I Remember Mama - My Momma
“I would like to be rich the way I would like to be ten feet tall – is good for some things, bad for others.” From the play, "I Remember Mama"
My Mother, Father and Me
I Remember Mama
The original play was written in 1944 and later adapted for film then television. I remember because my mother loved to watch the television show. We saw the movie too and I must admit over the years I've seen it more than once. The thing about this charming play is of course Mama. She was what everyone dreams a Mama should be. Mama keeping the family running and keeping everyone happy, even the eccentric relatives. If you haven't seen the film and you don't know anyone like Mama in the film I certainly hope you will because my mother fits the bill.
You have to know the Mama in "I Remember Mama". She was wise beyond her years and always so gentle and understanding. She was able to figure out any situation at a glance and handle it with grace. From her children to her relatives to the few eccentric friends we meet along the way.
Her daughter, the writer of her own autobiographical novel, is very obviously in awe of her mother. This daughter is the one who tells the story. Mama is always the go to person to smooth things over for family and friends and her daughter tells us all about Mama.
My Uncle Chris
Was Your Mother the Family Go to Person?
Yes, this whole thing was a segue into the introduction to MY Mama. Much like the Mama in "I Remember Mama". My mother wasn't Norwegian but of German descent, and there would be times we would hear a German phrase or two when she was angry and didn't want us to know what she was saying. But my mother had the same indomitable spirit and deep knowledge of people that Mama did.
We even had an Uncle Chris! Actually he was my mother's Uncle Chris but we called him Uncle Chris too. He was my mother's mother's brother. Got that?
Uncle Chris was a character you could write a book about. I know he was married in his younger years but his wife died before I could meet her and I never met his children. But I knew and loved Uncle Chris. He was a big man, almost completely bald and he wore glasses, big brown framed glasses. The other thing everyone remembered about him was his smile. He was always smiling! Maybe because he was always drinking. Uncle Chris once owned a bar and beer was his friend. He lived in Ridgewood Queens, NY and we lived in Glendale. Neighboring towns. When he would come to visit we would impatiently wait for his appearance. He would proudly arrive hours late telling us he walked to save the nickel for the bus. What he didn't tell us but what was quite obvious was, he had stopped in every bar along the way to "wet his whistle". My mother would chide him but never scold.
My mother took care of all her mother's siblings. When each was sick it was my mother, not their children, that would go and tend to them. All hours of the day or night with never a complaint. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table at her Uncle Sebastian's house. You know those old wooden tables with the white porcelain tops? I loved coloring there because the table was set between the windows in the kitchen and it was always bright and the table top was always smooth. The apartment was what they called a railroad apartment where all the rooms were in a line like railroad cars. You entered into the kitchen, then there was a line of bedrooms with the parlor in the front. I never did see the parlor in that apartment, I never made it past the kitchen, but that was okay. I got to color and sometimes had cookies and milk. Never seeing the sick or dying.
My Parents' Wedding Picture
Our Kitchen Was Always Full
My Momma was always fun
Growing Up with My Mama
Actually I called my mother "Momma", very similar to the Mama of "I Remember Mama". I remember our house was always full. My mother's parents, aunts and uncles came every Saturday night to watch wrestling. I loved those Saturday nights. There was lots of laughter and I must admit some yelling at the wrestlers. We got to stay up a little later while we had company and we loved them all so dearly because they were all so good to us and didn't ignore us like many other adults. We had to have our pajamas on and yes, we could eat some of the wonderful food Momma prepared for the grown ups.
Momma was always preparing food. Every Sunday saw a houseful of people. My aunts and uncles, grandparents, whoever. It was always family with a friend or two thrown in for good measure. We didn't have a large house by any means. There was a kitchen, bathroom and living room on the first floor and believe me, none of those rooms were big, but no one cared. We could always squeeze in one more and Momma always had plenty of food. It was especially fun for us when relatives brought kids our age. We got to play outside together and then come in and eat together.
Of course I didn't notice it back then but there were always clean curtains on every window. They were changed regularly which was no small feat as they all had to hang on the line to dry and then each one had to be ironed. They were changed on a regular basis but being a kid I can't tell you how regular, I just know they always looked nice.
We had chores to do though we often weedled our way out of them. Now and again though Momma stood firm and I had to clean the bathroom on a Saturday morning. No TV and no outside until I was done. There were no questions asked and no arguing, that's just the way it was. You did what you were told because you were supposed to. Of course we knew Saturday afternoon meant going to the movies or to the roller rink but not until our chores were finished.
I heard the threats, "Wait until your father gets home", but we both knew they were pretty idle. He would usually side with me or my brothers and my mother would just say, "I don't know what I'm going to do with you" and we'd all laugh. She knew we all respected her and eventually, even though there'd be whining and some crying in between, we would do what she wanted.
Who else would walk to the bakery every morning while we were sleeping and come home with fresh hard rolls for our breakfast and lunch? Who else would cook for us and anyone else that happened to stop by? Who else would do all the washing and ironing...there was no such thing as a clothes dryer when I was growing up.
I think you get the picture. I was so very lucky to have a mother who just loved. She loved us and everyone she met. She never said a harsh word about anyone. If we did she'd counter with, "Oh, don't say that. You don't know what's going on in their life." She was the perfect example of a perfect mother.
I remember Momma every day of my life. I remember all the things she did for us and all the wonderful things she taught us. I remember the joy and happy times we shared and I even remember the sad times. I remember Momma as the center of my universe. Nothing made me happier than coming home from school and seeing Momma somewhere in the house. Nothing made me happier than spending time with Momma and talking to her about anything.
My mother passed away November 10, 2005 but she will always live on because I remember Momma.
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