Child | By: jean neumann | | Category: Short Story - Family Issues Bookmark and Share






Jean Neumann




"Momma, I want to be a nun—you know, marry God.

"Did you know, Momma, you actually wear a wedding ring like a real marriage but you’re really married to God.

"You give your life to God."

Momma’s face smiles as if she has a hidden secret.

Momma says, "You’re only nine years old. How do you know that’s what you really want?"

"Oh, Momma! Because God talked to me and told me so."

Momma’s beautiful face and bright smile lights up our small kitchen.

Momma says, "If this is what you really want in life I’ll walk over to St. Theresa’s and talk to Father Johnston."

"Why don’t you just have Father Johnston come over here for dinner? You can buy him a bottle of red wine like we do when we have a family problem."

Momma says, "Okay, my little munchkin. If that’s what you want."


Hi, Father Johnston," I said with love and admiration for the man of the cloth that baptized nearly every child in my neighborhood and who has been there for my family since my dad left me, my sister and my Momma.

I sit on the plastic covered sofa leaning against my Momma while Father Johnston sits across from us drinking his third glass of red wine.

"So what’s this I hear, Maureen, about you wanting to become a nun? He asked with flushed, pink cheeks against his carrot colored kinky hair.

"I just want to marry God, Father."

Father Johnston says, "You know, marrying God is a big responsibility. It takes a lot of work to make God happy, like a real husband."

"I just want to be a good person. How hard can that be, Father?"

Father Johnston sighs heavily and then says, "I’ll talk to some of the sisters and see if I can arrange a meeting." He looks at Momma and continues, "I assume you’ve given your blessings."

Momma says, "Not really. Just looking into it. You know, educating my daughter and myself. Find out what she’ll be getting herself into"

Father Johnston pours the rest of the red wine into his glass and finishes it off.

He gets up and says, "Okay. I’ll get back to you before Sunday" (it’s Monday night), "that’ll give you time to think about it more."

"Father, " I began feeling a little hurt, "I don’t need time to think about it. I want to marry God."

He says, "Alrighty-then. I’ll take my hug and be on my way."

I get up and walk around the glass coffee table and hug him around his waist. He kisses the top of my head, his nose tickling from short, curly, blonde hair. Momma gets up and he kisses her on her head, too (he’s very tall for a priest).

"Okay. I’ll be in touch…and thanks for the wine."

"You’re welcome Father. And thanks for coming over."

"Anytime Mrs. Cappa. Anytime."


Saturday came with an early knock at the door. I was already up because I was watching cartoons. I asked who it was and the lovely sound of a woman’s voice answered. Usually I would run and get my mother because we’re not supposed to open the door, ever. But this time was different. I knew it was safe because of the lovely voice.

"Hi, I’m Sister Rosemarie. Are you Maureen?"

Not only is her voice like that of an angel but she is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Her face is young and her skin is the softest lightest brown, creamy skin I’ve ever seen. And her eyes look like they are made out of golden flakes. Her smile is just radiant.

"Yes. I’m Maureen."

"Is your mother home?"


Sister Rosemarie laughs and says, "Is it okay if I come in?"

"Momma! Can Sister Rosemarie come in?" (I’m so excited I don’t want to let her out of my sight.)

Momma’s slippers slap loudly on the floor as she rushes down the long hallway from her bedroom.

"You don’t need to yell like that, child. You scared me half to death. Didn’t I teach you not to yell out?"

"No. You’re always yelling. Where do you think I got it from?"

Momma gives me the look. You know the look? The one where if you don’t keep your mouth shut something very unpleasant is going to happen.

Sister Rosemarie cuts in, "Hi. I’m Sister Rosemarie. Father Johnston sent me over to talk to you and your daughter."

The surprise on Momma’s face is pretty funny.

Momma says, "Wow. That was quick. Come on in. Would you like a cup of coffee?"

"I’d love a cup of coffee. Thank you."

Momma leads Sister Rosemarie into our small kitchen.

