#1. My first Encounter with Mama J
So when one is born they have no say in their surroundings, this is an unfortunate disadvantage that hinders… the unfortunate. Some love where they’re born, if I was born near a beach and the sun shone 90% of the time, I’d wear a smile morning, noon and night. I’d also love a house with a porch, covered in night-lights and a swinging chair by the front door to chat to all the passers by. A house like this wouldn’t work where I live because people look at me funny when I smile at them. I also swear I was born a vegan, I hate milk and love chickens, I’d rather see them alive than dead. Yet each Friday my dad would feed me chicken. Apparently a kid’s opinion isn’t worthy of serious consideration, all thoughts are believed to be a ‘phase’; something a kid will grow out of when the next phase is encountered. Kids go through so many phases but my hating milk and wanting-to-keep-chickens-alive phase stuck. I was glad to have my dietary requirements accommodated when I went on hunger strike at the age of 8. This is exactly why every girl needs a hippie in her life. A straight talking, takin’ no shit, nature lovin’, herb drinking kinda woman. Mine is Mama J.
Sometimes you meet someone who shines brighter than others. Once you’ve met those shining stars, you want to take their picture, stick it on your mood board and hope their presence stays in your life forever. Mama J is my ruby in the sewage swamp and she’s vegan too so the heavens must have brought us together.
I met her when I first moved in with my Aunt G. She was sat on the concrete steps that led up the main door of the house. Mama J lives in the basement flat, just below Gene’s flat on the ground floor. The main door of the house is painted black; it has a small carving by the letterbox that says ‘RL & GK 1982’. This is evidence enough that no paint has touched this door since that poetic inscription. I’m guessing the whole building, inside and out, hasn’t seen a retouch pre 1980.
She was smoking a cigarette as I stood outside the house for the first time, about to move into a flat that I’d never visited and live with a woman I’d met three times in my life.
“You must be Gene’s niece”
She put out her cigarette to help me move in, even though the burning tip hadn’t reached the yellow filter. I knew she was a good egg as an abrupt halt to your addictive pleasure is not an easy task and most would continue until every last pollutant fume was drawn out of the death stick.
Aunt G just stood at her front door watching as we clumsily manoeuvred my entire life shoved into one suitcase up the stairs.
Aunt Gene is a self-diagnosed agoraphobic; she has a panic attack if she leaves the flat. Unless it’s a Sunday as she goes to early morning mass each week. When I question as to why she can leave the house on a Sunday but not pop to Sainsbury’s to get the weekly shop her response goes something like “possessed by the devil are those who willingly choose to buy ready-made mash potato and additive fuelled Angel Delight”. I love Angel Delight. If I’m doomed to hell then at least I’ll go with bright pink insides and chocolate memories. However, she has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and had 6 counselling sessions to help her overcome her fear of germs and people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ. I’m not sure the counselling sessions did much other than convince her that all psychologists are God fearing as they tried to convince her that not all people who eat ready-made meals are evil. According to Aunt G, they are the sick ones, not her. Needless to say, she doesn’t have many friends.
On the day that I moved in, Mama J told that if I ever needed anything, I could just knock on her door. I did need something 20 minutes after Mama J left me with Aunt Gene on my first day. I knocked, just like she said I could and I now have Angel Delight at Mama J’s every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after school.