Dispatches from Home: Mother’s Day May 14 2023

In the 1960s, the Mississippi Gulf Coast was suspended in time. Unlike today, there were no high-rise apartment buildings, garish casinos, ballparks, or aquariums. There were, however, magnificent houses, grand old hotels, mom-and-pop motels, full-service gas stations, sophisticated nightclubs, and a few not-so-sophisticated ones. Time wasn’t necessarily standing still, but it certainly wasn’t winning any races trying to discover what was around the corner.

Life had an even tenor to it in those days, and for fifteen-year-old moi, Gulfport was an iridescent bubble protecting me from the outside world. Children and teenagers were relatively safe too. They could roam the streets, ride bikes, and even take the bus to town unaccompanied by an adult. I often caught the bus at the corner of Anniston Avenue and the Service Drive. Being an only child, my dear parents did not smother their somewhat independent offspring with a slew of rules, which I enjoyed. I also enjoyed receiving a weekly, one-dollar allowance!

On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, 1967, I caught the bus, paid my fair, and took a seat. I was on a mission to purchase my dear mother a Mother’s Day gift, the first purchased with my money. As the bus zipped along, I felt grown up, dressed in my little navy blue suit, a white starched button-down shirt, and shiny penny loafers. I sported one of Dad’s ties, which I still have. Back in the day, people dressed to go to town, unlike now, when many Walmart customers look as if they’ve just escaped from the circus freak show.

After stopping more times than I care to remember, the bus deposited me in downtown Gulfport. I was greeted by a beehive of fashionable shoppers, flashing store signs, and the smell of frying hamburgers from the lunch counters of Albright and Woods, Woolworths, and the Triplett Day Drugstore.

In those days, Gulfport was bereft of stores with a fine gifts department. There was, though, the famous Purple Lantern, with its individual kiosks brimming with exotic offerings, all of which could be purchased IF one had money…and lots of it. My little four dollars wouldn’t have bought much at the Purple Lantern. So I journeyed onward.

Woolworths had a few items of interest in my price range, but I was looking for something a bit more special. McCrory’s, Sears, JCPenney, all washouts. Finally, in desperation, I stepped into Triplett Day’s for a milkshake. And there, in a cabinet by the front door, I saw it, a little ceramic basket of flowers. Did I have enough money? I looked at the price tag, $1.99 plus tax. I did! I hoped Mom would like it.

Fast forward to Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018. The night before had been a long one. Mother was agitated, so we drove for hours from one end of the Coast to the other, waiting for her Ativan to kick in. She finally fell asleep, and so did I. Come morning, I woke her, dressed her, combed her hair, and brushed her teeth.

After breakfast, I made her comfortable in her favorite chair by the window. Since it was Mother’s Day, I showed her the little ceramic basket of flowers. She took it from me and held it gingerly in her soft, worn hands. She smiled and asked what it was. I told her that it was my Mother’s Day gift to her from years past and that today was Mother’s Day. I told her that I loved her. She smiled and hugged me, but I knew she didn’t remember the gift or even me.

Little did I know Mother’s Day 2018 would be Mom’s last. Her mental health deteriorated quickly after that. She fell several times, and the last time she did, I knew her days were numbered. When she passed away on February 22, 2019, I was holding her hand. After the hearse came and took her body away, I was alone. I sat in her favorite chair by the window. The house seemed so empty without her, the silence deafening. So many memories flooded my eyes with tears.

And one of those memories was a little ceramic basket of flowers. It’s worth now? Nothing. At my Estate Sale, it will be placed on a table with other cheap items, and if not sold, thrown into the garbage. But for me, it’s a priceless heirloom. Because it reminds me of my dear mother, one of the kindest, sweetest ladies to have ever walked the earth.

Mama taught me to love, not to hate. To be kind and help others. To be a good listener. To read my Bible. To love God. To follow Jesus. To do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Thank you for those life lessons, Mama. One day, when my struggle on this mortal coil ceases, my precious mother will meet me at the Gate. She’ll hold out her loving arms and welcome me home. Home forever! I miss you, Mama! Happy Mother’s Day! 💔

May be an image of leather flower