May 7, 2021

THE TWO MOTHERS

One of the wedding photographs was the bride with the two mothers.  On my right is my mother Harriett, and on my left is Tom’s mother Inez. We all look very happy, and I think we really were!  Inez was relieved that her middle son who almost always didn’t seem to fit in had actually gotten married!  Harriett was glad I wasn’t going to stay in graduate school forever.  Also, since her beloved son Glenn had died the year before, she was especially happy to have a son-in-law in the family!  He seemed to enjoy his role as “the man of the house” when in Athens.

I had known the Connellys for several years and enjoyed spending time with them—sometimes going out to eat on Sundays after church or having a family meal at their comfortable Nashville home.  They teased me about coming from such a small town—and we didn’t even dare discuss the shocking fact that I came from a family of Democrats. 

For my mother, this wedding was a huge event.  She thoroughly enjoyed all the bridal showers and luncheons, helping plan the wedding details and admiring the lovely gifts we received.  We went to Chattanooga to select my wedding dress and her Mother-of-the-Bride dress.  I thought the pale blue Chantilly lace dress she chose was very becoming and elegant. She even had her shoes dyed to match!  Inez was pleased to find a green dress for a reduced price in Harvey’s basement.  To her, it seemed nice enough for a small -town wedding.  It was, of course—but somehow it communicated to me that this was not a very important event for her.

I think it’s interesting what names people choose to refer to their mothers.  I always called my mother “Mother.” I suppose she taught me to—as Glenn also called her that.  Once she told me the way Glenn said “Mother” was the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard.  I wondered if I didn’t say it the same way.  A friend of mine asked me why I often just referred to her in conversation with others as “my mother” rather than “Mother.”  I didn’t have an answer—and have done that several times in this story.

The Connellys didn’t really indicate what names I should use for them, so I usually called them “Mr. Connelly” and “Mrs. Connelly.”  Phil, their first grandchild, was almost two when we married.  His parents decided the Connelly grandchildren should call them “Mama Nezzy” and “Papa Con.”  We all just adopted those names for them—and all the grandchildren followed suit.  It seemed simpler.

Mother had more of a struggle with her grandparent label! She was 39 when she married into the Eaves family—with two grandsons already on the scene.  It seemed a bit unkind to her when someone (perhaps her teenage stepdaughter Tootsie) suggested they should call her Granny!  Seeing it upset her, the grandsons’ mom Isobel instructed them to call her “Miss Harriett” instead. All the other Eaves grandchildren stuck with Granny.  When Glenn had his daughter Emily, he taught her to call Mother “Grandmother”—the name he’d used for his beloved maternal grandmother.  

I always wanted to be called Mama—although I’ve largely accepted Mom as a reasonable substitute—but I did have Heather and Patrick call Mother Grandmama!  And now that’s my grandmotherly name.  I love it!

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