Ferris Robinson: I Lucked Out To Have Mary Jane Kelly As My Mother

I lucked out.

My mother had me when she was young, 20 to be exact. I remember myself at age 20, and being selfless enough to raise a baby at that age would have been nowhere near possible.

But my mother, Mary Jane Kelly, managed to not only deliver me on her own in a New Orleans hospital, but graduate from Sophie Newcomb after toting me to her classes in a basket. She got a job in Chattanooga in the advertising department of Miller Bros., and rode the bus to and from Athens, Tn., where I stayed with my grandparents.

How big of a pain was that?

No doubt it was tedious and traumatic and stressful, but I certainly didn’t feel anything except she was thrilled to be with me. She always made me feel beloved, and treasured. And not because I was an easy baby. I was demanding, cried over everything and had a hard time sleeping. I know. Not much has changed.

My mother certainly hasn’t. And not just because she doesn’t seem to age. Over six decades later, I can honestly say I believe that more or less, she is still thrilled with me. Truly, I’m not sure many people can say that about their mothers.

After I was born, she used whatever was left from her paycheck after rent and canned beans to buy round-trip bus tickets to Athens. She could have stayed in Chattanooga and dated. But she told her friends who wanted to fix her up she was only available two nights a week – the nights she wasn’t traveling via bus to see her baby.

I remember my mother swooping me up in the air when she arrived, her face beaming after a long hard workweek and arduous bus ride. We walked up to the old swing set by the edge of the woods, and she pushed me in the swing, singing bawdy songs to me. “Mac the Knife” was her favorite. Afterwards, we lay on a blanket in the grass and looked at the clouds. She showed me how to find things, pale fluffy pictures, in each puff of white. UN Chien. A choo-choo train. A heart.

In hindsight, I’m sure she had a million things she needed to do, or wanted to do. She probably could have used a few minutes to wash the road dust off her face, or put her feet up, or sip a cocktail before rushing full throttle into the arms of a one-year-old. But I never sensed anything except that every minute she had with me was special.

(Not that I wasn’t spanked when I deserved it.)

My mother was there for me. Always. She sewed my prom dress and my May Day dress by hand. She hosted countless birthday parties, knocking herself out with cakes that rival anything you can find on Pinterest. And don’t even start on costumes.

In college and after, she listened to me rant and sob long distance, back when there was a charge for doing so. My mother never acted like there was anything else she needed to be doing. After I unloaded on her, I blithely scooted off, unconcerned that she was biting her nails and fretting about her morose, miserable daughter. I wasn’t even thoughtful enough to let her know all was well, that things weren’t so bad after all.

My mother is fun. She’s probably the most fun person I know. And just when you think she’s Little Miss Perfect (my cousin’s nickname for her), she does something naughty.

I lucked out with my mother. And the older I get, the more I know it.

(Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series “If Bugs Are Banished.” “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love – Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.