Ronda Rich




In a doctor’s waiting room, I sat, without a phone or a newspaper to read. I was just a-sittin’, observing those scattered about.

It is the art of observing that we are losing. And, with the fading away of studying on people and tuning into their conversation, we are in danger of losing wisdom.

The Good Book says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver.”

If you don’t pay attention to what surrounds you – the people, their expressions, their words, their stories – you’ll never gain the nuggets of wisdom that will make you deeply smart.

Across the room, I heard a woman say loudly to another, “This is what you’re gonna do. You’re goin’ to AutoZone and get a new battery. Then, you’re gonna take the other battery back to Walmart and make ‘em give your money back.”

The woman speaking was scooted to her seat’s edge, her back ramrod straight, hands pressed on her knees, her black hair was unlayered and hung to her shoulders. She was “somers” in her mid-fifties. A no-nonsense look clouded her face. The other woman was paying no attention. She was watching a gentleman fumbling with his phone.

The woman, who had tuned out the static speech to her right, had thick, silver hair that came to her ears and was combed back. She was dressed in a loose-fitting paisley knit top, dark slacks, and matching flats. She was not frail. In fact, I sensed she could probably pick up a bale of hay.

The black-haired woman took a moment, aggravation seeping over her face, then screwed her mouth into an annoyed pout.

What she said next, I knew was coming – because don’t forget: I’m an observer – “Mama, do you hear me?”

Mama. Been there. Heard that. Hundreds of times.

And, just like my own Mama, the dignified woman turned to her daughter, “Yes, I heard you but I ain’t gonna do it. You leave me be and I’ll handle my own doings.”

Disappointedly, my name was called before I witnessed the end of the tug-of-war. But the wisdom I have gained over the years of being a participant in such situations, assured me of this: Mama would win, the daughter would get riled up and, more than likely, say something to the effect of, “From now on, you just handle your own business and I’ll stay out of it.”

That Mama likely refrained with a wave of her hand, “Fine. I’m plenty capable of takin’ care of myself. I raised you and three more just like you.”

Here’s the wisdom I’ve formed over the years: Except for the teenage difficulties, Mamas and daughters get along fairly well until Mama turns 65. This is when the daughter falsely thinks that the torch of authority has been passed so she can now be in charge of her mother.

“Did you take your blood pressure medicine?” “Did you call the doctor about that place on your cheek?” “Did you pay your house insurance?”

Without fail, this is what happens: roles reverse. The once rebellious teenager who missed curfews, dated the wrong boys, and wore lipstick too red for an 11th grader is now in command of the woman who kept her on a tight leash in her early years. Payback time.

Aw, but Mamas are smarter than that. They have 40 years of greater experience than the upstart who is trying to overthrow the government of Mama. One thing is certain: the rookie is living out one of her Mama’s long preached truths: “One day, young lady, you will pay for your raisin’.”

When I left the doctor’s room, the two women were standing at the checkout counter. Big Mama watched Little Mama fiddle with insurance. Then, bored, announced, “You stay and take care of that. I’m goin’ on out to the car.”

The rookie had been snookered. Big Mama is still calling the shots.

Ronda Rich is the author of the new best-selling author of St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery.

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