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Mama Teaches a Lesson As She Learns One

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Mama was trying to improve herself. Again. It was public speaking this time.

The year before, it had been leather work. She made, among other objects, a large handbag, tooled with such interesting designs that you hardly noticed the smell, at first. She said the smell would fade, and the bag would last a lifetime.

She was right about the "lasting" part. Every now and then we would open a little-used drawer and know, immediately, without looking, that Mama's old leather-worked handbag was hidden there.

There had been other notable efforts at self-improvement, the results of which were scattered throughout the house.

We all applauded her announcement that she had enrolled in an adult-education class in public speaking that met at the high school. Public speaking leaves no material traces.

"But I don't know what to talk about," she moaned, a week before her first assignment was due. We were all in the living room that evening, reading. Mama held a notebook and a pencil, ready for suggestions. "I've led such a limited life. Married. Moved around a bit. Had five children. Who wants to hear about that?" She looked accusingly around the room.

Dad rustled his newspaper and continued reading. This was a discussion he didn't want to enter.

"Pick anything," suggested sister Jean. "Take a current event out of the newspaper. There's lots going on in the world right now that you could report on."

"We always have to tell about 'how I spent my summer vacation,' when school starts," ventured my kid brother, Eddie. "Why don't you talk about that?"

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