Mama Fu

mom with usWhen it comes to my mom, there are things I still can’t believe. She had four teenagers at one point. Four. If I have to interact with four teenagers in one week I need to see a doctor. She once battled a spider who fell in her hair and she didn’t explode into flames. Insanity.

She chauffeured kids everywhere, ran the house, balanced budgets, ran a delicatessen, withheld our infractions from Dad, coped with blood, squabbles, temper tantrums, and yet she did not strangle one of us.

Adding to this are the countless sacrifices to body and mind, wallet, and personal comfort that still boggle my mind. Like many kids, I didn’t appreciate this when I was younger. She was just “mom,” this woman who ran around putting out fires (almost, well, literally), and fixing problems.

In those devastating moments as a kid, when I honestly believed nothing would ever be right again. It was over. At the ripe age of twelve, Cindy Balowonski had checked the “no” box on my discreetly passed date questionnaire, and my life was over. At these dark times when nothing could be made right, Mom made things right. She knew how to fix problems and repair bad moods. She knew the things to say, the snack to make, the movie to put on, the inkling of perspective to give.

It was and is a sixth sense.

This sixth sense is part of a greater art which became known in our house as Mama Fu.

Mamu Fu made itself evident to me when I was ten years old. I had just spent a rainy Saturday afternoon watching a Three Stooges marathon. I had sat in a mesmerized trance, which was broken every time I erupted into laughter at the gouging, punching, and bonking they would visit upon each other.

As can be expected, I left my room with an overwhelming desire to eye gouge someone and the first person I came across was my mom. I approached, brought my fingers up in a horizontal peace sign, just like good old Moe, Larry, and Curly had for the last four hours, and I went in for the eyes.

Without any obvious outward thought process, my mom brought her hand up to the bridge of her nose in a karate chop. Blocked. Then she came back at me with her own eye gouge. I blocked her first gouge as well, utterly proud of myself. That is, until she simply took in one of her fingers and poked my right eye with a squishy sound that was, quite frankly, disconcerting. She then swung her arm over her head like a ferriswheel and clunked me right on top of my head with her fist.

I ran away at that point. Shown up. Embarrassed. A little warier.

The battle had begun. I enlisted the assistance of the three poor unfortunates who were my comrades in arms via birthright (Idem Uteri): my siblings. I was the oldest, they had no choice.

So, on top of my mom’s daily burden of raising four asinine children, those children added guerrilla warfare. We attacked with couch cushions, we ambushed, we set up booby traps. Nothing worked. My mom was always one step ahead – or behind, as in the case of the booby trap. During our Kung fu flick period, we tried a dozen moves on her that only ended with us on our butts and shamed by a 4’11 Irish lady.

Once I asked, “That was Kung Fu, how did you beat me?”

“I know Mama Fu.”

As I licked my wounds later, I began to think about Mama Fu. As I pondered it, it began to make a great deal of sense to me. It explained how my mom could handle everything coolly like the Fu masters I’d seen in those poorly lip-synched flicks. It explained her abilities in battle.

In fact, there was no other explanation for how my mom could handle the job of Mom. The world opened up and I realized that Mama Fu was its own secret martial art. I looked around at the other moms on the block and saw that they all had Mama Fu.

There are any number of ways to explain how moms are as awesome as they are: superpowers, maternal instinct, secret martial art, Xanax. No matter how you explain it, the fact remains that your mom and my mom kick ass. And if your mom is like mine, then she’ll do pretty much anything to make you happy: fix problems, make the right snack, say the right thing. She’ll even go into mock battle with you after an exhausting day of being a mom. So to all you practitioners of Mama Fu out there, thank you very much.

And to my mom especially, I thank you and love you…and sorry about all the eye gouging.

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