There’s a song, written in 1915 by Howard Johnson (he of “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream” fame) and Theodore Morse, called “M-O-T-H-E-R, A Word That Means the World to Me.”
Here’s the chorus:
“M” is for the million things she gave me
“O” means only that she’s growing old
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me
“H” is for her heart of purest gold
“E” is for her eyes with love-light shining
“R” means right and right she’ll always be
Put them all together they spell MOTHER, a word that means the world to me.
I mean, all that is pretty nice … except for “O,” right?
“O means only that she’s growing old”???
Do you think Mrs. Johnson was like, “Howard … really? You wrote a song about me that’s going to be sung all over the country, and even quoted 106 years from now by some smartass blogger, and the BEST YOU COULD COME UP WITH FOR ‘O’ IS ‘ONLY THAT I’M GROWING OLD’?
“How about obliging, optimistic, original, outstanding, open-minded, organized?”
I shouldn’t criticize Howard’s choice of words. At least he wrote his mother a song. Could I come up with anything better if I used the letters from MOTHER to describe my mother?
Hmmm … lemme give it a try. This one’s for you, Herk. If you disagree with any of my lyrics, talk to Mrs. Johnson. At least I never called you “old.”
“M” is for the MANY times I completely disobeyed everything you said to me. I grew up in a Charlie Brown cartoon: waa, waa, waa … be home at 6, be home at 10, be home at midnight. I’m not sure I ever made it home before a curfew.
“O” means you OUGHT to have grounded me more often but those few times you did usually ended up pretty funny … like that time you locked me in the bedroom, but found Andrea hanging out of the window bringing me fried chicken from Woolworths.
“T” is for TEACHING me how to take care of myself while you and Daddy worked “outside of the house.” (At that time, all of the stuff you did “inside of the house” wasn’t even considered “work.” It was the 50s … you were just “being the mom,” doing all the house stuff after you got home from work and getting absolutely no credit for it.) But back to the “taking care of myself” part. To this day, I can totally claim “best pillowcase ironer in the world” thanks to your tutelage of me when I was six years old.
“H” is for the sense of HUMOR that you always had when I would hug you and unhook your bra, ALL THE TIME, wherever we were, up till the end! How did you NEVER suspect that I was going to do it!?! I DID IT EVERY TIME, MOM! But you always laughed (like it was still Hilarious!)
“E” is for EVERY time you let me be a “vilda chaya” (that’s Yiddish for “wild animal”) despite the fact that you probably wished I were a little tamer. Thanks for EVERY “barbeque” hole you let me dig in the backyard to cook baked potatoes and be a “pioneer,” thanks for EVERY racetrack we designed in the backyard despite the fact that you might have preferred grass and rose bushes, and thanks for EVERY day in the summer when you let me “run around” barefooted, with my wild frizzy hair while wearing a makeshift bikini made out of rolled-down underpants and a stretchy headband (hey, I was 6). Summers were so amazing!
“R” means I’d RATHER be telling you all this in person. I’d RATHER you hadn’t passed away when I was only 41. I’d RATHER you were here with me, still kvelling from me, my brother, my sister, our children, and their children.
I miss you, Mom. Sorry I was such a little shit! Hope you like the song!