It's pronounced "mao-maw" in our world. It has nothing to do with the Chairman.

The little swing was on the back porch. It seemed to be a huge back yard. It's much smaller when I see it now. Back then, it was enough room for Yankee Stadium as we played ball while ma-ma would look on with love. So much love. I've never known anyone else in my life with as much love as she had. For her three kids. For her five grandkids. (I was the favorite, of course.)

One day I sat with her in that swing after playing down the road with some kids from another farm. I was just a baby. I asked her, "Are you mad?"

She said, "No, why would you ask me that?"

"'Cause I wanted to ask you something."


"You sure you won't get mad?"


"What does shit mean?"

That curl in her mouth was so alluring. She wanted to laugh so badly. I was scared to death of what she might say.

"It's just a bad word. Don't say it anymore, OK?"

* * * * *

Long after she was dead, I saw a picture of her in her high school class, way out in the country, a very long time ago. There were perhaps 15 kids in the photo. My mom asked me if I could pick out ma-ma.

I looked at it a long time, and I couldn't take my eyes away from this fetching brunette with a look in her eyes that none of the others had. The others had that dull, "I'm getting a photo made," look. This one girl, a beautiful girl, had that look that said,

"I know something you don't."

* * * * *

I sat in that swing with her one day and she put me on her lap. The screws came out of the ceiling and the swing fell. It hurt her back real bad. But all she could say to me was,

"Are you OK,


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