Although I fall squarely into the british camp of spelling and grammar, I have always written “mom” instead of “mum”. I noticed this deeply entrenched quirk of my vocabulary when I found myself routinely editing emails to my mother -in-law before hitting the “send” button, replacing all those big cuddly yankee “o”s with tightly pursed “u”s.
Truth be told, the genesis of this habit has to do with Mother’s Day cards. When I was a kid, I used to make my mom cards on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and her wedding anniversary. It was always a big deal for me and I would spend hours brainstorming on “project concepts” like “soldering-iron burnt sepia!” or “whimsical botanical nostalgia” which inevitably turned out to be mildly disappointing facsimiles of my imagined works of art.
Pressed ferns wedged aghast beneath bubbly laminate and 20 cent card paper. Cartoon panes painstakingly rendered in bleeding too-thick felt-tip pen, which my mother would decode the dialogue to many days later, most often when it was explained to her by one of my sniggering siblings.
Anyway the american “MOM” proved to be a handy graphic device as the “O” could be made out to be any number of things – a heart, a rotund face, diamond, a cut-out hole revealing a bumblebee… The round vessel of the O a fitting metaphor for “mother”.
Now that I’m a “mom” myself, I wonder if my children will make me cards and what those might look like. Finn and Dylan seem to have settled on “mama” and there’s something nice, baby-ishly reassuring about the repetitive symmetry of that word as well.
I see two little “a”s snuggled up like bunnies next to the broad shouldered maternal “m”s and remember the first time Dylan said it, sounding for all the world like a husky baby Demi Moore, her rosebud lips puffing out in hot breathy gasps, mamama mama.