We Never Called Her Mother

I was always a late shopper. I always went Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. It seemed the thing to do. It was a spiritual impulse, not a procrastinating one. It seemed to make the present more significant if it was bought on Christmas Eve. Of course, it was a simpler time, and I had few gifts to purchase.

Nevertheless, I continued to do at least some shopping on Christmas Eve just to keep the tradition alive.

Mother’s Day was a lot like that for me.

Invariably, I would get up on that Sunday morning and get washed up and dressed for the ten o’clock mass that was mandated by the nuns of Blessed Sacrament. I would get out of the house by 8 o’clock, however, so that I could make my Mother’s Day purchase before my mother went to mass.

This entailed a trip to the Circle Florist and the purchase of a corsage. One year I had arrived at the Circle too late and had to head back towards St Lawrence Avenue to Dan’s Florist. That was a close one.

Every year the same gift and every year Momma loved it as much as the one she received last Mother’s Day.

I also had a card, and though I would wish her Happy Mother’s Day, I would always write,  “Happy Mother’s Day Momma” maybe sometimes I would use Mom instead of Momma. The point is I never called her Mother. My father never referred to her as Mother. Maureen, Johnny, Barbara, and Michael never referred to her as Mother.

It was always Momma. Never mother, never mommy and sometimes Mom.

I always got the impression that rich kids or at least snooty kids called their Mother, Mother. Sometimes you would see movies or television shows where kids referred to their parents as Mater and Pater.

But Lizzie was always Momma.

I should point out that our Father was never referred to as Father, always Daddy. Rarely Dad and always Daddy.

Of course, later in life, Momma and Daddy became Nana and Pop. But this was consistent as they were never called Grandmother and Grandfather.

So today, I write about Momma.

She seemed to have different relationships with people. I knew her in ways that my siblings did not. They, in turn, had much different relationships with her (I can hear Daddy yelling at me for using “her.” He hated any usage of pronouns when referring to Momma.)

Momma had an uncanny ability to know what was going on in your head. You really had a hard time keeping anything from her. I wouldn’t say she was manipulative, but she could get me to do things without coming out and asking me.

There was a time when I was in college, and I was working after school and I had some money. I could go out without asking my parents for money, and I bought albums whenever I wanted, and I saved up for next year’s tuition. Momma never asked me to contribute to the household and was confident that I was saving and not wasting my money.

Anyway, one night I came home, and she proceeded to tell me that someone had lost something they loved. She just related the story but in a way that made me ask, “Well, how much to replace it?” She replied, “One hundred dollars.” But, with a look of entreaty or anticipation.

I said, “I can give you a hundred dollars.” And she smiled.

Years late, I bought a 1973 Chevy Vega.

I was living at home, and I bought the car on a three-year payment plan.

Because I was living at home, I was able to pay the car off in seven months.

Now, because I had paid the car off in such a short time, I got a refund check of unearned interest for $800.

When I opened the letter and found the check, I was excited as you might expect.

Momma watched me and my reaction and asked very innocently, “So, what will you do with the money?”

Again, she had that look.

At that precise moment, I realized that I never would have been able to buy the car, much less pay it off in seven months, if I hadn’t been living at home. I saw all of that in her look.

She never asked me for it, but I believe she was wondering if I would realize what the proper thing to do would be.

I did not disappoint her.

In answer to her question, I responded, “Well, I never would have been able to pay the car off so fast so I’ll give the check to you.”

I know I made her more proud than happy. It wasn’t the money that pleased her, it was the appreciation of what I had been given all my life.

More than forty-five years after that interaction, I can still see her in our kitchen in 1261.

I consider that one of my many blessings and I hope you are as fortunate as I in remembering the tenderness and love of your Momma.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful mothers.

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