“Momma, how are you?” a young Chinese woman stopped me suddenly and asked. Her tone was gentle and concerned. “Are you well tonight, Momma, out so late?”
Thank God, I thought, knowing somehow I was safe and in good hands. Her blurred face was vaguely familiar.
It was past midnight! I was wandering around the 14th Street Station of the IRT Broadway Line. I am legally blind, so what normal eyes perceive at 200 feet my eyes can only see at 20 feet. I couldn’t read the EXIT street signs and I have a notoriously bad sense of direction. I dared not go out.
I had just come from an evening of babysitting my grand children uptown. Tired and disoriented, I needed to find the northern exit of the station. Not the 13th Street or the 12th Street exits because, up above the dark chaotic streets were even more threatening than the subway’s bench sleepers and all-night sitters. And Duane Reade Drugs had further confused things by having stores on BOTH ends of the SAME block!
My rescuer asked more urgently, “How are you, Momma? Are you going home? I will show you the way. Come.”
I could have kissed her. I followed her obediently. Only a few months earlier, I had moved here and been introduced to the pleasures of the Chelsea neighborhood by my children, who lived nearby. One of the neighborhood’s absolute delights was this new Chinese restaurant, “LEGEND” on 7th Avenue and 15thStreet just across the street from me. Ah ha! That’s who this young lady was, the cashier, gentle, always cordial, quietly charming and concerned.
Since my daughter’s family ate there frequently and I often joined them, I had soon become “Momma” to the whole staff, who were attentive and marvelously friendly and thoughtful. If I was absent at family meals, they asked after me. And they never failed to fully report on what I’d eaten on my solitary lunches. “Momma had Szechuan Noodle Soup. Momma ate TWO orders of soup dumplings for lunch! Momma loves the dan dan noodles!” They delighted in my greedy consumption.
I’ve lived in this city most of my life and, of course, done my shopping and my eating here among strangers. New York City is large, the transactions impersonal and the customers many.
So I feel an undeniable delight and gratitude at being the American Momma to this larger heterogeneous “family” who have generously expanded to embrace and include me.
I glory in being the Legendary Momma! And I do truly love the spicy dry cooked chicken with ginger and peanuts!