32: The Bahamas Mammas

32: The Bahamas Mammas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

The Bahamas Mammas

The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.

~Elaine Heffner

As a teenager, I became interested in learning about my mother’s life before she became a mother. I spoke to my aunts and uncle and witnessed my mother’s interactions with them.

My mother was the oldest child in a family of four children. Her parents were immigrants from Italy and she grew up during the Depression. At the age of ten, my mother was charged with all the household responsibilities while her mother went to work. At a time when most children focused on themselves and their needs, my mother supervised the other children, cooked, and cleaned. My aunts and uncle recall that while they were growing up my mother was consistent and firm with them, with a smile on her face and a song in her heart.

My mother graduated from high school, got a job, married my father, and started her own family. Her four children came every two years and she had a house filled to capacity before the age of thirty. In addition to working full-time, she managed to attend each child’s school and sporting events, and keep us all on the straight and narrow.

Having learned about her abbreviated childhood and knowing that my father was really her “fifth and worst” child, I decided that when I completed graduate school I would take my mother on the first of what would become our annual mother-daughter trip. Since I landed a very lucrative job, I told her to pick any place she wanted to go and I would make it happen. She had never been more than fifty miles from our home and so she was thrilled and overwhelmed at the prospect.

For the first three years, we went to Bermuda, Arizona, and Charleston—the three locations she picked. However, during my fourth year after graduate school, I opened my own business, and my finances were very limited. I didn’t want my mother to know, so I didn’t let on when she said she wanted to go to the Bahamas.

I searched for the least expensive way to make this trip happen and ended up with a “package” that included airfare, transfers, and accommodations. Even now, when I think about the terms of the package, I cringe. The airplane was ancient and tiny, the transfer to the “resort” was via a barely running school bus, and the accommodations… well, let’s just say that we had to share the hotel room with the native bugs and insects and tolerate the smell of moldy sheets.

After a perilous flight and a death-defying bus ride to our hotel, we and 200 other passengers were tired, cranky, hot, and disappointed. To make matters worse, there was only one person working the registration desk, and we had to stand in a long line under the blasting Bahamas sun to get our room key.

Since there was no place to store our luggage, we carried and dragged our suitcases along with us in the line snaking toward the front desk. Just when I thought things could not get worse, the late afternoon rains common to the Bahamas blew in. While both my mother and I had tried to keep a positive attitude up to this point, this was the last straw for me.

However, my mother had another idea. She turned and looked at me with a twinkle in her eye, and I knew we were in trouble. My mother has this habit of doing the most outlandish things at the most unanticipated times. When I see that twinkle in her eye, I know she is going to do something that will be outrageous, unexpected, and will probably embarrass me.

With a quick kiss on my cheek, my mother strolled over to the swimming pool, took off her glasses, and jumped in fully clothed, shoes and all, screaming “Yahoo!” The line of disgruntled passengers all paused and turned to look at me with facial expressions that ranged from amazement to disgust.

What’s a child to do with a mother like that? At least I was smart enough to take off my shoes before I ran over to the pool and jumped in next to her. Several other people joined us in the pool. Of those who did, we spent considerable time with two young women who were lifelong friends and a husband-wife team; we soon dubbed the group of us the Bahamas Mammas (much to the husband’s chagrin).

Not surprisingly, we ended up thoroughly enjoying that vacation, and I have stayed in touch with our Bahamas Mammas for the past twenty-five years. They were a great comfort to me when my mother passed away. We all left the funeral, went to the beach, and ran into the ocean fully clothed, yelling “Yahoo!” I am confident that my mother looked upon us with a twinkle in her eye.

~Judith Fitzsimmons

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