My mother was a “smother mother.” As a child, I was embarrassed by her overly affectionate ways. She always wanted to hug and kiss me, even in front of my friends. The mothers of my friends did not act this way. I wanted my mother to be more like them. But now, over 40 years after her death, one of the few things that I remember about her is her loving caresses and kisses. I can barely remember the sound of her voice, but I can still remember how I felt in her arms. Momma was my favorite person in the whole world.
Momma was born around the turn of the 20th century. She was in her late fifties when she and Daddy adopted me. From the time that I was a toddler, I slept with my mother. Momma slept on the left side of the bed. I snuggled up to her on the right, as close as possible to her warm body. She stretched out her right arm and I placed my head on her arm. Sometimes, I could hear her heartbeat. The steady beat was a comforting sound, like being in the womb. The closeness that we shared each night in the dark room strengthened the bond between us. After a few minutes, Momma would say, “Get your hard head off of my arm. My arm is going to sleep.” Then I would lay my head on my pillow and drift off to sleep. I felt secure because I knew that nothing in the dark could bother me as long as I had Momma next to me.
During thunderstorms, I sat on Momma’s lap and hid my face in her ample bosom. She was terrified of storms. She passed that fear on to me. During every storm, she would tell me about the man in Lenoir that was struck by lightening while looking out of the window. I still don’t go near windows during storms. She would rock me back and forth in her arms and sing hymns. When I grew too big to sit on her lap, I would lie on the sofa with just my head in her lap. We would jump at every clap of thunder and hold each other tight. After summer storms, we would go for a walk down the street, chasing rainbows.
As I got older and taller, I was realized that my mother was very short. She was only around four foot ten. By the time that I was eleven, I was taller that she was. I would put her head on my shoulder and laugh. She admonished me to remember that she was still the boss. Even though I was almost a teenager, Momma still expected me to hug and kiss her all of the time. It became a game, where I would run from her whenever she stretched out her arms. I loved Momma, but I felt that I was getting too old for such displays of affection.
Around the same time, Momma started having problems with her memory. She could no longer remember to take her daily shots of insulin. A nurse came to the house to teach my father and me how to administer the shots. I was shaking the first time that I tried to give Momma an injection in her arm. I hit a vein and blood ran down her arm. Momma saw my anguished expression and said, “It’s okay. You didn’t hurt me.” But I wasn’t convinced. I ran crying from the room. I never tried to give her a shot again. I could not stand the thought of inflicting pain on my mother, especially on those arms that meant so much to me.
A few months later, Momma had to go back to the hospital. She went into a coma. I cried when I saw the tubes on Momma’s arms that connected her to the machines that were keeping her alive. Momma never came out of the coma, but died after spending two weeks in the hospital.
But Momma’s love will never fade. In my dreams, I am with my “touchy-feely” mother. As adult women together, we hug and kiss and laugh and talk. When I am in need of comfort, she holds me tight and I cry in her arms. When I wake up, I still feel her arms surrounding me and keeping me safe. I will never forget Momma’s arms.