by Bettye Rozier Gibson
My mother always had the best of intentions and was always interested in any activity in which my sister or I participated. Many were the times, however, Mother embarrassed us with her habit of falling at the most inopportune moments.
One such event occurred when I was a junior or senior in high school. On a Sunday afternoon my boyfriend and I decided to bowl a few games at the local bowling alley, and, of course (this was the 50s), we told my mother where we were going. After bowling a game or two and as I was retrieving my bowling ball from the return stand, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a person walking across the bowling alley lobby-—my mother.
As I turned to focus my attention on playing, ignoring her as much as possible, I sensed that my mother was coming our way. Not being familiar with the bowling alley and not possessing the gene for grace and elegance, my mother did not notice there was a rather large step-down to the area where the bowlers were seated or playing. As she lost her balance on the step-down, she staggered to catch her balance, but that was not possible. Next she fell over the metal ash can standing near one of the bowling tables. A very loud crash of metal resounded across the bowling alley, causing several people to look in the direction of the noise which kept sounding throughout the building as the ash can hit chairs, ball returns, and other objects. Some of the players rushed over to help this gray-haired lady who was now sprawled on the tile floor.
I ducked my head in shame, for I knew that the thud, clattering metal, and other noises were caused by yet another infamous display of the law of non-agility by my mother. I finally forced myself to go over to her and ask if she were hurt. “No,” was the answer, but I discovered she was just as embarrassed as I was.
Now that nearly eleven years have passed since she died, I find myself often thinking of my mother’s lack of grace, her propensity for falling, and her embarrassing me frequently. When recalling some of her spills, none of which inflicted much physical pain on her but rained untold humiliation on me, I laugh heartily at those events--especially since in recent years I have discovered I too lack the gene for grace and agility. I have sprawled in my classroom, on city sidewalks, and at public functions, but most often in the privacy of my bathtub.
Thus far I have managed to do my crazy dance steps and sudden and unexplained dives to the floor with not too much physical damage to my body and surroundings, except for one grand display after tripping over the corner of a box. (That would be another story in itself).
To my own daughters’ endearing appreciation, they have been miles away from my displays of falling. Grace is not my middle name and never will I be accused of having any, but now I do appreciate all the times my own mother wanted to be a part of my activities and showed her love for me by being present, gracefully or not.
How fortunate I am to have experienced true unconditional love from her.
(NOTE FROM BETTYE: My mother passed away on November 15, 1991.)
Bettye Rozier Gibson, a teacher for many years, is a Mississippi native now living in Arkansas.
Readers may reach her at gbgibson
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