Norma Gay Prewett
When we were “bellyaching” about one peeve or another, Mother used to say the same thing: “at least you are not buried up to your neck in mud.” Not to make light at all of the horrific pictures coming through from Haiti right now, but I am nearly sure it was something on the news, delivered to our family through the rabbit ears of our big-box Philco, that inspired my mother’s undeniably true retort. Of course she was correct, but it did little to comfort, which, in some ways, was not Mother’s strong suit. By her own admission, she had been a tomboy as a young wild girl in backwoods Arkansas. She ran barefoot through the sticker and chigger-laden fields and swam in Bear Creek along with her brothers, Ansel and Harold, though I doubt that her more ladylike sister, Elsie, joined in. She was tough and strong, and even after she developed her family’s bad heart, walked and climbed and would have flown in an airplane had not the neighbor who built the plane she wanted to fly in crashed-landed into a cow and died on his maiden flight. Late in her life, arriving home to the very humble ranch-style home she and Dad built with their own hands and finding it locked with nobody home, she gained entrance by climbing into the rafters of the attached garage, crawling across beams and joists in the dark, spidery crawlspace, finding the furnace room and shimmying down to the interior. She laughed when she “told it on herself,” but we all quaked. My mother had inoperable heart blockages, angina, and wore a capsule of nitroglycerine around her neck like the key of brandy a St. Bernard wears. I guess she figured dying in the crawlspace where we would never have thought to look for her was better than being buried up to her neck in mud.