Another Mama-ism . . .

Photo: Anthony Scarlati

Photo: Anthony Scarlati

Once while on a book tour, I was driving through my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. I had an event in Atlanta that evening, so I knew I didn’t have time for any extended visits. Still, I needed to eat, so I called my sister, Dorothy, who agreed to meet me at The Skillet. The Skillet is an institution in Spartanburg. Since 1946, it’s been serving breakfast and lunch at its location on the corner of Pine Street and Main, which are Spartanburg’s two main drags.    

Lunch at The Skillet isn’t complete unless you run into Chip Smith. As a boy, Chip was friends with my late brother. The two of them frequently got into trouble. Like that time the railroad detectives showed up at our house wanting to talk to Mama. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Since then, Chip has pretty much established himself as Spartanburg’s perpetual mayor of the underground. So when Dorothy and I walked into The Skillet, imagine our surprise when the first person we ran into was . . . Chip Smith.    

After a lively lunch that included a sneak preview of Chip’s latest project—T-shirts proclaiming IF GREENVILLE’S A LITTLE ATLANTA, THEN SPARTANBURG’S A BIG GAFFNEY—I said my goodbyes and hastened out to the parking lot.    

Once in my car, I called Mama just to check in.    

“Where are you?” she said.    

“I’m in the parking lot at The Skillet.”     

“I’m a block away. I’ll meet you there.”

I explained our visit would have to be short, as I had to be in Atlanta in a few hours.    

“Oh, it’ll be quick,” Mama said. “I just want to see you.”    

As soon as Mama pulled in the parking lot, I got out of my car and got into hers.    

“Hey Mama,” I said.    

The next thing either of us knew, I had stretched out across the front seat, resting my head in her lap.    

Mama didn’t say a word. She just sat there like having my head in her lap in a public parking lot in Spartanburg was an everyday occurrence.    

After a while, I said, “Mama, the world’s so scary. Sometimes I wish I could just crawl back up inside your womb.”    

There was a momentary pause.     

“You can’t,” she said. “You’re too big. You wouldn’t fit.”

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