I didn’t know what to make of those moments when they happened.
It had become such a regular way of life for me that nothing gave way to the possibility that we weren’t “normal.”
My mother and I were not the typical family with the two-car garage, white picket fence and stable bank account.
We were on our own, paycheck to paycheck, footloose and fancy-free mother and daughter.
I celebrated my Momma’s birthday with a lunch and shopping trip this last weekend. And that idea came back to me. Over a few laughs, I realized that not only is Momma my mother, but she is also my friend.
But before I realized that she was my friend, she was my Momma first. And she was a pretty good one at that. She was a single mom, but she was mine. And just as she celebrated all of my birthdays with me, it was nice to treat my Momma to a fun afternoon.
Looking back on my challenging yet blessed upbringing, there are several moments that remind me of how different the situation was for Momma and me.
I saw Momma eagerly skip me up the sidewalk to our new apartment. Complete with tan curtains and a brass door knocker, it was our first place of our own. My Momma’s name was on the dotted line of a rental agreement. And it was official.
What I didn’t see was the fear in Momma’s face on how we would make rent. Determined to raise me in a nice neighborhood, she would have to take on three jobs to make the monthly rent. I didn’t see the uncertainty in Momma’s spirit as she strived for the American Dream.
I saw my Momma place the plate of pot roast with snap beans and mashed potatoes down in front of me. Her face would erupt into a smile when she surprised me with a slice of homemade cheesecake. I never went hungry, and I never went to bed with an empty stomach.
What I didn’t see was the scraps leftover for my Momma’s plate. Making sure I had enough to eat, Momma would often settle for whatever was left in the pot on the stove. I didn’t see her shove that last piece of cake onto my plate. I never heard her stomach growl as she made her way to bed.
I saw my Momma drop me off at various sporting events or playdates. She always remained in her car as I scooted out with a quick kiss and a hug. I always wondered why sometimes Momma couldn’t be there to cheer me on as I took a basketball to the goal or as I pinned the tail on a donkey at a birthday party.
What I didn’t see was my Momma exhausted from working two back to back shifts at the hospital. I didn’t see her tend to gunshot wounds from a fight that escalated on the streets of inner Jackson. I didn’t see her tell family members that their loved one didn’t make it.
And even after all that, she would return home to help me with my homework and hear me talk about the game I was disappointed she missed.
I saw my Momma every night, tucking me into bed with a book and a kiss. I always felt safe, knowing that she was in the next room.
What I didn’t see was Momma staying up late to finish folding my clothes. She would then try to clean the house and pack my lunch for school the next day.
I saw my Momma happily present me with a new blouse or pants to replace the old pieces of clothing I had. Some months, she was even able to give me a new church dress, complete with black shoes.
What I didn’t see was Momma mending the buttons on her own blouses. I didn’t see her making do with what she had in her own closet. She was more worried about the clothes on my back.
I am the product of a single-mother home. I never expected pity or to be treated differently because my Momma did everything in her power to ensure that I didn’t feel different.
I never went hungry. I went to school and church dressed in nice clothes. My homework was always checked. My bed was always warm. I was praised when I deserved it. I was punished when I needed it. I had love, love and more love.
I didn’t have a father around to help. I never had the brick house on the hill with an attached carport. I never had a trust fund waiting for me upon graduation.
I had a Momma. I had a Momma who gave me her best. And it was good enough for me.