If Momma Ain't Happy…

When I first read Paul Elam, he was writing on a site that I had also frequented, and after reading some of his posts, I asked my computer (out loud) “Holy shit…who is this guy?” I loved the bite to his bark, and continued to read whenever I saw him post, because what he had to say was very important.
Then one day, he put up a piece that opened with the coined phrase…”If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy” It was a hell of a read, and the coined phrase inspired me to write the following reply. I now call him my friend, and have been a fan of his dedicated work ever since.
I wanted to post this here  because what comes after the original piece is an update of this family’s life, to which I have recently been made privy.
If momma ain’t happy…
The house looked like something out of the movie “Psycho,” with the exception of numerous toys and bicycles out front. Plants were in need of pruning, leaves all around, and grass, desperate for the attention of a lawnmower. You could tell in passing a large family lived there. Or at the very least, multiples. It was a family I grew up with.
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
Thirteen children lived in this house. It would forever puzzle me how a woman could give birth to thirteen children, with the reverence this woman felt towards them. There was much love on the surface but discipline was a way of life there. Things were done in a military-like fashion. There were many jokes made about them over the years and to this day in remembering the days of my childhood I always think of this family on my block. Recalling …
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
There would be days, all of them were outside. Bitter winter days for which you or I would opt to stay inside with a cup of hot chocolate by the fire. At the time, (we were kids) we would laugh and make fun, not knowing ’til later what was behind it.
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
Their father was always working. Momma was almost always in charge of the brood with poppa being home only on Sundays. He was a very soft spoken man; appearance immaculate and starched, always in a white shirt and tie. He worked full time for a newspaper; part time somewhere else. He reminded me of William Powell in the “Thin Man” series; a sense of humor, a cigarette, a cocktail. I always saw him smiling, newspaper in hand, almost every day returning from work. However…
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
Upon occasion, I would go over to this house and play. There were three children in my age group, as their mother was pregnant every ten months or so. As it happens, I liked those three the best. I had dinner in this house as well. The kitchen seating area of this very large old house that had three floors and a fully renovated basement, consisted of two full length picnic tables pushed together to make one very long table. Dinners were always spent together no-matter-what, and were generally prepared by momma and the older children. And as always …
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
The preparation of dinner, which required the amount of food you or I would see at our families house for Thanksgiving, was at least a two to three hour ordeal everyday. Everyone would have a task. I was a guest and wasn’t allowed to help out. They were usually a ‘well oiled machine’, everyone knowing their job, and doing it without complaint. I was in awe of it all. Except …
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
Talking about school subjects was always encouraged, but not mandatory. Sometimes there would be jokes, almost always, some arguments of the ‘goings on’ in the house in “who did what to whom” forum. I liked being over there, and felt like I was in some sort of an amusement park at times. You were expected to clean your plate. Nothing left, not a trace, almost not worthy of being washed, those plates were. Again ….
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy
I would leave there feeling good; not wanting to go home. I thought this was the ultimate fun family. Everyone working together as a unit. The facade, happy and close-knit. I wished at one time that this was my family. I would be happy as a pig in mud if I lived there. I had no idea; the wrath of …
If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
What went on behind closed doors could be heard in the summertime because all of the windows in the house would be open. The stuff you didn’t hear would be visible on at least one, but more-often-than-not, several, of the children the next day. But I never fully comprehended the violence in this family until I was almost a teenager.
Momma was an alcoholic, poppa too, but he was usually very happy when ‘medicated’.
Nothing ended happily here, nothing.
I wrote this almost three years ago, and knew of the fates of only a few of the children from hearsay. I ran into one of them in a public place, just two days ago. I knew her face immediately, because the entire family looked like someone took an identical rubber stamp to all of their faces. You could always spot one of the “Smith’s” (I’ll call them) in a crowd. She told me everything and I followed it all. I could still fire off their names in rapid succession, because it was a game we used to play when we were young. It was the ultimate ‘trivia’ challenge of our time …name all of the ‘Smith’s’ by order of birth; as fast as you can.
There were eleven girls and two boys, but fifteen pregnancies in all. A set of twins did not make it to term, and another child was stillborn. The first son was the sixth child born, and is a couple of years older than myself. The second son was the twelfth child of the thirteen total.
The oldest girl is sixty now, and was the first one to run for her life out of that house. She moved far away, got herself an education, and is now a successful businesswoman.
The second (I knew of this) died of AIDS.
The third is currently very sick, HIV positive, and still uses drugs.
The fourth girl popped out a bunch of kids, and had them all taken away from her.
The fifth girl is in jail.
The seventh girl has not been heard from in years, and they suspect she has died.
The eighth girl, (the one I ran into) is struggling with health problems, but has been clean and sober for many years, never married, nor had any children.
The ninth girl has been arrested for violent crimes several times. She had two children that lived with their father until they graduated school, and went on to have careers of their own.
The tenth, eleventh, and thirteenth girls all have chlldren, and are also alcoholics.
Did you notice that I left out the two boys?
Both are in mental institutions. Both of them. (This pisses me off, and also makes me very sad) Poppa died a couple of years ago. He died a sober man. He had checked himself into a detox over two decades ago and never looked back.
Momma — The woman that beat the shit out of every single one of these kids, (and now I know from the daughter that I ran into, poppa, as well) now resides in a comfy condo in Florida, thanks to the life insurance poppa paid no-matter-what….and the sale of the big fucking house he bought, and God knows what else….to live out the rest of her days.
Only one child speaks to her, and she has never met any of her grandchildren.

Recommended Content

%d bloggers like this: