Mom's The Word

May 09, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

Did you mail a card? Send flowers? At least call? You know why you did (and you'd better have) . . . because she would forgive you even if you forgot.

That's the essence of moms. Drives you nuts, doesn't it? Happy Mother's Day.

You see, the thing about moms is that they're, well, I don't have to tell you. You've had one. We've all had one. It's our most basic shared experience.

Ma-ma is the first word a baby learns. As we know from watching TV, "Hi, Mom!" are the first two words a football player learns. And, in fact, we have more words for mom than the Eskimos have for snow. A partial listing:

Mom. All-purpose.

Mommy. For use by those under 10 or when Ronald Reagan talks to Nancy.

Mother. A bit formal.

Mum. British.

Mumsie. If you're Chatsworth Osborne Junior.

Ma. My favorite.

Yo mama.

Yo Yo Ma.

It doesn't matter what you call her. You don't even have to call her for dinner. That's because moms are moms, meaning -- and I say this with the deepest love and affection -- she will always phone you at the exact moment you sit down to eat, no matter how often you vary your dining schedule in an attempt to evade her. You'd have better luck outrunning a heat-seeking missile. You can't fool Mother Nature. And you can't fool Mom.

She's the most important person in your life. It's completely accurate to say you wouldn't be here without her. She shaped you. She molded you. She made you wear clean underwear. Heck, she washed your underwear.

Emerson (whose mom was called by many Mrs. Emerson) wrote: "Men are what mothers make of them."

I say: If we want eloquence, we can drop the phony-baloney 19th-century homilies and get to something real, something we can all relate to. Like tattoos.

(Warning: We're not talking Hallmark Card philosophy today. None of that "Mother, it's not a name; it's a job description." We're after something deeper, something at the core of motherhood and children. That's why we have to talk tattoos.)

You've got a 240-pound guy affectionately nicknamed Mangler sitting on a Harley, sporting a beard that bears the name of every beer he's ever downed, a guy who eats glass for between-meal snacks, who can hurt you by just thinking about you, who would kill your dog, and who has MOM tattooed on his arm, with a big heart and an arrow shot through it.

Why?

Is it to show his vulnerable side? Is it his way of reminding himself that every day is Mother's Day?

Or is it because they were offering a free six-pack with every Mom tattoo?

More important, what does his mom think about this special kind of appreciation? She'll tell you it's a phase. You tell her he's 52. She'll tell you he'll grow out of it.

Mothers forgive us. It's their job. That's particularly important if your religion doesn't include a formal confessional.

There's the old joke about the guy who gets shot holding up a bank. He crawls to his car and makes his getaway while his life's blood is flowing away. All he wants to do is get to his mother's apartment. He gets to the elevator, gets off at her floor, drags himself to her door. "Ma," he says, "I gotta talk to you." She looks at him. "Eat first, then we'll talk."

Moms worry about you. We know that much. It's in all the literature. They want you to drive slowly. They want you to eat slowly. They don't want you to swim for two hours after lunch. This goes back a ways. Archaeologists, who were told by their mothers to be careful, nonetheless found a letter from about 2000 B.C., written on papyrus, from a 17-year-old Egyptian girl that read: "Dear Mother, I'm all right. Stop worrying about me."

I had a friend in high school who had to call his mother every hour when he was out. He could stay out as late as he wanted, so long as he called in on the hour. This was, of course, a great hardship since they hadn't yet invented either car phones or those annoying watches that beep when you're trying to watch the movie.

Moms. Want to know what kind of mother raises the kind of son who becomes a writer so he can tell the rest of the world exactly what it should be doing? Here it is: If I were to assassinate the president (unlikely in a Democratic administration), she would say to her friends, "Gosh, isn't Mike a wonderful shot?"

There's the basic difference betweens mothers and fathers. Let's just say, in a similar situation, your dad might be a bit more critical. He might also swat you. That's why we got up early in the mornings when we were kids to cook Mom her favorite breakfast on Mother's Day and had to be reminded -- by Mom, of course -- to give Dad a tie that she picked up and gift-wrapped for you on Father's Day.

As a holiday, Father's Day is almost as big as Arbor Day. You know why. Dad is the one who yells. He's the one who makes you mow the lawn, wash the car, take out the garbage (all the things he'd be doing if there were no you).

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