I was in the small Northeast Texas town of Cooper often with Mama T and Pop (my grandfather) from ages 2 to 13. I think I was 12 when she died. In fact, I lived with them much of my 3rd grade year while my parents were dealing with my brother Chris Paul and his Cerebral Palsy.
In the summers I would love to go with Pop to his houseboat and run around by myself on his land all day. Sometimes I would take the row boat out in the tank (pond) under Pop’s watchful eye as he fished. I can hardly remember him ever catching anything, but he fished for many hours almost every day. I fell out of the boat a few times, and Pop would yell at me. I think that was the only times he ever yelled at me.
I loved Mama T more than anyone. As with so many of her grandchildren, she would read the Bible to me and she always treated me like I was special and beloved – though she corrected me often whenever I would curse. Curse words to her were “Gosh”, Darn” and” Dang”. I hate to think what she would have said if I ever used real curse words. She would give me a few quarters to go downtown to the old Sparks theater whenever I wanted. And she baked pies! Lots of pies.
I would often go with Mama T to shop at the Piggly Wiggly. She always knew everyone shopping and working there, so she usually spent a long time in the store gossiping and laughing with her friends.
One day I remember first hearing about the concept of false teeth and asked my mom what they were. She explained them to me and sent me in to near shock by informing me that Mama T herself had false teeth! And furthermore, mom informed that she took them out at night and kept them in a glass next to her bed while she and Pop slept. I couldn’t believe all this new information. I eventually filed this startling story away in my brain’s great mysteries file.
On my next trip to Cooper I found myself once again at the Piggly Wiggly with Mama T and she was holding forth with all her friends in the checkout line. There were probably five or six women within earshot of us. Then like a bolt from the blue, I recalled what my mom had told me – “Mama T”, I blurted out. “Is it true that you have false teeth?” All the women including Mama T began to laugh and they could hardly stop! I was suddenly very embarrassed, but they were practically bending over in laughter, and for a long time. When we got home, Mama T started calling some other friends on the phone to recount my public faux pas with much laughter. She would tell the story to anyone around, including other relatives. She had so much fun with that story.
To say that Mama T was unpretentious is an understatement. I think all 23 Pickering cousins were very fortunate to have this kind and loving woman as our grandmother. I for one still miss her.