Deciding what my children would call me before I even had one was a tedious process: Mommy? Mummy? Mama? Mamsy? Nanay?
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Filipino it was (a good cross between my Ilocano and Tony's Chinese). And we didn't want them saying “mon” for “moon,” or “ples” for “please” or “Yaya, I want to make ligo na.”
Mommy, I (hubby pretty much left me on my own here) decided. It has a tinge of childlikeness and respectfulness all at once. It can be shortened to an affectionate “Mom.”
When JC was able to babble Mommy for the very first time (he was seven months old) I thought I had won the lotto and a free luxury cruise on the Caribbean.
Even when my three sons started having lives of their own, Mommy still made me feel the electric current that ran through my fingertips the first time I heard my first son say it.
Then one day last year, I had to see a new obstetrician after two decades of ignoring my own (who has since died of old age). As I entered the clinic, the secretary exclaimed, “Mommy, come in!” I looked behind me, thinking she was greeting her mother. But there was no one there, and she was looking directly at me.
Then a series of questions, “Mommy, do you have a record na here?” “Mommy, do you --” She began every statement with Mommy! Try as I might, I couldn't remember giving birth to a daughter. Neither could I recall using the word for anyone other than my Mommy, not even when I was fresh and young.
A few days later in a boutique, I was deciding to buy a pricey blouse. “Mommy,” the saleslady said, "that will look good on you!” She was no daughter of mine either.
I was on my worst behavior that day. Smiling my biggest, I said, “For calling me Mommy, you just lost a sale,” and walked away leisurely.
Then like a deluge brought about by Typhoon Ondoy (or maybe that of Noah's time), it came: “Mommy!” From the tricycle driver, the cashier at a deli, the new hairdresser in the salon, the masseuse in a spa, the ice cream man, the mailman, etc. And soon even from my own gastroenterologist. (Note to self: scout around for someone less sacrilegious.)
The next time JR called from Singapore and said Mommy, my fingertips went limp—the electricity had a short circuit; the power source went kaput. Now when JC, JB, and Gianina call me Mommy, too, the tingle's gone.
I know I am now totally grace (and SSS) dependent, advancing in years and looking it, but strangers calling me Mommy? That term was a painstaking decision, an electric spark, a privilege handed on as a precious legacy to my offspring.
How did this phenomenon start? What made people desecrate this once-hallowed, exclusive honorific that turned on my light? When did these aliens and odd-looking creatures, who neither resemble me nor hubby, nor any of my forbears, usurp the privilege for themselves to call me . . .?
See, I can't even say the word now without feeling a bit of a shudder (akin to that of watching a horror movie that sends insects crawling down your spine).
Well, as I like telling friends who complain of their woes (other than being called . . . ), “We all have our own cross to bear.”
I guess I will have to bear the weight of being the . . . of every Tom (Tomas), Dick (Carding), and Harry (Henring) till they collectively bring my ears (or my mind, whichever comes first) to total ruin.
(Photo credits: www.gettyimages.com)