Names and Titles and Mamas Who “Never Go Away”

There has been quite a discussion going on over on Dorcas Smucker’s facebook page about what to call adult children.  Those of you who read my blog know that I refer to our children collectively as “The Offspringin’s.”  Certain Man calls them “The Young’uns”  (I’m not sure how to even spell that!) along with other specific dutch words that fit individual children at any given time.  His parents firmly believed that you did not give nicknames or shorten names in any way, and I decided early on that it wasn’t in my best interest to shorten his good, strong name in any way.  Hence, he has always been “Daniel” to me when I use his given name (or “Mr. Yutzy”).  When we had our children, it seemed like there was this plethora of names that just came naturally, and when I read somewhere that “a love child has many names” I decided that it wasn’t something to worry too much about.

We were a little cautious in the use of the words “kids” because we had been severely schooled in the sinfulness of that usage.  Even the name “Mom” was frowned upon by my paternal grandfather as disrespectful.  I can remember coming in from school on afternoons when Grandpa (David S. Yoder, Sr.) was there and calling for “Mom!” and hearing him clucking his disapproval and saying, “Ach!  The kids came home!” (A word that was verboten in his vocabulary under any other circumstances).  The correct word was “Mama.”  (And don’t you forget it!)

Along with that were other titles of respect. We would never have thought of calling our aunts and uncles by their given names alone.  It was always, Uncle Jesse, Uncle Lloyd, Uncle Amos, or Aunt Ruth, Aunt Naomi, Aunt Gladys, Aunt Dottie, etc..  To this day I wouldn’t/couldn’t call them anything different.  Somehow there was something that went with that title that was compelling.  And my myriad of aunts and uncles were worthy of all the respect given them.  They were beloved and Godly and always interested in the lives of their nephews and nieces.  When our children came along, we insisted on the same respect given to aunts and uncles.

But that is not the story, although the discussion on Dorcas’ blog spurred both the preceding paragraphs as well as this story.

When our children were very young, and even before Rachel was born, our children were exposed to a difficult family situation where the father had abandoned the family and the mother was struggling with a desperate mental illness and the children were temporarily in various homes who tried hard to provide some stability whenever they could.  Two of the little boys were with our family at various times and their heartache was difficult to see.  Our youngest son, Lemuel, was a curly haired, verbal, blond three year old at the time, and he didn’t miss much that went on around the little house on Andrewsville Road that was our home.

And so it was that one day while I was in the laundry room, working on the unending loads of wash, a little tow-headed guy sought me out with a furrowed brow.  “Mama.” he said, with that look of urgent concentration on his face, “Would you ever go away?”

I looked into his young face, knew immediately the impetus for his question, felt his anxiety and made a promise that I prayed I could always keep.  “Oh, no, Lemmie Joe!  I would never go away.  I love Daddy and your brother and sisters too much to ever go away and leave you.”  He turned abruptly and motored his way out to the living room where his unsuspecting siblings were involved in their own worlds.

“Our Mama say she NEVER go away, ” I heard him announce to them in full voice.  I wondered what in the world they thought of such an unexpected proclamation, but there were various acknowledgements of his statements that carried muffled through the walls.  I smiled at his earnestness, but scarcely had I had time to think before my little guy was back at the door of the laundry room with a proclamation for me.

“I telled your chill’jens you said that!” He declared with a satisfied air, like he had just settled a great big issue and since I had given my word and he had “telled them” there was nothing more to be discussed.  He turned away, out of the door, and went back to his play.

It has never, ever left my heart.  I can tell you right where I was standing when he came in to ask me the question that was on his young mind.  Often I’ve thought about all the Mamas (or Daddies) who go away and don’t come back, or are sent away and not allowed to come back, or who, for whatever reason, physical or emotional, are unable to come back.  How my heart aches for the “chill-jens” (some now all grown up) who are wishing for a parent to come to stay.

And my heart gives grateful praise for parents who are “staying” when no one stayed for them, or are staying at great personal sacrifice of their own dreams and opportunities.  Sometimes it seems like the years stretch on forever when the walls hold us in, and the demands of our little ones make us wonder if we ever even had a mind to think plausible thoughts, much less dream.  It takes lots of love to hang in there.  But it also takes energy and grace and creativity and commitment and wisdom and courage.  It’s a huge, scary adventure.  But it’s worth it.  So very much worth it.  And now that those “Chill-jens” have become adult “offspringin’s” and have brought into our lives other people to love and more little ones to nurture, I’m grateful for all the choices, some mine, and some totally out of my hands, that allowed me to be one of the Mamas who didn’t need to “go away.”

For this and so much more on this rainy Monday in Delaware, my heart gives grateful praise.

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