As a boy, both very small and even into my teenage years, I can remember when Mom learned of something that I didn't do quite right and she would call me on it. She said I was expected to do better and that I should never fail, even as it was usually truly a minor issue. Maybe it was a little snark, or a joke that turned out badly, or even doing something stupid like trying to eat a snack in class, but she'd call me on it. And I remember on occasion asking her if she ever made even little mistakes when she was growing up. She would pause and look at me and say, "Well, I'm your mother and I was an angel." Notice, however, that she didn't say she did nothing wrong, just that she was an angel. And I often wanted to say something about that but never did. Then as I walked away at the end of the conversation, I thought I noticed a twinkle in her eyes and a slight smile telling me that she hadn't been perfect but, again, I wasn't about to pose the possibility. But I also wondered just how perfect she was. I knew she was hardworking, but she also had a fun loving streak and I just had a hunch that she had a weak spot. After all, I knew she had been a high school girls' basketball player back in the day when there were no gyms in small rural school and they played out in the cold using oyster shells to line the court. Ouch! I figured that one day I'd somehow find out.
Years later, living in Florida not too long before she moved into an assisted living facility, she sent me a box of pictures and things that she had kept for me. She did that for each of us children and opening it after all those years, I just chuckled and enjoyed looking at the pictures and all of the other contents. And there was my first hint of Mom growing up as a student in school bending the rules. I don't know if it was deliberate or not, but the box included several of her high school report cards from her days at Manteo High School in the late 1920's. I picked it up, and looked through the grading report and found something that made me laugh. Sure, she had good grades, but she also had a citizenship grade listed as "NE" which meant "Needs Improvement.." Reading on, there was the annotation of why she needed improvement. It said "eats in class." Aha! That was a good start, but I wanted one more piece of evidence to give me a more complete evaluation and I finally got that just in the last week or so.What made it even better was that it was from an earlier stage in life for it showed me her high school shortfall wasn't an isolated incident.
As I opened Facebook one morning recent, a younger cousin of mine from Wanchese who I've never met in person sent me the photo above which included Mom with her tongue hanging out in a group picture with two of her sisters and a few cousins. I thought of Mom in her dressy outfit wanting to just show her independence and I had what I needed. The older girl on the far right was my Aunt Alma and she and Mom were quite close and had a few common characteristics. She looks like she's about to take the head off of someone, maybe the photographer, probably because she didn't want to be dressed up. Yep, that was Mom and that was Aunt Alma and now I know the rest of the story. And I thank Lou Ellen Quinn for sending it to me for all of my pictures of Mom as a little girl are gone. Remember, memories are what life is made of as life goes by. That latest addition to my memory bank is a great one for Mom, up there in heaven, consider yourself busted. I know that got a laugh out of her. How about you? Have a blessed day.