The sounds of silence only meant one thing, stay out of the way of mama. Mama was the matriarch of the family and was filled with wise sayings and philosophy. Familiar quotes went like this; “you will not get any dessert until you have eaten everything on your plate,” “put a belt on and pull your pants up,” “don’t wear your hat when you are inside,” “when you get home this afternoon we’re going to the barber shop,” “if you do that again you get a whipping,” “go get me a switch,” “polish those shoes before we go to church Sunday,” “don’t you dare sit down when a grown-up comes in the room,” “It’s ‘yes’ sir not yea.” “look at me when I talk to you,” “when we get there I don’t want to hear a word out of you.” These were not comments indigenous to a specific family but to a culture. (editors note: In America there were two dominant cultures. The common colloquialism describing these groups was, white folks and colored folks). The matriarch of all families was the ‘black’ (African-American was not a word during this time) ‘mama’. History clearly describes the positive impact the black Mama had on the culture and the family unit. In both cultures mama was mama and debates and negotiation took the back seat.
While Mama’s daily quotations may seem, shall we say direct, there was no greater love than the love of a mama for her children. She had the best hugs you could imagine. She was the ultimate psychologist which could be seen with her comments such as; “the first dessert goes to____because he has been a ‘good’ boy”, “come here child, mama wants to give you a hug”, “come sit in my lap”, “hold my hand”, “let me tell you what ________did at school” or, “let mama kiss it.”
In the opening scene of the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ screams for life could be heard on the beaches as young men were being shot. More than once you could hear these young soldiers calling for ‘mama’. When television first began to interview individuals, invariably the person being interviewed wanted to say, “hi mom.” A favorite commercial by AT&T has Bear Bryant in his office telling the audience to call their moms. He closes the commercial saying “I wish I could call my mom.” It was later in life when we learned that my older brother, who was in the Army during World War II, had sent a letter home every week and these letters were the result of a sergeant who made the ‘boys’ write their moms.
The family unit in America is having a difficult time. Roles within the family are changing. Participatory management, debates, setting your own agenda are becoming prevalent. Family meals together have become “we don’t have time.” The art of conversation has gone by the way. Moms, dads, and children are like ships passing in the night. The culture of home has gradually given way to the culture of worldliness. Core values that were once the hallmark of children because “Mama” made sure they were learned, displayed and incorporated into life have faded. What has happened to Mama?
A thought to ponder; are the ills we are presently witnessing the result of Mama being dead?
* the term “Mama” is a concept and does not refer to an individual.