Memory Monday ~ Mama…

I sighed when I first saw today’s prompt for Memory Monday. My mother was a complex woman, and to sum her up in a few paragraphs is almost impossible.  I knew writing this post could prove to be difficult, and it was.

Mama was the youngest of five children.  She had three sisters and a brother.  I’m pretty sure she was her daddy’s favorite child, and she was definitely the most like him.  Both were ‘head-strong’ people with bad tempers.

Mama’s parents decided to name her Jessie Nell, partially after an uncle (Uncle Jessie), but mama would have none of that.  When she married and left home, she left her name behind, as well, proclaiming herself to be “Jackie”.  In the end, however, almost everyone ended up just calling her “Jack”.

6-29-2010 7;34;31 AM old fam pics2

There’s an old nursery rhyme that reminds me of Mama.  It goes something like this, “There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.  Those words could have been written about my mama.

My parents used to tell this story:  When daddy talked with mama’s parents about marrying their daughter, they sort of tried to talk him out of it.  They told him how ‘head-strong’ she was, and said that he’d have his hands full if he married her.  He married her anyway.  My grandparents didn’t lie.  Daddy certainly had his hands full with mama, but he loved her with all of his heart, which was obvious to anyone who knew them.

7-2-2010 11;10;31 AMpics cir. 68 or 694
If I had to choose one word to describe life with mama, it would be “turbulent”. When times were good, they were very good, but, suddenly, everything could change at the drop of a hat.  I could never understand mama, while growing up, or for many years afterward. The answer finally came, in the last years of mama’s life, when she was finally diagnosed with and bipolar disorder.  I suspect my granddaddy suffered from it, too.  As if bipolar disorder wasn’t enough, Mama’s life was further complicated by the fact that she suffered from anxiety, and alcoholism, too.  By the time I was seven, mama had already experienced a ‘nervous breakdown’, and was well on the way to becoming an out-of-control alcoholic.

During the good times, Mama was awesome.  She was a lot of fun, full of energy, and she kept everyone laughing. Mama loved cooking, keeping house, and she also loved growing flowers.  During her mid-life, Mama spent several years working in a sewing factory.  I always found this to be amusing, since Mama couldn’t sew a stitch!  Mama worked as a trimmer, cutting dangling threads from finished garments, and she became a treasured employee.

Throughout her life, Mama was always working on one home improvement project or another.  Some of mama’s most ‘memorable’ projects were the time she ‘feather painted’ the bathroom red and white, then painted the fireplace bricks red and white, as well.  Mama had the ‘Christmas Look’ going on, in her house, year ’round, and she liked it!

During the bad times, Mama would often have awful temper tantrums.  She’d say and do awful things to anybody and everybody, it didn’t matter who they were.  Mama could say and do the most hurtful things, but never apologize to anybody for anything.  These times were painful, and sometimes downright embarrassing!

Many stories have been passed down, over the years, concerning ‘Mama’s tantrums’.  Here are the top three:  (1) There’s Ed’s “Your Mama won’t get out of my car” story,  (2) There’s my “Mama says she’s coming to burn our house down” story, and last, but not least, (3)  There was Daddy’s “Your mama shot me [in the foot]” story.

Fortunately, we can laugh about some of these stories, now.   All’s well that ends well, and Mama’s been gone since 1997.  As  a result of Mama’s memorable tantrums, our family coined the phrase “Jack Attack” for those times when someone in the family loses their temper!

May 79

I don’t want to end this post by leaving the impression that Mama wasn’t a good person, or that she was never a good wife or mother, because she was. Mama loved her family very much, and she was proud of us. Throughout the years, there were lots of good family times.  It was just unfortunate that Mama was plagued by so many mental issues, and none of us really understood.  Mama’s death left a void in our family, that can never be filled by anyone else, but I hope she’s finally at peace.

***I’m linking my post up with other Memory Monday posts @ Retired-Not-Tired.  Thanks to Judy for hosting!




Published in: on November 24, 2014 at 8:45 am  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Honest. I think it takes a long time for family, especially children, to realize the faults in everyone. Or to admit them. As time goes by I have yet to meet a family without some dysfunction. Doesn’t mean love wasn’t there.

  2. I understand completely however it is my father who may be bipolar and was an alcoholic. My Mom tried to keep him on the straight and narrow. Thanks for joining in on Memory Monday. I appreciate it.

  3. I wasn’t left with a bad impression at all of your Mother. I feel your pain, and I hear you out on your love for your Mama. What a struggle for all of you. I’m glad you have been able to understand and know she is at peace.

  4. I’m so glad you can find the good times in your difficult memories. Life is definitely hard sometimes.

  5. I think it must have been very hard on people with mental health issues back then — no one was aware of such things, or knew how to help. And like you said, they could often be dismissed as simply bad people. But they weren’t necessarily – they just had a problem that nobody understood – even themselves. I wonder if my own father would have been diagnosed the same?
    But it’s so nice that you can look back and see the love that was still there underneath.

  6. A tough post, indeed, but thank you for sharing the story with us. Your mom was very pretty, and I’m glad that you felt her love and knew she was proud of you. Mental problems are so difficult to understand, and I think especially bi-polar disease. The ups and downs seem to have no pattern. It had to be hard on you, growing up. It’s wonderful that you can now look back and find a perspective that gives you some peace.

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