I’m a mama’s boy, no apologies

I was Mama’s joy. Manchild in the Promised Land.

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John Fountain’s mother Gwendolyn Marie Hagler Clincy in the cap and gown she wore at her high school graduation, having reenrolled after getting married and giving birth to John, at 17, in 1960. She died in 2014.

Photo provided by John W. Fountain

I’m a mama’s boy. This hasn’t always been easy to admit. But those late nights when I saw her sit, staring out the bedroom window, trying to hide the salty tears that fell like midnight rain for years and stained her pillow.

I could always plainly see her pain, though I was just a boy with no answers for the bitter pill called Life. Or for those ill men who are cancer. Or those men who failed her. I always felt her pain, her strain, her drain.

I’m a mama’s boy, though I bear my father’s name.

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I was Mama’s joy. Manchild in the Promised Land. Eating from Mama’s tender brown hands as Mama sought to devise a plan to raise a Black boy to be a decent Black man.

A mother at 17, she went back to high school to graduate. I stare at her picture in cap and gown with admiration that only punctuates: I’m a mama’s boy.

Mama’s boy on those 60’s early sun-kissed mornings, when me and Mama danced. And she held my hand. And I held hers, as we twisted and mash-potatoed. Danced the Watusi and “the bird.”

“Love” was the word.

A Black mother’s love — sweeter than molasses. Mama was my first love. My first kiss. She was my rock and my shield whenever trouble arose in the hood. Mama knew how to fight real good.

Know this: Mama didn’t take no ish.

But Mama was all woman. A lady in her dazzle and Estee Lauder. Well-versed in the scripture, a preacher’s daughter. Mama always worked miracles in the kitchen, turning nothing into something. She was the Queen of possibility.

Mama always believed in me.

She schooled me to walk with a woman on the street side. To dab my face slightly with a napkin, and start with the silverware on my left side.

Quizzed me as a lad with a newspaper between her fingers. Fed me oral and written histories to remember.

Preached that even though we lived in the ghetto, the ghetto didn’t have to live in me. Built me up with love and affection for a world that would hate on me.

And ever since I was a little kid, Mama whispered the Word of God in my ears. Even when she was herself compassed about with fears.

For “Papa” was gone. Mama turned over every stone to make a way for me. Not because of who I might someday be. But because of who I already was, even when poor and nappy headed. Long before I became America’s Most Dreaded.

Mama picked me up in her loving brown arms, and showered me with Black Mother love.

In Mama’s presence I never had to be tough, or defend my manhood. Or worry that my good intentions might be misunderstood. Never had to buy a gift, or try to lift the whole world upon my shoulders, in the hope that she might love me.

Never had to wonder if I could ever lose her love for me. Never had to choose her love for me. For she chose me.

Never had to hide my tears for fear they might make me seem weak. Never had to not speak the fullness of my heart for fear she might not agree.

Except in her presence, sometimes, there was no need to speak. Only to be a Black mother’s Black son.

Fully loved and complete. No love comparable. No love ever sweeter. No grass greener. No love nearer. And never any clearer that I am unapologetically, irrevocably, emphatically and eternally, a mama’s boy.

And I am unashamed to say, “I really miss my mama.”


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