My Big Mama

Family Reunion in Orlando, Florida 1999

Does every black family have a Big Mama?  When I was growing up I thought that all families had a Big Mama.  Are you wondering what a Big Mama is?  It has nothing to do with her weight.  Big Mama is a term of endearment.  My Big Mama was named Lizzie Butler.  She was my daddy’s grandmother.  She was the matriarch of our family.  She raised my daddy and his five siblings.
Big Mama was a mother to everyone.  I have such fond memories of her.  Big Mama lived in Phoenix City, Alabama.  I remember driving from Michigan to Alabama for a visit.  The drive in the car would take forever.  But it was well worth the wait.

My Big Mama loved everyone. She welcomed everyone in her home. I loved to visit Big Mama’s house because all of our family would gather there. The best time to visit Alabama was in the spring or summer.  My sister and I would walk to the corner store and buy candy.  I even met a new best friend named Nicole.  Nicole’s Big Mama lived next door.  We would sit on the back stoop together.  We enjoyed playing games, singing, dancing and using our imaginations. Nicole and I kept in touch until I turned 16 years old. I’m not sure what happened, but we lost touch with each other.  I wonder what she is doing today.

Nicole and I after a trip to the corner store.

Big Mama taught me how to snap green beans in a bowl and crack pecans.  She also showed me the correct way to eat sugar cane. I can almost taste the sweet sugar cane as I write this blog.
The best part was when my parents told us that Big Mama was coming to Detroit for a visit.  She would always fly American Airlines.  We would be so excited driving to Metro Airport to pick up Big Mama.  Back then you could meet your family as soon as they exited the plane.  Big Mama would always get off first.  She gave the best hugs and had the best laugh.

Can you find me?

I loved her style.  But I really wanted her light blue Samsonite suitcase with the matching carry on.  Sissy and I knew that Big Mama had some goodies inside for us.  Big Mama would stay for one maybe two weeks with us.  She would tell us stories.  The best part was when we would watch Godzilla movies with her.  Watching Godzilla wasn’t complete without Godzilla candies, AKA Hershey Kisses.  All of my mommy’s family that lived in Detroit would always visit when Big Mama was in town. She was an amazing lady.  One time I think Big Mama even brought us packs of our favorite hot sausages from The Piggly Wiggly. Because  that’s how the Big Mama’s do it.

My parents brought us some sausages for old-time sake from Georgia.


Big Mama came to many of our milestones.  There came a time when it was too hard for Big Mama to travel.  By this time my family was living in Delaware. I was married and had Harrison and Sydney.  One day my dad called and said that my aunts and uncles were coming to Delaware for the 4th of  July.  And that they were bringing Big Mama. I hadn’t seen her in over ten years.  Although I spoke to her on the phone.  I wanted her to meet my family.

Rob and I were having problems in our marriage during this time.  I knew he would not make the trip with me.  I was able to have my girlfriend and her son make the ten-hour drive with us. Picture this two women and three kids under 4 traveling in a rented mini van.  The ten hour trip turned into 16 hours of hell and torture.

Syd meeting Big Mama with my sissy.

When we arrived at my parents house, I couldn’t wait to get out of the car.  The best sight was seeing my Big Mama.  She still looked the same just skinnier.  She was able to meet my kids and that meant the world to me.  I’ve been searching all over for the picture that has our entire family with Big Mama and I can’t find it anywhere.  So I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures of Big Mama, Lizzie Butler, my great-grandmother.

We were knee-deep in autism when Big Mama passed away.  Traveling this time with Sydney was more challenging.  Rob offered to drive us to Georgia where Big Mama lived.  I had peace in my heart knowing that I made the sacrifice to get my children to meet their great, great-grandmother before she passed away.
Who is the matriarch of your family? Is there a family member that  played a vital role in your childhood? My Big Mama was an example of style, and grace. She was God-fearing and a joy to be around.  I learned many things from my Big Mama. I am blessed that my children met her too.

Sometimes when your current situation is overwhelming. Think back to the memories that bring a smile to your face. Share them with those that you love. This was a nice trip down memory lane for me.

Tomorrow’s Blog: A Sneak Peek at The Memoir

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