Some mommas aren’t mommas until they bear children, or at least adopt, but Momma was Momma even before.
When she was about 12 or 13, and would cut through the mill on her way to school, the day laborers used to yell, “Hey, Momma! How are you? Say hi to your momma!”
At school, when the teacher took attendance, her name came up after the L’s.
When Momma came home from school, Momma’s momma would greet her, “How was school today, Momma?”
“Not too bad momma. We learned about World War II and how all the mommas went to work for the war effort and built tanks and constructed rockets and sewn parachutes.”
“That’s very interesting Momma. Mommas can sure hold their own. Now, go wash up, we’re having dinner soon.”
When Momma was sick, her father would write a note for her to take to her teacher;
“Dear Momma’s Teacher,
I confirm that Momma came down with the flue and could not attend classes
on such and such dates.
In her high school yearbook, under Momma’s photo it said,
“Most likely to be a Momma.”
After she graduated she would drive to work at the factory, people would honk their horn and yell “Hey, Momma!” and her license plate on her compact read “MOMMA” and when Momma and Momma’s momma used to go to the mall, people would greet them “Hey, Momma! Hey, Momma’s momma! How are you ladies doing today?”
Momma knew every Momma joke in the joke book, and she would sit in the bar and tell them to whoever wanted to listen and everybody did. She would drink beer straight out of the bottle and tell jokes and dance near the jukebox. She was bucktooth and had a face like milk and her hips sang and all the boys wanted to be with Momma, but she didn’t want any of them, and she would run from them and call them lil’ boys, and everybody knew that, but the boys still kept coming.
Momma met Daddy when she and her girlfriends were down on the shore. His name wasn’t Daddy but she didn’t know him long enough to learn his real name.
When Momma had her baby, a greeting card signed by everybody had a picture of a momma hugging a baby and inside it read,
Congratulations on becoming a momma.
Momma’s momma was thrilled too and came with chocolates and kettle corn and said all the grandmothers in the social housing where she worked were thrilled because they said “You’re now one of us.”
Holiday dinners got bigger with Momma and her kid and Momma’s momma and Momma’s friends and their kids.
“This kid is lucky to be Momma’s kid,” one of Momma’s friends said and raised a glass. “To Momma and her kid!”
Momma’s kid grew tall and lean and was a champion long distance runner and popular. People would cheer and talk about Momma’s kid’s achievements, and say, “Boy, Momma’s kid is sure going places.”
When Momma’s kid went away after high school finished, she would get long letters and photos that she would hang on the fridge and sometimes she even received small souvenirs or trinkets that she would place above the fireplace.
Momma was knitting when she got a knock on the door. She opened it, and there were a man who said softly, “Hi, Momma, I’m sorry to inform you that your kid is dead.” He put his arms around Momma and Momma’s hips gave in, and her lips quivered to reveal her buck teeth and her face was like chalk.
At the wake everybody came up to her and offered their condolences,
“We’re really sorry that you lost you kid, Momma.”
And Momma thanked them and held Momma’s momma’s hand tight.
A few weeks later Momma and Momma’s momma went to the mall. Everybody was out shopping and eating at the food court and going to the multiplex.
It was so crowded that Momma had to grab Momma’s momma’s hand so they wouldn’t get separated. In the commotion one kid got separated from their parents. The kid looked from side to side, walked toward a bench, climbed on it with great difficulty. He surveyed the perimeter again, but the mall was heaving with people. Just then he started to yell,
“Momma, Momma, Momma!”
And momma turned around, and her face was like salt.