Volume 18 • Issue 18 | September 23 - 29, 2005

Downtown Notebook

A name with more pull than a birth name

By Wickham Boyle

This morning in the still inky morning I heard feint taps on my bedroom door. I didn’t stir from real sleep, as I perceived my name being called.

“Wicki, Wicki get up.”
No response.
“Mama get up, you said we could do science.”
I was out of bed in a flash.

Wicki will not move me from my bed, and Mama will rouse me in a nanosecond. So in fact, despite what Shakespeare postulated, there is something in a name. Perhaps a rose by any other name will smell as sweet, but to a mother, the moniker as it trips from the tongue of your off spring is a clarion call, and different from all other names.

Mommy, Mama, Mom, Maman, Marmie, Mummy, I hear all of these in the park or on the street. I rarely hear mother or the woman’s name. There is a special sound and cadence to the way your own kid says your mama name and I believe it will sound the same note forever.

There is the sound of Mama that crosses the park when your baby needs to be picked up after crashing into the sand box, the wailing of your name in the night, the joyful screeches over the phone when a party invite is finally given or an A+ achieved. All of these exaltations whether gleeful or full of woe begin with the sounding of whatever version of Mama comes with your territory.

I know that most of the little darlings say Papa or Dada first, but that is only because babies possess the innate wisdom to suck those guys in with the prehistoric male need to dominate or cross the finish line ahead of the pack. Women, as we now know, are anthropologically adapted for the long haul. And as babies turn into toddlers and walk into adolescence they are still calling for Mama when some real needs arise.

This morning, after I jolted to Mama, I shuffled into the kitchen to see that the kettle was already bubbling. My son had started the coffee and had put the science books on the kitchen table. We were going to read about relativity.

As we plodded through the simplified theory of relativity that tells us we can only perceive motion by the juxtaposition of other objects, I realized philosophically that was exactly what I had experienced by my son calling my name. I needed him to define me as I slept. My motion would only be triggered by Mama.

For me there is so much to being called Mama; no one ever will sound that note in me and it holds such profound resonance. A moment like this morning where I get to actually perceive the difference I feel, seeing my reaction change from somnolence to action purely on the basis of a name, allowed me to see just how much there is to my name as Mama.


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