Why, Momma, Why?
Momma has answered my relentless curiosity for longer than I can remember and she has done so as if both the questions and the answers really matter. It probably started when I was a toddler and learned that the “why?” question was my gateway into knowledge and understanding.
Why are you doing that? Why is the sky blue? Why is it dark now? Why is that hot? Why do I have to take a bath? Why do I have to wear a hat? Why is Daddy at work? Why can’t I have ice cream? Why is that bird singing? Why is the worm moving? Why is the grass wet? Why, Momma, why? Why? Why?
Poor Momma: I never grew out of that stage. It’s not that I’m stupid, mind you; it’s just that I still want to know more. And each answer only leads to more questions…
Momma continues to answer.
Through most of my childhood I believed all of Momma’s answers. With puberty, however, came doubt, and I challenged her with a vengeance. The questions were louder and emblazoned with emotions. Momma remained steady and persistent, even when I refused to believe or understand. She was patient with me even when I declared her a liar.
When I moved into the all-knowing arrogance of my teens and early twenties, my “why?” questions were passionately spat about with an “I-dare-you-to-cross-me” attitude. Momma dared because she believed that both the questions and the answers really mattered.
She may have had a small respite when I moved to the other side of the world, but even then, my letters were filled with questions. Momma faithfully answered them all in the letters she sent me in return.
Now I’m a middle-aged woman with grown children of my own, but still, I fill Momma’s days with questions: Why are you doing that? Why do I have to wear shoes? Why do you think God is real? Why, Momma? Why?
It’s more of a game now – questions make conversations move forwards. And because Momma is so good at answering, this Q & A format is the basis of our communication, our connection. Momma’s answers don’t always make sense any more, but then, in my opinion, they have often not made sense, even before she was sick. That’s just because we are different, not because Momma was ever wrong.
My point is this: Momma has consistently answered all of my questions – decade after decade – as if each one really mattered. Doesn’t she now deserve at least as much from me? No matter how many times she asks me “what day is it today?” or “what are we going to do today?” I must find the strength to answer as if it is the first time to hear each question. Because for Momma, it is the first time she has asked.