The Como Mamas
Originally published on 10-23-13
Sometime in mid-March, I was working at ACL and SXSW acts were rolling through the venue. The ticket for this particular night read, Soul Review. I thought, “Cool. I like soul music.” And I had a glimmer of hope that Justin Timberlake would swing by.
At 8pm when the house lights went down the venue only had about 100 people in it. It was a meager start to the night as the venue fits about 2700 music lovers. As I surveyed the crowd I thought, “Maybe Prince is playing down the street or something.”
I scanned the acts on the ticket and since I hadn’t heard of any of them, I didn’t pay much attention. As ACL spans four floors I spent a lot of my time running around chatting and checking with staff on each floor. As I was running around my boss, Tom asked “Have you been inside the venue yet? You’re going to love the act on stage.” As soon as I found a good breaking point I made my way inside the venue and was immediately blown away.
The room was dark and cold and filled with the unforgettable voices of The Como Mamas. As I surveyed the stage I thought, “Only three ladies, no instruments?” I had heard similar sounds from movie soundtracks before, but never in person. The group is made up of three lifelong Gospel singers from the small town of Como, Mississippi, and they were magnificent. Their voices cut straight through the fluff and went directly to my bones. Their voices were gripping. I was mesmerized. I inched my way toward the front of the stage and got lost in their voices. I took photos and videos but nothing compared to the real thing.
When their set was over and the crowd of what was now 200 people had finished applauding, I decided to make good use of my all access pass and go backstage to tell them how awesome they were.
I walked straight up to my favorite of the three singers, Ms. Ester Mae, and I introduced myself. “Hello, my name is Catia and I work here. I just wanted to tell you how powerful and impactful your performance was. Listening to your voices is very moving. Good luck with…” I thought it was be a quick congratulations and I’d be on my way. But before I turned away she grabbed my hands in hers.
We were outside her dressing room and folks were hurriedly working getting ready for the next band, but somehow all that faded away and I felt connected. I didn’t yet know what she was going to say, but I knew that I was going to pay attention.
My small soft hands sat in her encompassing rough hands. Her hands felt like they had been productive for decades. She was tall and was of bigger build and dressed in her Sunday best. Her long corn rows were pulled back in a ponytail and she was smiling so big I could see her gold capped teeth. No one would have questioned her being backstage but she was wearing her artist badge proudly.
Once my hands were in hers and our eyes locked she said, “Thank you so much for that. You know, I’m 62. They came into my church and discovered me 4 years ago. All my life I’ve been singing in the church, for the church and just now, my dreams are coming true. Tomorrow, they are taking me on a plane to New Orleans!” She was beaming. Ms. Ester continued, “I’ve been praying my whole life to God. You just keep working hard for what you want. Don’t lose faith in yourself or in God. When you’re ready, your dreams will find their way to you. Don’t be afraid of hard work.”
I was blown away by her words of wisdom. I knew that this was not an ordinary occurrence.
Ms. Ester definitely looked like she could cook a southern meal and give a great hug. And since we weren’t near a kitchen, I asked if I could give her a hug and she agreed. It was such a mama bear hug. I could feel her love even though she didn’t know me from Adam.
Did she know Guapo and I were about to hit a rocky patch? Did she know I was going to jump into writing full time? Did she know that I was training for a marathon? Did she know I was working two jobs and was really tired? There were so many balls in the air; I had no clue how life was going to be come May. How did she know I would need to hear her words? She didn’t, but God did.
God sent her to me to say, “Keep your head down, work hard and don’t lose faith.” The words, “I’m 62 and I’m just walking into my dream,” pop into my thoughts when I get impatient.
There are signs all around and they come to us in different packages. The universe is constantly talking to us, guiding us along. However, the signs from the universe won’t always be obvious, most times, they’ll be subtle. We have to be open and aware enough to receive them. We have to have open hearts, open minds and be quiet enough within ourselves to notice the messages.
If we are constantly numbing ourselves out with food, alcohol or even activity we will have a hard time reading the signs along the way, if we see them at all. James Earl Jones is not going to show up at our doors telling us what our next move should be, neither is the Wizard of Oz.
Some days a door will open and a door will close and that’s as much change that will happen. Some days there may be a road block along the way redirecting us, and some days the universe may send us Ms. Ester. Most times the signs are so small that we may not even give them any significance, but they are there. Pay attention.
Justin Timberlake was a no show that night, but I got something much better, a hug from Ms. Ester and a message from God.
Ms. Ester, may you continue to touch people’s souls the way you touched mine.