One of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me was a love for storytelling. She was an expert storyteller, the kind of person who could have made a living of it.
She would weave tales about little animals and the bad things they did but their mothers loved them anyway, and I would drift off to sleep with images of strippety-stripety candy dancing around me.
She would never tell me what strippity-stripety candy was, and I imagined at as manna from heaven – the most beautiful candy in the whole world. I finally pestered her enough the she said (and rather flippantly, I might add) , “Oh, you know, it’s that ribbon candy you get at Christmas.”
I was devastated. Crushed. I felt the breath leave as my lungs collapsed. I hated ribbon candy. It was yucky. It tasted like bugs. I guess she read my mind and added, “Oh, it just looks like that – pretty colors and wavy ribbons. But it tastes like,” she paused for effect while I held my breath (yes, the same breath I had lost moments before), “Butterfingers.”
I was alive again! Jumping up and gown with glee. The strippety-stripety candy I had imagined was, indeed, the most wonderful candy in the world.
So I added the Little Pokey Puppy pail to my guest room as a tribute to the stories my mother would tell and all the Little Golden Books she read to me and later patiently allowed me to stumble through words and read to her.
We loved the watercolorey pictures in Dick and Jane, and she let me read the stories over and over, and we would ooh and awe over Sally’s tea set and coveted Jane’s doll house together.
I keep her voices in my head – how she mewed for Fluffy White Kitty and stuttered as the voice of the little goat explaining to his mother how the wolf disguised his arms with flour and swallowed a whole bag of sugar so his voice would be sweet and they would mistake him as their own mama until that awful old wolf ran off with all the baby goats except the one little goat who hid in the clock case.
I hear her point her finger at Pottamanotus because he was a bad little boy for wrapping his puppy up in cabbage leaves and dragging a loaf of bread home by a string, covered in nails and snails and grass and glass.
I can hear her little girl voice as she told about the time she knocked a whole bee hive down on the head of her little sister because her golden curls were shining in the sun and my mom’s hair was brown and coarse.
And even though her mother had been dead for years before I was born, I feel like I know “precious Mama” because of the stories my own precious mama told of her teaching the girls to iron by making them iron pillow cases and holding my mother’s hand when she almost died from a tonsil infection and the depth of her sadness and heartbreak when Mom’s sister Dixie Lee died at the age of seven from diphtheria.