Seven Sticks

Seven Sticks

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Seven Sticks

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.
~Tenneva Jordan

Well, here it was... one of the most exciting days of my youth, my very first trip to college! Twelve years of school had led to this very important day. I am not sure who was more excited, my mother or me. Just being able to attend college was a miracle in itself since Daddy had passed away three years earlier.

I always knew that funds were scarce after he died. But Momma was somehow able to provide for us. I thought I had understood the extent of her sacrifice, but it was on this day, driving in the car with my mother to college, that I learned one of my life’s most important lessons.

As we drove, she offered no profound advice—not about safety or financial responsibility or anything else of any importance. There really was no need for such conversations on this road trip because these talks had happened long before. Instead, the lesson came in the form of a few words spoken as we listened to songs on the radio.

My mother said, “San, do you have any gum?”

My mother never, ever chewed gum. Since I was the one driving the car, I told her to help herself to the gum in my purse. My surprise continued when Momma pulled the gum from my purse and said, “Oh, honey, this is my favorite gum. Even when I was a child, I always loved this gum.”

Okay, now I was really, really shocked. Not only did she chew gum, but she actually had a favorite gum? How was it possible that this precious woman who raised me enjoyed such a simple pleasure in life, yet I never knew? As I watched my mother take the gum from the silver foil and begin to chew, I decided that I had to know the scoop about the gum.

“Momma, I have to ask, how did I not know that you chewed gum?”

Before giving her a chance to answer, I went on to reflect on what I remembered as a child. Whenever we went anywhere as a family, we would pile in Daddy’s truck, Momma and Daddy in the front and all six of us in the back. Like a tradition engraved in stone, Daddy would always stop and get three Cokes in the bottle, one to share with Momma, one for the three girls, and one for my three brothers. In addition to the Cokes, Daddy always bought a pack of gum, and it was the very flavor that my mother had just taken from my purse.

After I finished rambling on, my mother just smiled and said: “Honey, the pack only had seven sticks.”

It was at that exact moment that I realized my precious Momma had made a choice all those times years ago. She’d given each of us children a stick and then one to Daddy—seven sticks gone and the pack empty, leaving none for her.

To some, this may not seem like a large sacrifice for a loved one to make. But my realization that she spent years giving up even the smallest of pleasures forever changed my heart. I realized that day that, although my mother made huge sacrifices for us, that she also made a million small ones that went unnoticed.

People say being in the right place at the right time is the secret to success. All I know is that a single stick of gum opened a world of knowledge about someone I had known and loved all my life, and about the unspoken sacrifices she had made over the years.

To this day, I am very thankful for the college education I received those many years ago. But it is my momma who taught me lessons of the heart.

By the way, every year since that time, I always nestle a pack of that flavored gum in the bow adorning her Christmas gift.

~Sandy M. Smith

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