Anytime I write a "Mama story"—something based on my mother or our family—I call and read it to her over the phone before I let anybody else see it. As I was reading one to her the other day, she was laughing at something I had written and then interrupted me with, "Where on earth do you get this stuff?" And I said, "Seriously?" Then she said, "Well, if I'd known you were gonna absorb everything around you when you were growing up, I would've been more careful."
At this point, I'm going to pause and give my childhood self a pat on the back. Because I figured out, very early on, that if I could sit quietly and behave myself, the grownups would forget I was there, and I could take in the most amazing conversations.
The picture I chose this morning is one of my favorites. It was made on my grandmother's porch, probably in the early 70s. That's my cousin Vivian Ann on the far left, visiting with four of Mama's siblings: Aunt Joyce, Uncle Ferrell, Uncle Guy, and Uncle Chick. And they're all smiling. Likely laughing at something. There was a whole lot of laughter in that old house.
It's strange how we so often don't understand what's happening to us while it's happening. We have to look back—sometimes with a fair amount of distance—to see how we were being blessed when we didn't even realize it. As a child, I hardly saw our family gatherings as job training. But they were because every get-together was a lesson in storytelling.
This morning I'm looking back, with gratitude, on childhood afternoons spent on a porch, surrounded by family voices.