“Claire, come help your Momma in the kitchen.” Maggie called to her 14 year old daughter.
“I’m busy Momma!” Claire said, as she studied the outfits laid out on her bed. Claire was on her way to being as synonymous with fashion, as Beyoncé is to her signature, “put a ring on it” dance moves.
Claire heard her Momma yelling at her little brother from the living room, “Son, I will blister your butt if you use crowns on my floors one more time!”
Claire laughed and said, “Momma, it’s cray-ONS not crowns! Will you ever say it right?” Claire asked.
“Child, hush your mouth. I will say it how ever I damn-well please”, said Maggie.
Claire loved to get her mom going. Her accent always got thicker when she was mad. Her Momma was raised in the south. Despite moving to Upstate NY after she married Claire’s father twenty years ago, there was still a twang to her words.
Maggie hollered to Claire, “We’ll be leaving as soon as the casserole is done, about 15 minutes!”
Claire shouted back, “Got it!” and thought to herself, God forbid Momma not bring a casserole everywhere she goes.
Claire and her Mom were invited to a girls-only dinner night at Maria’s house. Claire went to school with Maria’s daughter, Lesley. She was surprised when her Mom told her they were invited. She had never seen her hang out with Maria, or any of Maria’s friends.
Claire joined her Mom in the kitchen, just as her daddy was getting home from work. Like most nights, her dad kissed her Momma on the cheek and playfully smacked her on the butt. As always, her Momma shrieked with embarrassment and said, “Brian just knock it off, the kids shouldn’t see you do that!”
“I’m fixin’ to be done with the casserole, so you hurry up and finish getting ready.” Maggie said to Claire. “And Claire, you best be on your best behavior tonight and watch your tongue. I want to hear yes ma’am and no ma’am when an adult is talking to you, do you understand?”
Claire nodded at her momma’s notorious warning.
“Momma, Leslie and her friends are snobs.” Claire said, as she put on her coat.
“Claire Leighann! Don’t be rude or you can stay home.” Maggie said, and gave Claire “the look”, before giving Claire’s dad and baby brother a quick kiss goodbye.
Hearing her middle name thrown in and seeing “the look” on her Momma’s face, Claire decided it best to close her mouth.
On the way to Maria’s house, Claire asked, “Momma, do you ever just want to yell or scream?”
“Claire, what on earth would make you ask me that?” Maggie responded curiously.
“You just never seem to lose your temper. Even if people are rude to you, you just smile and keep quiet.” Claire expressed to her Mom.
“Baby, Momma doesn’t do a lot of hollerin’ because I wasn’t raised that way. I just feel like it’s more important to be polite than make a scene. If I need to get my point across, I do it by talkin’ or just ignorin’ the person being rude.”
“You should stick up for yourself Momma, that’s what you tell me.” Claire surprised her mom with this one.
“Claire, I just wasn’t raised like that”, Maggie said.
“I know Momma, but you have lived across the country from Alabama for over half of your life. Haven’t you grown a pair by now?” Claire threw herself against the passenger door, as soon as she said it. She knew her Momma’s hand would be coming for her head.
“Claire Leighann Jones! Don’t make me turn this car around and take your sassy mouth home!”
Claire looked out the window so her Momma couldn’t see her laugh. She loved getting her all riled up.
They arrived at Maria’s house and as soon as they were invited inside, Claire felt an inferior air. She always picked up on others vibes and instantly reacted to them.
Maggie offered the casserole she baked, to which Maria responded, “Um, thanks. I suppose I’ll put this in the fridge. Come on in.”
Claire joined the girls looking at this year’s year book in the living room.
“Claire, did you see Sharon’s picture? Maria’s daughter, Lesley, asked in a malicious tone. “She looks like she let her little sister pick out her outfit.” she said, and the other girls laughed. Claire didn’t.
