Mammy, can you hear? It’s your little boy

There is a tradition in Eastern philosophies where you’re taught to view each person and other sentient being as if he, she – or it – is your mother. I never knew how nurturing this could be until I allowed the child in me to reciprocate and bask in the most secure and loving place.

This didn’t happen overnight. A wise man said that “When conditions are sufficient, things will reveal themselves.” I had to read this quote several times before wrapping my head around it. And it wasn’t until conditions in my life ripened that I was able to connect this mother/child bonding together. 

“All sentient beings have been my mother.” This a teaching from a Tibetan form of Buddhism called,  “Vajrayana” Buddhism, which states that you should treat all beings like they have once been your mother, and you have once been their mothers.

I could easily follow the first part, that is, treating persons with the care and dignity I would offer the kindest and loving mother in the world. Even if your own mother might have not lived up to this ideal, it is the “ideal mother” that I could visualize and offer my respect and altruistic efforts. I’d feel really good by doing good to another.

But it wasn’t until I heard an “Oldies” disc jockey play the “roots” of a 1960s rock & roll song that I looked at this from the other end, the part of the child. I had tuned into a internet radio and listened to a song the Happenings once song and I enjoyed. The Happenings biggest hit was a fast version of “See You in September.” They made fast versions of such standards as “I Got Rhythm,” as well as the one played on the radio.

To trace the “roots” of the rock song (See the Happenings version on Utube), the DJ played the song when it was first released in the 1920s by a singer named Al Jolson, the great early 20th century entertainer who appeared in the first “talking” movie, “The Jazz Singer,” and was recognized more readily then when seen in “black face.”

He sang “Mammy.” It was the original version where Jolson almost stutters during one of the refrains while asking if his Mammy still recognizes him after such a long time.

“Look at me, Mammy! Don’t you know me? I’m your little baby!” he croons, as authentic as any performer, in my opinion, has ever captured the emotion of a song. I felt he was singing to my Mammy. I became that “little baby” boy. I felt all the love and caring that all little boys and girls remember when they recall the most perfect – even if it might be fictional – image of an adoring mom.

I could do nothing wrong. I needed nothing to prove, nothing to compete for or to win. There were no expectations for me to meet, no role to play, no need to be anyone except the child that mom would always love. No matter who I was, or what I might have done.

Conditions became sufficient at that Jolson moment. You see, my mother played Al Jolson’s records when I was growing up. She also introduced me to Hank Williams, whose music is acknowledged in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, as one of the roots of today’s popular music. (Thanks, mom.)

I knew what the Buddhists were trying to tell me at that moment. It was something I already knew but had not experienced the conditions in order for it to be revealed to me. It was revealed not through a book or one of 84,000 teachings, but through the “thing” inside of me that knows when a ring of truth resonates within.

3 comments on “Mammy, can you hear? It’s your little boy

  1. souldipper says:

    It’s a continuous struggle for me to remember to allow myself to be mothered!


    • contoveros says:

      Ah, but when you find someone you trust, you can let your hair down and find refuge in their company, their words and in their comforting smiles.

      Just like I find it in you, and, I would hope, that once in a while, Amy, you in me.

      michael j


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