Mom-Mom, the Nurturer
Nomination for “Most Unusual” Grandmother-of-the-Year
My mother became a grandmother at age forty-two with the birth of my son, Michael. His babble, when he wanted to be held by her, sounded like Mom-Mom. The name stuck. From then on she was Mom-Mom—to my second child Sherry and my niece Melissa, to their playmates, and even to the parents of those close friends.
During the day and some evenings my sister and I didn’t need sitters, because Mom-Mom was eager to have the grandchildren dropped off at her house. And, best of all, the children preferred being there rather than in their own homes. She was so competent and trustworthy as a grandmother—though I wonder why, since she had been such a dangerously careless mother. A grandchild, even when not feeling well, could be entrusted to her nurturing care.
There wasn’t anything they asked of her that she wouldn’t do. Mom-Mom would prepare three different lunches if they couldn’t agree on what to eat. She never hesitated to get down on the floor to play with Matchbook cars or Barbie dolls. But she didn’t spoil them in a commercial way with extraordinary store purchases, though there were nice presents for birthdays and holidays. Her kind of spoiling was emotional and enriching—an indulgence of attention.
Discipline at home was more difficult after they had spent time with her. Mom-Mom allowed them to drag toys and games out without putting away abandoned ones. She even allowed Play-Doh in the living room, using an old sheet on the floor in a futile attempt to corral the mess.
Mom-Mom taught them things traditional grandmothers might find inappropriate. For example, she created an indoor slide by leaning a dining-table extender board against a chair seat. Some things caused more concern. Michael had walked past gum-ball dispensers without notice until one day, just after his third birthday, he ran toward a machine with his hand stretched toward me for a coin. I knew Mom-Mom had introduced him to what he had been missing.
In my ideal world, Mom-Mom would have modeled better grammar and proper table etiquette. But where it counted most, she rose above culturally-instilled beliefs to be tolerant of people and their choices. During a time and in a town where inter-racial relationships were scandalous, four-year old Melissa’s playmate was biracial. Mom-Mom hugged this little girl long before her white grandmother did.
Though Mom-Mom would put most anything aside to be with her grandchildren, my sister and I knew better than to ask for help on certain nights. Somewhat a pool shark, my mother was in three leagues that played weekly at local Legions and VFWs. As soon as her grandchildren could stand securely on a little stool beside the regulation-size table in the recreation room, she would put a miniature pool stick in their hands and show them how to shoot.
Mom-Mom is gone now, but her grandchildren can competently play pool and, best of all, have absorbed her welcoming behavior and non-judgmental attitudes.
A previous version was written and read for “Tribute to Grandmothers,”
Lincolnville Cultural Center, September 6, 2014.