Momma Says

by Sandra Voss

I asked my momma what happened to my daddy and momma said he loved me so much he left to spare me his influence and let her give me all her love.

I asked my momma why our towels and sheets are balled up on the closet shelves in a heap and Aunt Melanie’s are folded and the towels are on one shelf and the sheets on another and momma said Melanie was a lady of leisure who embraced patriarchy with open arms and always was a suck-up.

I asked my momma why we only use one wash machine at the laundry mat when other families use two or three and momma said because I can put all our clothes in one and wash with cold water and I said but Aunt Melanie says you have to wash whites separate in hot water with bleach and momma said this is the 21st century and Melanie needs to stifle her inner housewife and get a life.

I asked my momma why they call us white when we’re peach and she said I was a brilliant boy and one day I heard her tell her friend Ann a story about a peach man at her work who was pestering her but what she wanted was the attention of the bronze man.

Momma was driving me home from school when we saw the men fixing the power lines and I told momma they were my best friends and I wanted to hug them and she said me too so she stopped our car on the side of the road and momma called up to the man in the bucket truck and he came down and we gave him a big hug and said thanks and the man asked momma for her number and she said thirteen and we got back in the car and drove home.

I asked my momma could we go to McDonalds and she sighed and said the usual and I said yes, so momma got me a salad and she got the Happy Meal so I could have the prize and when we sat down with our food people stared and momma said here we go again, the odd couple.

I asked my momma why she doesn’t have a boyfriend and she said she only has enough energy to raise one little boy and I said no momma a man friend and she said looks can be deceiving.

I asked my momma why there are cobwebs in the corners of our rooms and momma said to catch flies and I said spiders are creepy and she said they eat other pesky insects and help keep the apartment clean pretend they are Halloween decorations and I said but it’s August and momma said imagine how scary they’ll be by October.

I threw my empty raisin box out the car window on the way home from school and momma stopped the car and backed up and all the other cars honked at us and she came around to my side of the car and told me to get down out of my booster seat and pick that up the world is not our trashcan and I told momma that Uncle Robb lets Emma and Todd throw their candy wrappers out the window and she said Uncle Robb is training my cousins to be Republicans who don’t respect the planet but we are bleeding heart liberal tree huggers and we cry when we see trash on the side of the road now pick it up.

I called momma from Aunt Melanie’s and told her me and Todd were crank calling people and they didn’t get it and I asked her for some new ones and she said what are you saying to them and I said is your refrigerator running and do you have JFK in a jar and momma laughed for a long time and said it’s Prince Albert in a can and you have to call a drug store for it to work and I said I don’t get it and she said yours is better anyway where are you calling from and I said Uncle Robb’s office and she laughed more and said perfect keep trying until someone gets it.

Most days after supper momma has a glass of her special grape juice and sits on our patio to watch me play and I asked her if I’ll get to drink special juice when I’m all grown up and momma said unfortunately the need for special juice runs in our family so probably.

I asked momma what happened to gramma and she said what do you mean and I said why don’t we see her anymore and she said they had a difference of opinion gramma doesn’t think momma should have her own opinions and momma begged to differ and she said gramma would get over it but until then she’ll probably need less of her special juice.

I told momma when I grow up I want to be just like her and she said that’s sweet but I’m a boy and she’s a girl and I said then I want to be a girl when I grow up and momma said when she was a kid she wanted to be a boy but then she turned twelve and reality slapped her upside the head and she eventually got over it but when I turn twelve if I still want to be a girl we’ll make it happen.

One night momma and her friend Gina were drinking their special juice after I went to bed and they thought I was asleep and Gina was telling momma about someone I don’t know and momma said it’s all fun and games until the woman is left holding the bag for eighteen long years.

Momma and me had a picnic outside our apartment building on the grass and I asked her what bird was singing and she said a cardinal and then momma said that other one is a white throated sparrow and I told her she was so smart and momma said she was full of useless information but don’t ask her what she had for breakfast that day or how much money we have in the bank.

I asked my momma why we don’t have boxes of little white telescopes like Aunt Melanie and momma said when I was born they took out all her lady bits so she saves hundreds of dollars on telescopes and can go commando whenever she wants and she’s forever grateful.

Momma picked me up from school and told me my teacher called her at work that day and said some of the other kids’ parents were upset that I told them about sex and momma said I wasn’t in trouble and would I tell her what I’d told the kids so I told momma how it works and she said good job you can continue to spread the good news and I will deal with the parents.

Momma took me to see a therapist after gramma died and she talked to him and the man said I was verbally precocious and I asked momma what that means and momma said you talk like an adult because I talk to you like an intelligent human being and not an idiot and that guy didn’t know what to make of that but it’s okay we’ll find someone smart enough to help you with your sadness.

I asked momma what promiscuous means and momma said where did you hear that and I said Aunt Melanie told Uncle Robb that you were promiscuous and momma sighed and said it means not settling for the first thing that comes along and wanting to try everything and I said like Dunkin Donuts when I can’t decide which one I want and momma said exactly like that.

After Fritzie died momma took me to our favorite Dairy Queen after a long drive in the country and on our way back I saw a sign Free Puppies and I said momma and she said I saw it and she turned the car around and went back and said there’s no such thing as a free puppy we might as well name it Money Pit and I said I want to name it Royal and she said same thing.

Saturday morning while I was watching cartoons with Royal and momma was on the phone with a friend from work she told her friend you don’t have to go through with it and you can’t divorce a kid like you can a man and I asked momma did she want to divorce me and she hugged me really tight and looked me right in the eye and hers were all watery and she said I was the best thing that ever happened to her and don’t ever forget that and to turn that TV off and go play outside with Money Pit.

Sandra Voss is a native of Minnesota gratefully transplanted to Western North Carolina in 2001. When not hiking, reading, writing, taking classes in the Great Smokies Writing Program, or otherwise avoiding work, you’ll find her crunching numbers for her clients.

About Momma Says—This story was inspired by reading Brian Doyle’s A Book of Uncommon Prayer late one night, adding some autobiographical bits, and blending with a whole lot of exaggeration.