Today would have been Mama Kelley's 93rd birthday. She was an enormous influence in my life and she crosses my mind nearly every day.
Mama had five children and seventeen grandchildren. There were so many things I admired about her, but foremost was her unwavering support of all of us. We were constantly told how wonderful, smart, funny we were. I have friends who tell of parents and grandparents picking at them, deflating their self esteem. They tell stories of not trying something because they were assured they would fail. My self esteem, which has served me very well, is the direct result of Mama's views on childrearing.
She was loyal to a fault. Papa passed in '67 when Mama was barely 54. That seemed old at the time and all through my teens, but now I know how very young that was. Yet she never dated or seemed to show interest. She waitressed at the Officer's Club in the Navy Yard and was utterly shocked when one of the Officers asked her out on a date. Mama saw herself as married and I think at the time she had been widowed several years. I am in awe of a love that great.
She had such calm and class in every situation. Yet she was so tough. She would face anyone no matter their size and *they* would back down.
But the best, best part was her wicked sense of humor. There are countless family stories of her getting one of us going. I can remember one summer afternoon sitting at the kitchen table, my sister and I breathlessly recounting some petty story that ended with someone giving someone else "the finger". Mama asked us what finger. We of course believed she had no idea so we explained in hushed tones. Mama immediately stuck the middle fingers of both hands in the air. "What does this mean? What's the big deal?" Grace and I were apopleptic. Looking out the window, grabbing for her hands. She laughed at us, we were traumatized!
She was the best grandmother anyone could ever have. Any kindness in my heart is due in large part to her influence. Many people have unknowingly benefited and lived another day because of the times I have paused and thought "What would Mama want me to do?"