“Them There Scissors”

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In one of my many talks with my son, James, he shared this story with me from his college days.

Susie was a senior at State University.  In a few months, she would graduate, looking forward to a professional career.  She was home for the holidays; but, it was not being at home that excited Susie; rather, it was the excitement about a college friend who had promised to stop while spending part of the holidays visiting a frat friend, in a nearby town. She could hardly hide her excitement. 

Mama Kaye, Susie’s mother, sat in a corner chair in the neat, but small living room, hand-stitching a colorful piece of cloth.  When she was done, it would be another skirt for Susie. 

Susie figured that this was the time to have “that talk” with Mama Kaye before James arrived.

“Mama, Susie said, “I am expecting a friend to come over for a while.  He is a very nice young man and his visit is very important to me.  I know you will like him, too. I need to ask you a favor, Mama.  You see, I need you to be careful about how you speak in his presence.”

“What you talkin ‘bout, Susie-Girl?” asked Mama Kaye.

“Well, James is not used to being around people who do not  speak correct English – people who split their verbs, Mama.  I just want you to be careful about your speech while he is here.”

Mama stopped stitching for a moment and looked up at Susie.

“I won’t shame you none, Susie-Girl.  You a college girl, I know that. I want you to be proud of your Mama. I won’t shame you none, Susie-Girl.  I don’t ever want to shame you, baby girl.”

“Thank you, Mama.”

Just then, a knock was heard at the door.

“That must be James,” said Susie.  “I’ll get the door, Mama. Remember what we discussed, now. Let me do the entertaining, Mama.”

Mama could hear Susie’s greeting to James from the hallway entrance.

“James, it is so good to see you. Please come in.”

James seemed to be excited to see Susie.

“Susie, it is good to see you; it has been a while.  How are you doing?”

“Very well, James. You know I am in my last year at the University and I have several choices of job opportunities.  It is just a matter of deciding a location, at this point.”

James was well into his internship.  He was scheduled to return to campus for graduation exercises.  It was his choice.  So, seeing him under these circumstances, was an opportunity to impress him, Susie thought.  There were no other competitors (no other girls to steal the light)– just James and Susie.

“There is so much we have to catchup on, James.  Please, follow me.  We can enjoy some of that delicious cake you so like from my home-away food boxes of Mama’s.”

“That sounds great.  I would love that.”

Mama Kaye’s home is very small. There is a living room, bedroom, kitchen, and a pantry that she also used as a sewing room.  Mama Kaye sewed and ironed to make extra dollars for tuition. By day, she cleaned houses.  The only day she had off was Sunday.  That day, she said, belonged to the Lord.

As James entered the living room with Susie, he noticed Mama Kaye, sitting in the corner.

“Mama, this is James Kinchen, III.”

“It is nice to meet you, Madam.”

Carefully as not to mix words that might embarrass Susie, Mama repeated, “Nice to meet you, James Kinchen, III.”

“James, you have to excuse my mother, please.  She was just about to go to her sewing room when you knocked at the door, said Susie.”

Mama Kaye understood with those words what Susie wanted her to do.

Gathering her sewing box and cloth, she slowly stood up and made her way to the back room – the pantry. Susie continued.

“James, please make yourself comfortable while I get you a slice of strawberry cake and something smooth to drink.”

“Thank you, Susie.  By all means, take your time.”

As James sat in the small, neatly-furnished room, he noticed how everything was so well organized.  The room was warm and cozy.  Even the pictures told the story of a modest woman who cherished family.  There were pictures of a younger Susie and family portraits of Mama Kaye and Susie’s dad. The pictures were not much different from his own family portraits.

He was interrupted by his musing by a jubilant Susie.

“Mother makes the best cake of anyone that I know.”

“She does seem to be a woman of multiple talents,” James echoed.

“Well, let’s just say she stays busy.”

“But we are not here to talk about my Mother, are we? Let’s talk about how things are going with you.  What are your plans after your internship?”

Before James could answer, Mama Kaye yelled from the back of the house.

“Susie-Girl.  Would you look up there on the mantle piece and bring me “them there” scissors?”

Susie pretended that she did not hear and hoped that Mama Kaye would not repeat words of “bad” English; but Mama Kaye did – a little louder this time.

“Susie-Girl.  Would you look up there on the mantle piece and bring me “them there” scissors?”

As James munched on the cake, Susie stated, “Sometimes, Mother can be a little loud.”

Within a few minutes, a slow walking Mama Kaye appeared standing before both Susie and James.

“Sorry to be bother, ya’ll;  just need “them there” scissors.  Want to finish the skirts for Susie ‘fore she head back to school.  Got da night to finish ‘fore these old feet of mine stop me. Had to take on a few more steps ‘day. Made me such extra hours at the Bradley’s t’ day; goin’ do so t‘morrow too, Susie-Girl. Chance to make a few extra dollars for you to take back; with graduation and all, every dollar help.  Just need “them there” scissors.

“No, Mother Kaye, truly you are not disturbing us,” James said.

“I see you got some my strawberry cake, James.”

“Oh, yes. In fact, it is one of the things that Susie shared with me from one of those special home away boxes you send. I even talked about how delicious your strawberry cake is with my own Mother.”

“You don’t say, James! I gets pleasure in making things for Susie-Girl.  She my only child, you know. Just Susie and me since my husband, her dear ole Dad, Marcus, died. He was a good man. He would be so proud of his Susie-Girl, graduation and all.”

“Yes, I am sure he would and just as proud of you,” Mama Kaye, stated James.

“Nice of you to say so, James. Ain’t much to these ole bones, though. Just need to get “them there” scissors and be out of your way.  Right now, “them there” scissors seem as far away from that back room as walking the two miles from the Cooks’ to the Bradleys’.”

“Mother Kaye,” said James.  “Please, may I have the pleasure of getting “them there” scissors for you?  It would not be right for you to deny me the honor.”

“Well, James Kinchen, III, I sure thank you. Them my best scissors, you know.  Nothin’ like them.  You take care of things and things take care of you, I always say. Had since Susie-Girl was a little bitty thang.”

James walked over to the mantle, reached up and gave the scissors to Mama Kaye.

Mama Kaye took the scissors and responded, “Sure was nice meeting you, James.  You goin’ places, I can tell.  Mark my words, young man, you goin’ places.  I know your Mama proud of you.”

“Now, I be on my way. Let you young folks be.”

Slowly, Mama Kaye turned and began her a limply walk toward the pantry.

“Come, said Susie, James, sit down.  Where were we before Mother interrupted?”

“Susie, James said, “Why didn’t you answer when your Mother called?”

“Mom is always calling me, James.  She always wants something.  It is best to ignore her.  She always gets whatever she needs.”

“I see, Susie,” said James.

James understood more than Susie knew.  “Well, Susie, I must say that this was a most interesting visit.  I have to be going.”

“But you just got here,” protested Susie.

“Sometimes, Susie, a short visit yields more insights than a long visit,” replied James.

“Please, tell your Mom, that it was wonderful to meet her.  Meeting her was the highlight of this trip.  She is a lovely woman.”

James was blessed with two, nurturing, hard-working parents. His Mom never had to walk one mile to her job; she always had her own automobile.  His father made sure she drove the best vehicle.  He had an old truck that he called “Ole Faithful.”

“Well, I really wish you could stay longer; but, I know you have lots of things to do.  You have to call me later; you have my number.”

As James turned toward the door, he paused and look directly into Susie’s face and said, “You know, Susie, my Mother has the same pair of “them there” scissors.”

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