Date: before 12th century
: a woman who sponsors a person at baptism
Godmother means something different to me than the standard Webster’s Dictionary definition, two very different and delicious meanings, to be exact. The first relates to casual eating in my adopted hometown, where a power lunch of ice chips and air kisses reigns supreme. If that nutritious combo doesn’t satisfy the calorie craving and one actually want to eat something tasty without spitting up three hundred dollars for black truffle turds or dangling duck balls, the city of angels has a bounty of scrumptious, cheap eats. Here, food truck burritos are otherworldly, Korean B.B.Q. is beyond compare and the local In-N-Out Burger is a Mecca for the socially deranged yet culinary cunning.
The one food missing from this great wasteland of mail order weather and factory direct facial surgery is the old school, Italian submarine sandwich. Los Angeles is a town where the sub sandwich is a non-existent meal choice, an apparition to any and all who need something more than that doughy paint roller that Subway tries to pawn off as a healthy and authentic snack. No thank you Jared, I will pass on the BBQ Bun Slinger Sub Melt that you so genuinely call your saving grace in positive dietary fare. You didn’t go to the prom and now that you have dropped an amount of weight equal to that of an eleven-year old flutist soaking wet, I still do not want to nibble on your foot-long friend.
Of course, if you want a real Italian submarine sandwich, the kind that Vinnie builds and Vito cuts and Carmine wraps and Teresa rings up, than you best get your ass onto a non-stop Jet Blue flight, fly straight into Logan International and saddle up to a Formica table at one of a handful of sub shops in Belmont, Massachusetts. There, behind the high counters and the deli slicers you will find a grouping of sandwich ingredients that The Earl of Sandwich would be proud to put between his grinder buns.
Over the years, when I needed my Italian Stallion fix, I would drive across town to the only decent place I could find in L.A, Bay Cities Deli, a local sandwich institution six blocks from the stinky, needle-sprinkled beaches of Santa Monica. Their best sub sandwich is called the Godmother and, with its vast variety of mystery meat slices, a blanket of Provolone, toothpick thin, shredded Iceberg lettuce and a slathering of hot peppers that most Italians would have sex with, it really does the trick. It cures heartache, a hangover and overall malaise when properly ingested with a side of potato chips and an ice-cold coke in a bottle. Combine that with the smell of car exhaust, salty sea air and angry body odor emanating from the throngs of pudgy, hungry hipsters waiting on line and you have yourself a mother you can really love.
My other definition for godmother has a longer and more complex meaning than simply, a really fucking tasty menu item that reminds me of my high school days when I skillfully and enthusiastically neck wrestled bad boys in plush backseats of late model American cars, cars that any mobster would have been proud to be shot in. And, this meaning of godmother does not match up with the official one as stated above by the God of all dictionary companies. She is not simply, “a woman who sponsors a person at baptism”, not by a long shot.
No, to me, the other meaning of godmother has nothing to do with God or religion or fire or brimstone. A godmother, as I see it, is a person who is chosen by newly exhausted and overwhelmed parents who both look and smell as if they’ve been hit by a recycling truck and left for a five-cent deposit refund in the alley out back. These carcasses need a clean hand and a rested soul and she is the one they grab onto in case they don’t make it through the first forty-eight hours of the new baby shit storm called parenthood.
A godmother is another parent, a parent who is chosen to help emotionally guide and love and care for a child who has just shown up and is ready to dance the Electric Slide twenty-four hours a day until his or her eighteenth birthday. When that day arrives, the godmother knows that she may very well get a knock on the door only to find a seriously angst ridden post teen who feels misunderstood and tortured by the very parents that wiped his or her ass clean, many a midnight, and dried up a torrent of tears when the milk spilled again. She is the crazy, cool chick who is willing to take on the very dreaded and plausible aforementioned scenario with verve, gusto and panache.
Although Dave and I had lost our ability to perform the most basic tasks during Otto’s first week of life, speaking, walking, spelling and being pleasant are just a few that come to mind, Otto got lucky. We somehow managed to bestow upon him a great godmother in the midst of massive physical malfunctions and a tsunami of poop covered tears. She is a friend, a mentor, a watchful eye and a calm voice in a loud storm when things get windy. She is an infectious, thunderous laugh when life is funny. She is the one who sends the perfect gift on every birthday, never forgets a single Christmas, stock piles clothes and mails them promptly and adorns my child with generosity I could never match. She is a phenomenal, unparalleled mother, a passionate sister, a fiercely loyal daughter and a tireless friend. She forgives easily and forgets nothing. She endlessly nurtures and constantly cradles. She shines a brighter smile and hits a harder forehand, cooks a better meal and sings a softer song. She is the one I want in my child’s corner when the going gets tough and the tough are crushing.
She is a godmother and no, God has nothing to do with it. Not in my blasphemous, tattered, leatherette-covered bible. I am fortunate enough to define a godmother as my dear, lovely, uncommonly beautiful friend, as a sister not related by blood, but by life and love, a woman who watches over my son with the eyes of a perfectly coiffed eagle and the heart of a stunningly dressed lion.
In turn, she has honored me with the same role, that of God-Dotty, a title I have yet to live up to compared with the master class in godmothering she currently teaches every week. But if I take notes and study hard, if I refuse to read the Cliff Notes or do not cheat off of the valedictorian’s final exam, I may one day be half the godmother to her son that she is to mine. And I know, because of her, Otto will be stronger, funnier, smarter and better dressed than any of the other kids on the playground.
Then I think to myself, “Can I possibly have the same influence on her son as she will on mine?”
And the shrill, crackled voice that lives inside my large head replies, “Very doubtful, God-Dotty. She will already have given her son all those things while wearing a much nicer blouse, a blouse that doesn’t have oil stains from the Italian sub sandwich you just had to eat in the car.”