Momma says, "Munchkin, take the Sister’s coat."


"And get out of your pajamas. We have company."

I give Momma the look because she’s still in her pajamas.

I want very much to dress like Sister Rosemarie, but I don’t have gray clothes. So I do the best thing and put on black pants and a black sweater. I run into Momma’s room and take a gray scarf out from her bottom drawer and wrap it around my head so I look more like Sister Rosemarie. It’s nowhere exact, but it’ll do for now…I hope.

Walking down the hallway my older sister pops her head out of our bedroom and says, "What are you doing? Who’s here?"

"None of your business. And…none of your business."

Kristy says, "I’m gonna tell Momma you went into her room."

I say, "God bless you, my child," except she’s not a child, she’s ten, one year older than I am.

Kristy says, "You’re going to need Gods help, you little freak."








Back in the kitchen I ask Momma for a cup of coffee (I so want to be just like Sister Rosemarie).

"Sure, hon."

Mom takes ice cubes from its tray and puts them in a tall glass. She pours a tiny amount of coffee and fills the rest with milk. Doesn’t matter to me cause’ it’s still coffee.

Momma says, "Sister, would you mind if I change really quick?"

"Take your time, child. " (You see! she said it. Child.)

Sister Rosemarie says, "We have a wonderful convent Upstate New York where you’ll get an education and become a nun, what I like to refer to as a wife of the cloth," (her words are wonderfully crafty).

"When you’re sixteen, with your mother’s signature, you can start volunteering and begin an internship during the summer so by the time you’re eighteen you’ll be more prepared than others.

"It’s a wonderful experience. I enjoyed it very much."

I say, "Sixteen is so far from now. Why can’t I start sooner?"

The Sister says, "Well, we do have the foster home part of our convent. But I would have to discuss that with your mother. You would be living with us, and other children your age who want to serve God; your mother and sister would be able to visit you on weekends."

"I would love that," I said not realizing Momma is standing behind me.

Momma says, "That’s not going to happen, munchkin. It’s my job to raise you."

"But I want to be raised by God."

"You are, hon. You go to church every Sunday, and even Wednesdays. And you pray before bedtime and in the morning."

"It’s not the same, Momma. God’s not in our house."

Sister Rosemarie says, "You’re wrong, Maureen. God is in you and with you always, no matter where you are or where you go."

Momma sits across from Sister Rosemarie at the kitchen table.

She says, "Becoming a nun means no relations, no children, not even a single child?"

"That’s right," Sister Rosemarie said, "those are the rules."

Momma gets up and pours herself another cup of coffee.

She leans against the kitchen sink and says, "Well, I want grandchildren.

"My girls should be able to live a normal life and have children of their own and experience being in love and raising a family.

"That’s the way life should be, for any woman."

I can’t believe my ears!

"Momma, I don’t want children. I don’t want to bring a child into this messed up world. I want to help the children that already exist, that have no fathers or mothers.

"You’re not fair, Momma."

I storm out of the kitchen angry and very hurt that someone else is making my life decisions.





I’m married now at the age of twenty-three. My husband and I had a difficult time finding any church to marry us because he is Jewish and I am Catholic, and neither one of us was willing to convert. His temple and my Catholic Church turned us down, but we did find a Christian church that opened their arms and their hearts without us having to become born-again. (Years later I did become born again, but I’ll always be a Catholic in my heart of hearts).

"Hi, munchkin, " Momma said over the phone ever so happy to hear from her daughter. "What’s going on?"

"Well, I have news for you."

"I hope it’s good news. Is your husband giving you a hard time?"

"Oh, Momma, stop that. Give it a break, why don’t you."

Momma says, with the bravado of giving me life, "Watch your tongue, child."

That word again.


"I’m pregnant, Momma."

"Oh My God! Thank you, Jesus. My baby is going to have a baby!"

You’d think the woman was going to have a heart attack the way she yelled.

"How far gone, are you?"

