The world needs more Momo’s. Momo melts your heart when she calls you ‘mija’ (my daughter) because you feel like you are one of her beloved children…or grandchildren…or great grandchildren!
Elia ‘Momo’ Flores hails from Corpus Christi, but has called Austin home since 1958. The YMCA of Austin was only four years old and Austin wasn’t even remotely ‘weird’ yet since Eeyore’s birthday party didn’t start until 1963 and The Armadillo World Headquarters didn’t open until 1970. Austin’s population was about 150,000 and you could actually see the capitol building from Momo’s back porch without having to stand in the middle of South Congress Avenue and peer around the condos and office buildings.
Momo and her husband Juan decided to move to Austin to make a better life for themselves and their children Juan was accepted to university so he and Momo, “Loaded up the quilts and blankets in the little Ford, and moved to Austin.”
Love, faith, and a steely determination are what it took for Momo’s family to find stability and thrive. After a year of “throwing away her money” renting a small apartment, Momo found a tiny gem of a home on El Paso St. and said to her husband, “that’s for me”. After convincing the owner to sell, they purchased the 2-bedroom home, for $6,000, in 1958. Momo and her husband struggled to pay the $70 monthly mortgage, and the $5 monthly tuition for her two young sons to go to private school on their combined wages of $36 per week. With grit and a lot of creative saving, Momo and her husband paid off their home in 10 years; the home they still live in today.
Challenges arise for everyone. For Momo it was severe deterioration of the discs in her spine. Momo said, “The doctors never told me to exercise, never told me to go to the pool. They just gave me shots and pills. My future, I was told, was a wheelchair.” Debilitating pain kept Momo nearly bedridden for more than a year. Finally, her eldest son said “Mom, go to the pool, try the pool, go to the Y.” Momo thought at the time, “if the doctors can’t do anything, what could the Y possibly do? What was the water going to do for me? But it got so bad that one day I couldn’t stand it any longer and said to my husband, ‘Take me to the Y’”!
The day she walked through the doors of the TownLake Y, Momo had no idea a mere two weeks later her life would profoundly change and she would walk again, pain-free. “So I kept coming. Oh mija, it was wonderful. Not just the fact that the pool made me feel better, but simply being here, was wonderful” said Momo. “I love everyone, and, they love me. Now, whenever I’m a little sore, I swim. Now I’m jumping and swimming like a frog!”
‘Hot Tub Counselor;’ is not an official YMCA job title but Momo has made it her own. Her friend Linda will tell her, tongue in cheek, “Momo, there are a lot of people in the hot tub, you better go, someone probably needs help.” She says, “I’ve met so many friends in the hot tub. I’m a counselor in the hot tub!” Her counsel for friends and strangers is that you make out of your life what choose. You want it, you do it…but you have to move.