That’s my mom and me in a dinner table selfie. You can’t see the table before us, but I assure you it is a picture of abundance. It was Easter dinner, which means not one square inch of the table is empty. So much food, all of it made by the wonderful mothers in my life: my mom and my sister. I may have helped a little, but trust me, they did 99% of the work themselves. They love to cook and they love to share their culinary talents and this is how it has always been in our home, beginning with my grandparents before them and, I’m sure, generations before my grandparents, too. We express our love through a good meal. This Mother’s Day, we will gather round that table again.
My mother goes by Millie, though her name really is Carmela (spelled with one L). She is the daughter of immigrants (her older sister was born in Italy) and she is full of good stories. She remembers the finest details and the names of all of Grandma’s friends and neighbors, whose names all began with “Cumara” (pronounced coo-ma-ra) because all the women back then in our Italian American world were called Cumara––kind of like a godmother. The word comes from the Italian comare, godmother, but cumara is a Southern Italian dialect word and not true Italian. It is basically a descriptor for a good friend. Female of course; the masculine version is cumpare. In the Lucerine dialect that they brought from Italy, cumara was shortened, at least in spoken word, to “Cuma:” Cuma Catherine, Cuma Jenny, Cuma Josephine, Cuma Marietta, Cum’Assu. The word is not used much these days, save for the older generations. But in a way, the cumaras are mothers to us all, delivering love and counsel and yes, sustenance through good food. Happy Mother’s Day.