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Driving Mama Tis – Part Two

Updated: Apr 8


Mama Tis by the Tree in Cherokee (photo by author)


In week 44, it was time to drive Mama Tis back to the casino in Cherokee so she could gamble away a little more of my inheritance before returning to Kingstree for Christmas.

Back in Her Happy Place

When we take our little road trips up to Cherokee, Mama Tis is like a kid at Christmas. When we first hit the slots, she looks for her favorite machines, often finding some have gone on to their final resting place. After an extensive search to confirm they have not simply been relocated, she heads to the last remaining penny slot machines to start her evening. I head to one of the bars to watch games or finish some work. One night as I was sitting at the bar watching games and dibbling on the poker game, I noticed it was past Mama Tis’s usual bedtime, but there was no Mama Tis. She always comes to get me when she is ready to go to the room. As I considered why she might be delayed, my mind started to go to dark places, imagining all the terrible things that probably would never happen to her in a casino in Cherokee. I told the bartender I’d be back and went to look for her. I found her not far away, playing a machine that was definitely NOT a penny machine, smiling as she blew through my inheritance. She looked so happy. I didn’t let her see me and headed back to the bar. I threw a little cash in the poker machine while I waited for her to show her cute little face saying it was bedtime.


No One Puts Mama Tis in the Corner

After we leave Cherokee, we have made a new habit of stopping in Asheville for a night or two. Mama Tis simply loves the nice room I book at the Haywood Park Hotel and the staff have, of course, gotten to know and love her.


One morning, we headed to Hemingway’s for breakfast based on a recommendation from one of our favorite front desk workers. She had given me a coupon for a free breakfast, which presumably was for Mama Tis who is famous here now. We headed to the rooftop restaurant which was just a couple of blocks away and were seated at a nice table with a view. I laid the coupon on the table and explained that one of us would be using that.


Over the course of the next half hour, the waitress who had introduced herself as our server and taken our coffee order, proceeded to wait on four tables she seated after us, never even bringing our drinks. My guess was she was unhappy about having to serve “coupon people”. Our attempts to flag her down went ignored. I finally got up and complained to the hostess who seemed uninterested as she asked “What can I do about it?”


At this point, I might have left but it was cool and rainy and Mama Tis has trouble breathing in that kind of weather. Wandering to find another place was not an option. Come hell or high water, we were going to eat breakfast at this restaurant and Little Miss Attitude was going to serve it to us. I went downstairs to complain to the manager of the hotel, but he said the restaurant is under separate management so unfortunately, there was nothing he could do to help.


I went back upstairs to our table to find that, unsurprisingly, nothing had changed. I headed back to the hostess stand to find Little Miss Uninterested still there. She explained that she had already told the waitress and there wasn’t much else she could do.


As I let my rage bubble over unchecked, I explained to her in no hushed tones, that if she could not solve the problem, I would search through every inch of the restaurant to find someone who could. If my search was unsuccessful, I would go back into the kitchen, slap on an apron, and rustle up a little breakfast for my sweet mother myself. Suddenly a lovely woman about my age came zipping over to our table. She went to work making sure we had everything we needed and then some.


After we finished eating, Little Miss Attitude brought the bill for the full amount, ignoring the coupon still laying there on the table. I told her to take the check back, fix it and return. When she left a plate for the tip, I got out a pen and paper and wrote her a note explaining how I spent many of my younger years waiting on the public. As a result, I always tip 20% or more and always on what the total should be, not the discounted amount. I finished with “Here’s a tip for you. Don’t judge your customers. Always give the best service you can. And hey, that is just a good thing to keep in mind as you go about your daily life.”


No one puts Mama Tis in the corner and ignores her.


Christmas in Kingstree

After our road trip, it was time to go home for Christmas in Kingstree. I love Christmas in Kingstree. I’ve never missed one except for the unfortunate 2020. I get to spend time with family and friends and eat Mama Tis’s cheese crackers for breakfast. It’s heaven.


A new cafe had opened in Kingstree’s cute but sparsely populated downtown. I love a good cafe so I had to check this one out. I went in to get a latte and saw a friendly face behind the counter that I had not seen for years. She made my latte as we caught up on our lives. Then I took a seat at one of the few tables and watched as people I knew came in and out. The little cafe is so warm and welcoming! I am so glad my little hometown has a spot like this. Inevitably I became a regular while there.


On Christmas Eve, Mama Tis and I headed to see my cousin and her family at her daughter’s house. My cousin’s children are both married and have a bunch of kids between them. It’s so much more fun at Christmas with a bunch of sugared up littles excited about Santa running around.


Unfortunately, one of the littles had heard he needed to be in bed by 9pm or Santa would skip his house. While he definitely wanted us out of his house so he could get to bed, he was very polite as he constantly asked us the time and nervously checked Norad’s Santa tracker.


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