Happy Birthday, Mama

My mother is 85 today.




By all accounts, she was a happy little girl, growing up in a small Southern town in the bosom of a loving family: her grandmother the matriarch, her mother the rock, her brother the darling of the town.



Her father, despite his movie-star looks and knack for mastering whatever it was he put his hand to, was less successful at the art of living. But he certainly loved her.




She worked her way through college, and what she couldn’t earn in the time she took off, support from unlooked-for benefactors provided. She was already developing into a promising writer. In her senior year, she won a national prize in fiction writing. She was on her way.




But our lives are full of detours. Maybe that should be a bumper sticker: LIFE’S JUST ONE LONG DETOUR. Anyway, she married my father, moved back to the middle of nowhere with him, had five babies (hey, I can hardly complain). Not so easy, even with a Guggenheim Fellowship and a solid start on a novel and a friendship with the likes of Flannery O’Connor and more talent than many writers have in the tip of a little finger, to write with children hammering on the door and saying: “I’m bored.” “I can’t find my shoes.” “Lenora’s being mean to me.” “There’s nothing to eat.” (Though what she did write and publish is, in my unbiased opinion, brilliant. Try here and here and here — the-lost-beach-final — for example.)




So pardon the hackneyed sentiment, but her magnum opus has instead been a life lived with grace, openhearted love, integrity — wait, I’m not through! — determination, and a singular genius for finding the humor and humanity in the everyday.


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