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Mommy, Mother, Mama

Posted on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 in Mom

Women are supposed to go through three stages: maiden, mother, crone. But I’ve known the woman who gave me life only as Mommy, Mother, and Mama.

As Mommy, she was the soft, warm grown up who covered me up when I feel asleep on the floor, brought me juice and cookies when the kids on Romper Room had a snack, and cleaned up after me when I vomited. She was the one who told stories about how wonderful the dirt was in her day and how much fun she had making mud pies. Then when I tried making pies from mud, she made me strip at the pump and washed me down right there outside the back door.

She made snicker-doodles when I had to bring cookies for kindergarten. She would clean my bleeding knee every time I fell while walking home from school. She put up with me trying to make her say “wash” instead of “warsh.” She made me eat salmon patties, but let me put peanut butter on them first. She called me a “Do-bee” when I was good. And she still cleaned up after me when I vomited.

Then slowly she became my mother. She sewed my clothes, kept track of how long I practiced my bassoon, and took me to orthodontist appointments. She shoveled the drive so I wouldn’t have to wear boots to catch the bus. She investigated strange smells to determine if I might be smoking pot.

Then as my mother, we developed a relationship of two adults. She dealt with my coming out. She ate food I cooked. She called me long-distance with a list in front of her of topics to cover, covered them, and then said good-bye. She no longer sewed any of my clothes. She never pestered me to get married or have a child. She treated me like an equal, but remained my mother.

While Daddy was dying she was almost Mommy again. We washed his body together after he died and cleaned the carpet the following day, never anticipating all the visitors who would arrive with casseroles. As a widow back to Minnesota, she was just Mom who I visited once a fortnight or so to play Canasta. When I told her I’d be sure to introduce Hab Moo to her before I married him, she responded “Why? I won’t have to live with him.” And she was simply happy for me.

Eventually, as her independence faded with her memory, she has become Mama. My sweet little Mama. I took her to doctor appointments and to Colorado to visit her grand-daughter. I helped her resolve an at-the-door sales scam. I listened to her confession that she no longer balanced her checkbook to the penny each month.

Now she’s in a nursing home and greets me with a smile when I visit. We don’t talk much. Mostly I just touch her and smile back. She’s even tinier now that she’s in the wheelchair. She credits me with pretty much anything anyone does for her. Yesterday she showed me her nails, telling me that I had trimmed them for her even though one of the aides had done them just a few hours prior.

She’s always thought the best of me and trusted me. That’s what has made her such a good Mommy, Mother, and Mama.

  1. So beautiful, Kristeen. It fills me with longing, a sense of comfort and warmth, and a recognition that there is good in the world which can never be overcome. Thank you.

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