TITLE: Mamma's Other Job
By Venice Kichura
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Also, is it too predictable?
Brooklyn, New York
“Please, Mamma, read me a story.”
Four-year-old Jenny climbed into her mother’s lap as they traveled home on the subway, her saucer brown eyes, dancing like fireflies as she cracked open her new picture book.
“What a lovely book,“ Mamma said, carefully turning each page. “Let’s read it together.”
Mother and daughter didn’t need printed words to unravel the story in Jenny’s first picture book. The pictures told the story.
Mamma had planted a seed in her young daughter’s life---a love for reading had been birthed.
Brooklyn, New York
“Mamma, look what teacher gave me!”
Six-year-old Jenny Carbone bolted through the front door of her Brooklyn brownstone on the first day of school with her very first reader.
“See, Mamma, I can read! The book is called “Fun with Dick and Jane.’”
“What a nice book,” Mamma said, flipping through the pages.
“I know some words, Mamma, but teacher says for you to help me with the big ones.”
Mamma bowed her hand, as if she were talking to God, twisting her thick chestnut brown curls as always did when she was trying to think of what to say. Looking up, she said, “I‘d love to, Pumpkin (a phrase of endearment given to her oldest daughter), but right now I have to finish making supper. Pappa will be home soon and your baby sisters need a bath. Why not ask Pappa to help you. Or, you can try again, and read the book all by yourself. I know you can do it!”
“Okay, Mamma,” Jenny said, tearing into her new reader.
” See Dick run…Funny….. funny Sally….” The pig-tailed little girl read ever so slowly, yet clearly, as she turned the first few pages of her new reader. She plodded along, sounding out each word, until she came to a big new word
“This is a BIG word, Mamma…I can’t read it,” she wailed.
Busy in the kitchen, Mamma, stirred her soup and said, slowly….“Don’t give up, Pumpkin. Why don’t you look at each letter and sound them out, one at a time…..I know you can do it!”
“s-o-m-e-t-h-I-n-g.” Jenny slowly named each letter, and then sounded out the letters, blending them.
Still clueless, she stared at the monstrous word, and then jumped up in her chair like a pop-up in one of her old picture books. “It‘s really two words…”something!” It’s just two words next to each other to make a new word,” she said, as thrilled as if she were Einstein, discovering the theory of relativity.
“Something! Something!” She repeated the compound word, so proud of new revelation.
Mamma left her soup on the stove and pulled Jenny to her side, kissing her soft, pink forehead. “Now that is something, she said, staring at the new word…”I am so proud of you--- I knew you could do it! By trying yourself, you work your reading muscles even harder than if I just told you the word. Just keep reading---You can do it!”
Brooklyn, New York
Jenny was in high school now and still loved reading.
When she had to memorize important historical dates, Mamma had a speical rhyming game she played to help her remember facts.
“Now let’s see now….what are the facts?” Mamma asked.
“Columbus discovered American in 1942,” Jenny said.
“Okay, what can we say about this….how about….…In 1400 and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?“
But after a few months of high school, Mamma wasn't around to help Jenny with her even her rhyming games. She was too busy getting ready for her “other” job, so Jenny either rechecked it herself, or Pappa helped her....when he could. Many times, he didn't know how to check her homework.
Mamma worked all day cleaning other peoples’ houses. Then at night, when Pappa came home, she left for what she only called her other job. Jenny’s family needed the extra income, as her father didn’t make much money.
But why couldn’t Mamma tell us where she worked every night?”Jenny and her sisters wanted to know.
Jenny and her sisters finally decided Mamma’s other job was cleaning their school at night. They also concluded that the she didn’t tell them because she was embarrassed being a female custodian. Only Pappa knew what she was doing, but he wouldn’t say, either…“Just Mamma’s working hard.” Because she wasn’t home to help Jenny’s younger sisters, either, with their homework, Jenny often took over. It wasn’t long before she discovered she enjoyed working with her sisters. In fact, she knew then she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.
Brooklyn, New York
Not only was it a red- letter day for Jenny because she was graduating, but it was also special because she had a surprise for Mamma. Because her mother was so secretive, Jenny, too, had learned not to tell all. Graduation was scheduled for Thursday night, the same time when Mamma was always gone for the second job.
She’d better be there, Jenny thought as she dressed in her her cap and gown. Jenny loved her mother but had been disappointed too many times when Mamma hadn’t been there for her. She felt abandoned when Mamma couldn’t come to her choral concerts or help her with her science projects. Yet, she still managed to win blue ribbons at the Science Fair every spring. But Mamma always told her, “You can do it, Jenny!“
She had promised Jenny, giving her word, saying “I wouldn’t miss your graduation for anything. I’ll just leave my other job early.”
One by one, the Westside High School Class of ’68 filed into the high school auditorium, taking their seats.
Jenny turned around and scanned the audience. There in the back sat her father and sisters, but not Mamma. Her heart sank.
Then the graduates were called up on the stage, one by one…Jenny was the last graduate to be called.
“And now we proudly present our valedictorian for the class of ‘68, Miss Jenny Carbone, the school principal, Mrs. Perry announced.
A roar of applauses went up, but Jenny fought back tears because here she was, the valedictorian, but the only graduate whose mother wasn’t there for her!
As she approached the stage, Mrs. Perry said. “Before we present Jenny with her diploma and award, we have another special graduate who’s graduating with honors from the class of ‘68. May I present Mrs. Maria Carbone, valedictorian of the Westside Night School.
The entire auditorium stood up and cheered as Jenny’s mother walked from behind the stage. She never looked so stunning as she did in her black cap and gown, her shiny shoulder-length locks bouncing as she walked, then quickened her pace as she eyed her daughter.
Stunned, Jenny stood frozen as a manikin, then ran onto the stage and hugged her.
“I think I got the best surprise,” she said, her arms still wrapped around her mother.
“Well, I‘m not at all surprised at my daughter being at the top of her class. I always knew you could do it,” she said, wiping away a happy tear.
Mrs. Perry took the microphone and said, “Now we know where Jenny gets her ambition.”
“Mrs. Carbone, we’d like to hear your valedictorian speech, and then yours, Jenny.”
But Mamma said, “What I did isn‘t that remarkable, “she said, smiling proudly at Jenny. "The real scholar is standing right beside me, my oldest daughter, Miss Jenny Carbone. I am so proud of my daughter……Not many mothers could be like me and have their child graduate at the top of their class.”
“And, yes, Jenny, now I can read to you,” she began her speech….
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