Next to my Grandfather's house was a small store/post office/gas station. Besides a few taverns the small store was the only place of commerce in the tiny village. The store sort of looked like a house and sort of looked like a store. It had a brownish shingle siding, three weak and sagging wooden steps that led up to the concrete, house like porch. The entrance to Momms was an old, patched screen door with red trim and a faded metal Sunbeam bread sign affixed to the middle to use as a handle. I can still hear the lovely sound of the door spring tightly screeching upon opening and the double bounced slam of the door shutting. You had to be quick in or else the screen door would hit your fanny.
The store was called Momm's. It was the owners last name. The heavy set, flannel clad, VO-5 slicked back dark haired man that ran the little place was named Charlie but everyone called him Mom. His parents, that use to run the store still lived in the back of the store were always called Mom Mom and Mr. Mom. I remember thinking that so funny, I would giggle each time I entered the dark little store.
My Grandfather would send me over there to pick up his mail. His little pigeon hole mail slot was number six. Grown-ups could just grab the mail from their slots but children had to ask. No matter which 'Mom' was running the store, when a child asked for the mail they would move out from behind the enormous golden cash register with huge numbers and large keys and slowly walk across the creaking, sagging wood floors to the chicken wire cadged postal area and don a postman's cap before handing you your mail.
The store was so dark. Bare bulbs hung on long wires with equally long strings a million times knotted on the ends to turn them on and off were the only real illuminations. The two large front windows in Momms were used to display their items for sale. The windows were terribly dirty, there were egg yoke colored fly paper hanging with raisin carcasses every where and still the sills of the windows were covered in decades of dead bugs. Every item displayed was dusty and most items were from years gone by and of no use to anyone but maybe some old farmers and their wives.
The front porch of the store had a rickety, rusty pop cooler where you could grab a pop for a nickle. It wasn't popular pop, usually it was pop you only saw there and never in a 'real' store. One of the Momms would come out and collect your money and sit for a spell and talk to you. The porch had a mishmash set of old chairs, a checker board on top of an old oil drum and an old weathered table to play Sheep's Head on. The old paint chipped white wooden rail of the porch use to serve as a place to rein our pretend horses. (bikes) There was always a group of retired Farmer's playing cards and cussing. In the summer I use to like to sit on the cold concrete porch and listen to the Farmers swear and gossip while I drank my orange crush.
Momms was the only place in that tiny village that as a kid you could buy candy. Knowing their customers Momms carried all the best kid candy you could find. Grandpa always gave me a quarter when he sent me over to get his mail. A quarter could by a lot back then. Often it would take me a long time to choose. I never remember a time that any Momm running the store would get impatient with me. They treated my meager candy purchase like I was buying some big piece of merchandise. I adored how the Momms could make my decision feel so important to them and to me.
No one was ever a stranger at Momms even if you were. Everybody knew each other and if they didn't know you they treated you as if they did. Every grown-up knew who your parents and grandparents were and always asked of your family's well being. Momms was the hub in this small place of living and dying. In fact if someone died they would take them to Momms until someone from the little city 10 miles away could come and take them to the funeral home.
Momms was right next to the railroad tracks. The train would rumble through twice a day and each time Momms structure and merchandise would rock and sway. No one ever even paid attention to the ruckus. I loved to stand in the store when the train went by. I imagined it to be an earthquake and hung on to the counter like I was on a scary ride. It was absolutely thrilling to me. Every time, I thought for sure the store would crumble, but it never did.
Today Momms is just a broken down little wreck of a place by the still useful tracks. The sign above the porch still reads Momms. The steps have long since crumbled and cinder blocks have replaced them It's faded red sign dangles precariously, soon to be lost to the wind. Even after the gas tanks went out and the post office was no longer needed the store tried to carry on. At sixteen it was a place to easily carry out beer. They never asked for an ID, they knew you and your parents. It was acceptable I guess. When the last Momm died the store died too.
When I return home I make a point to drive past Momms and pay the store and the Momms homage. They, the store and all the characters from that tiny village are all gone now. All of those country folk made such a wonderfully simple impact on my life. Momms shaped part of who I am. I remain deeply grateful for the memory, the store and the Momms.