used to, then spend my time at the store trying to remember what was on the list I left at home. So, as I think about it now, I’m wondering again. What was it that was so funny about that?
Adapted from a column originally published in the Center Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune July 2014