It took over a year of infertility. Prodding and poking and testing and laying on your back with your legs straight up in the air to make sure everything traveled where it was supposed to. A whole year of pregnancy kits and disappointments and having to start from scratch with an ovulating calendar. It was just dreadful. It turned having relations into a task, a chore. Just terrible. So naturally, Momma was more excited than I was.

"I’ve been carrying for over a month"—

"Oh My God! My baby’s going to have a baby."

Already this was getting tired.

"Momma, can you please be quiet for a minute."

"Why? What’s wrong? Is he leaving you?"

"MOM! Stop! Please let me finish. It’s just, well, the doctors said I’m going to have a hard time carrying, so I was hoping I can stay with you while I carry…?

Silence. (That’s my Momma when you really need her.)

"Helloooo. Momma?"

You can hear the disappointment in her voice, but I’m sure her selfish part will rise to the top, as usual.

With an exaggerated sigh, Momma says, "Sure, hon. Will your husband be joining us?"

You can hear her distaste.

"No. I’ll go home on the weekends."

"Well, if that’s what you need to do. I mean all I want is a healthy grandchild." (Yeah, don’t remind.)

"Okay, it’s settled then. Do you know what you’re going to have?"

"I don’t want to know, Momma. Let it be a surprise."

Momma says, "Wait until your sister finds out she’s going to be an aunt for the first time."

I say, "I don’t see why she would be so excited. I mean she already has two sons of her own."

"I know. I just love my grandsons!

"But to think I might finally have a granddaughter. And then she’ll have children. I mean, my whole life, as soon as I had my girls, all I wanted after that was to fulfill my legacy. You know, on my tombstone, it will read, ‘loving mother, loving grandmother’—Oh, and who knows, maybe loving great grandmother. Just to leave my legacy knowing that my life wasn’t such a waste."

At this point I just can’t stomach my mother’s excitement anymore. It’s a shame I’m not as excited as she is. Not that it matters.



"Momma! Mommaaaah!"

The pain, dear Lord, the pain is unbearable.

I have no idea what time it is. All I know is that out of nowhere this stabbing pain jolts my body wide-awake. My brain is exploding, and my body feels the same way. No matter how I turn or move the pain, the dreadful pain will not stop. The pain is so great I feel like I’m going to die. I gather enough energy to sit up and look down at my body only to find red all over my pajamas and the bed covers.

Good Lord, Father God, Lord Jesus, please, please, I beg you, take this pain away from me.

"What’s wrong—Oh my God. Child. We need to get you to the hospital." Momma said with the panic my whole body was feeling.

Momma dials 9-1-1 and the ambulance comes. The paramedics don’t waste time being gentle. One of them just lifts me in his arms and carries me into the ambulance and away we speed off to the emergency room.

In the emergency room, there’s a cacophony of movement. Everything is a blur. And then I realize it’s my baby, my child…but it’s too soon. I haven’t carried long enough to give life.

Hours passed only for me to learn that I lost a baby girl. I lost a little girl. A child.

My husband is finally able to visit.

He says, "I’m really sorry, baby. But you got to figure, I wasn’t really ready to be a father anyway."

Momma and I look at him in shock and silence.

Needless to say that marriage came to a halting stop and a quick divorce.









I’m on my second marriage, now. Happy as a lark, but no children. When I married my present husband I knew he had had a vasectomy, and after I lost my baby-girl, my child, the doctors told me that I could never become pregnant again, so we made a perfect pair.

Sure, I imagine being a mother, but that was never my decision. That decision was Momma’s. It’s through the Catholic Church that I did become a mother in the most unusual way. Through baptism I have many godchildren, twelve, altogether. I love all of my godchildren and they love me. I’m a part of their lives as they are a part of mine.

When the good Lord talked to me when I was a child, he had planned my life for me. He was the one to determine my future and my future did not include having a child of my own but helping other mother’s with their children.

At the end I did serve my purpose, not my mother’s.


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