Norman Knight: Whatever you call yours, celebrate mothers

Mother’s Day is upon us.

Tomorrow at church the Worship Committee will be presenting each woman who walks through the door with an individual box of candy. The committee decided that all women should receive a ribboned box of chocolates whether they are mothers or not. The argument is we are a community of believers and, in a true way, all the women in the church mother the flock. During the run-up to Mother’s Day weekend I have been examining my understanding of this day set aside for all mothers.

I start by focusing on the memories I have of my mother. I call her “Mom.” My brother Mike sometimes called her “Mother,” as did my sister Debbie. Each of us five siblings used the title “Mommy” early on but we soon aged out of that. From then on, that woman in our home who fed, clothed, housed and taught us; who worried about and cared for us; who certainly loved us was “Mom.”

But our mom had a mom as did our dad. To me, my dad’s mom was always “Grandma Knight.” I grew up calling my mom’s mom “Grandma Bal” which was a shortened version of her last name,“Ballinger.” Not sure about how that came about. Maybe I couldn’t pronounce “Ballinger” so I said as much as I could? Anyway, I knew what I meant, and so did she. That’s the thing about kinship names, they often come from children’s early attempts to get it right.

Sometimes, though, the name comes because it is chosen. My brother Greg decided he wanted his grandson Mason to call him “Pops.” (“Either that or ‘Mr. Knight,’” he joked.) And so “Pops” it is. His wife Denise is “Mimi,” a name she suggested. Becky’s childhood friend Carole chose her grandmother name, “Granna,” in part because their mutual friend Diane’s grandkids call her that. The fourth member of that group, Pam, is called “Grammy” because that is what Pam’s sons Scott and Stephen called her mom.

Rachel was pregnant with the first of her four kids when she asked her mom, Becky, what she wanted to be called. “Grandma,” she responded. “Grandma” is what she called both her female grandparents so it seemed to continue a tradition, which is always a consideration with her. My wife’s choice made it easy for me to go, with “Grandpa.”

Rachel’s second child, granddaughter Lorelei, has had a boyfriend for some time now. (How did they all get this old?) Not too long ago boyfriend Evan referred to Becky as “Granny.” Well, Becky was cool about it, but we explained that certain names are weighted with associations perhaps not understood by other people. Especially very young people who don’t remember 1960s television and a particular TV show called The Beverly Hillbillies with a character called “Granny Clampett.” A funny, quirky character, true, but with a name that maybe a Baby Boomer would never chose. At least not Baby Boomer Becky.

Television is an influencer on names. When we talk about grandma names, Becky and I immediately think of the Annie Potts character, Memaw, on Young Sheldon. “Memaw” is a popular name for grandma in the South. As a young kid with Southern roots, I occasionally heard the name on our trips back home. This influences how I hear the word now so many years later.

Each individual hears something different when he or she hears the words “Mother.” If I remember my college language classes correctly, there have been similar forms of the word “Mom” across the globe since prehistoric times. The prevalence of the word is part of linguists’ arguments for an early Indo-European “Mother Tongue.” Perhaps they are right. At any rate, I am happy to wish all those who mother and nurture others a joyous Mother’s Day.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].