In English, though, Dorie McMeen Morris (now Fay) might have started me on the path that led to this very page.
The assignment was to write from one of two prompts. I chose “If I Were 10 Feet Tall.” I’m not sure but seem to recall “There’s an Alligator in My Bathtub” was the other option.
After school, I sat at a desk that’d come from the old Tupelo High School, when it’d been located at the Tupelo Middle School site. The desk had graffiti on top and real gum underneath. Today you’d call that “authentic.”
We kept it in the kitchen beneath a phone that for some strange reason was connected to the wall. I had loose leaf paper and a yellow No. 2 pencil because that was elementary school law.
Mom was in the kitchen, working on dinner. Before putting pen to paper, I said, “If I were 10 feet tall, I’d be a star at basketball.”
“Oh, that’s good. Really good,” she said. “You’re a poet and didn’t know it.”
We were off, man. Together, she and I unleashed a creative fury, though all I remember are hats and gnats and a line involving a telephone pole.
But that’s not exactly true, because I remember the quality of light in the kitchen, as well as the way Mom moved around the room and the encouragement that jumped from her heart to mine.
At school, I got my 15 minutes of fourth-grade fame when the teacher asked me to read the poem in front of all three English classes. Fran Frederick heard my masterpiece, which meant a whole heck of a lot in those days.
That was a bright, shining time that comes up in memory with pleasant regularity. Life happens, more life happens and still more life happens, then there’s a flash of Mom in the kitchen, proud of the things I wrote down and equally proud of the things I edited out.
More importantly, we were both happy to be where we were at the moment, with the afternoon sun coming through the window to shine on the rhymes bouncing between us. We caught hold of something that day and haven’t let go.
Moms and sons have different roles and perspectives, making it not only possible but probable that they’ll annoy each other along the way.
Mom and I share a few of those memories, too, but they’re ridiculously outnumbered by the good times.
Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.