Claire responded with a challenging tone, “Maybe her little sister did pick out her clothes. I’m friends with Sharon, and her little sister has pretty awesome taste in fashion.”
“So Maggie, do you actually enjoy not working and being home all day?” Maria pretentiously asked Maggie.
“I love bein’ home. I can’t imagine it any other way”, Maggie replied.
“Well your mother probably stayed home with you, right? Isn’t that what they do in the south?”, said Beth, Maria’s best friend since high school.
Beth then added, “Maggie, I don’t know how you do that bare-foot and pregnant thing. I would go crazy if I couldn’t work.” She laughed condescendingly and flicks Maria on the shoulder, as if to say, You know what I mean.
Maggie could feel an un-easiness crawling up her spine. She tried to ignore the insinuation that she was an ignorant, lazy female. Instead, she just gave a light-hearted laugh and said, “Ya, it can be tuff.”
Claire was trying to survive the gossip amongst the plastic ones when suddenly, her head perked up like a startled chicken. She heard the drawl in her Momma’s last word. She knew that drawl. That drawl only comes out when her Momma is really mad or had one more glass of wine than usual.
Ashley, the head of the PTO and Maria’s sister-in-law, piped in. “I just need something to challenge me during the day. Besides, I would never let a man support me.”
At that point, Maggie could feel her neck jerk back. “How can you say that?” Maggie said, as she shook her head and tried to change the subject.
Maria disliked her topic of conversation and relentlessly dug back in to Maggie. “Maggie, maybe you just don’t understand where we are coming from because you don’t work.”
That was it. Maggie’s neck started rollin’ and her hand went in the air like she was singing the gospel.
“Let me tell you sumthin’. I have a college degree in psychology but honey, it don’t take that to diagnosis you as a bitch!” Maggie said, with a satisfied calmness.
“Not only am I more educated than you, I could run circles around you in the workforce and in your own home. This may be your house darlin’, but my daughter is standing right there. And I will be damned if I will stand here and let you berat me in front of her. Cuz ya see, I am not barefoot and pregnant. I am respecting my choice as a women to raise my children, while my husband fulfills what part of our partnership he can. That’s how our family works.
Maria, Beth and Ashley were left with crystal wine glasses in their manicured hands and their mouths closed, for once.
“Now, if ya’ll will excuse us.” Maggie said and smiled a polished, southern smile only a woman raised south of the Mason-Dixie line can pull off. She walked over to the fridge, opened the door and snatched out the casserole she put love and time in to this afternoon.
“I’d let you keep this but my husband may whoop his old lady’s ass if I leave the expensive bake-ware he paid for”, Maggie oozed sarcasm.
“Oh, and the next time you have a little git-together and decide to invite the ignorant, little woman that you suspect can’t possibly have any interesting friends of her own, do yourself a favor and request that she bring the wine. That shit ya’ll drinkin’ ain’t worth touching to my beautifully, cultivated lips.” Maggie’s drawl was so thick as this point, her words practically crawled off her lips, like the icing on a Paula Deen pound cake.
The girls in the living room watched the rhinestones on Claire’s back-pockets glimmer, as she strutted towards her Momma. Claire just looked at her with eyes that seemed to proudly say, “Go Mom!”
Maggie and Claire quietly, but confidently, put on their coats and boots. Neither spoke until they were in the car.
Claire burst out laughing and said, “Mom, what got in to you?”
“I don’t know Claire Leighann but it felt good”, Maggie admitted to her daughter. “Those nasty women just needed to be stood up to. Don’t ever let snooty bitches talk down to you Claire. I’m sorry if I ever gave you the impression that you should.” Maggie said.
“Claire, you can’t tell your daddy about this.” said Maggie, as she seemed to shift back in to the Momma that Claire loved and adored, now more than ever.
“Don’t worry Momma, I won’t.” Claire had to hide her little-white-lie smirk. She couldn’t wait to tell her daddy what a country-fried yankee her Momma was tonight.