If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to become is your mother. I have spent a great deal of time intentionally doing things differently so that no one ever accuses me of being ‘just like her’. I know that sounds kind of crappy but I am just trying to keep things real. As much as I love her, she drives me nuts. I never wanted to emulate her. I admired her strength and her ability to ‘forge on’, no matter what the circumstances. And that’s not the only positive thing I can say about her. She kept a neat and tidy home filled with lovely furnishings. She also was a good cook and could whip up a killer pie in no time. Every birthday and Christmas, you could count on a personalized card and a check. As an artist, she completed several pretty impressive watercolor paintings of lighthouses and water scenes. If you needed her and her schedule permitted, she’d arrive at your doorstep as soon as humanly possible. She was also generous to a fault.
That’s some pretty good ‘stuff’, right? Why wouldn’t I want to emulate my mother?! Oh, boy. Where do I start? How about let’s start with having more children than you can handle. Do you remember the nursery rhyme about the old woman that lived in a shoe? Apparently, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. That’s my mom. I had no desire to try and produce a baseball team’s worth of children that weren’t adequately provided for. My basic needs were met, I never went without a meal, I always had a roof over my head, and I always had clothes to wear (even if they were often my brother’s hand-me-downs). But as far as actual nurturing and having my emotional needs met, that critical part of my childhood was sorely lacking. What did I do as a result? I quit while I was ahead and stopped after three. I was only 28 when I made this decision but I knew after I had my third child that my ‘plate was full’. Six months after giving birth to my youngest, I had a surgeon perform a tubal ligation. Adios, potential future children.
What else have I purposely done differently? This may seem a bit silly but the way and the amount I have photographed my children throughout the years was directly as a result of what my mother did or didn’t do (depending on your perspective). There aren’t many pictures of me when I was a child. And the few that my mom took were hardly worth the effort. I understand why there are so few. She already had 8 children before I crashed the party and she literally had her hands full, however, when she would make an actual attempt at taking a picture, it would either be blurry, my head was cut off, or she’d ask me to stand in front of a bunch of trees and once the picture was developed, I’d be about the size of an ant. I thought she wanted to take an actual picture of me but what she was really interested in was the landscape. When I had my kids, I wanted to ensure that they weren’t left with a handful of crappy pictures as mementos of their childhood.
My kids never have to wonder what they looked like as they developed over the years. I have photos of each of them from birth on. I didn’t miss a single birthday or holiday. There is at least one photo (or several) of each of my kids seated at the dining room table with their lips puckered, getting ready to blow out the candles on their birthday cake(s). Any opportunity I got, I was shoving my camera in their face(s), having them pose, and asking them to ‘say cheese’. When I had them stand in front of a tree, usually you saw very little of the tree once the photo was developed. I would get such close shots that you could count almost every freckle on their face(s). “Please, Mom!” they’d plead in desperation, “Enough! Our faces hurt from having to ‘fake’ smile over and over.” It got to a point where they would run for cover when I’d break out the camera or the camcorder. “Come on, kids,” I would say, trying to persuade them to cooperate, “You’re going to be glad I took these photos when you grow up and become an adult.”
My mom was also very hard on wait staff at restaurants and always complained about her food. I had to laugh the other day because she was complaining about the food at the assisted living center. “You can hardly call it ‘food’,” she said in disgust after one of the staff members dropped off her dinner in the usual Styrofoam container, “I’m a much better cook, I prefer my own cooking.” That’s the problem, my mom has always preferred her own cooking over everyone else’s. “I don’t know how people can eat out all of the time. It would get old really quick and it’s not even any good,” is one of her famous quotes. I’d always reply with, “I’d love to eat out all the time! To have someone else prepare and cook the food and do the dishes afterward would be wonderful!” I do love eating out but when the waiter or waitress places the bill on the table, it does tend to take the joy out of the experience a bit. Still, I try to be much more gracious to the folks responsible for taking my order and bringing me my food and beverage.
Why would I be more gracious? I, for one, don’t want to get an extra-special, secret ingredient added to my entrée. We all know it happens. Steak is undercooked or overcooked and you want it ‘sent back to the kitchen’? Good luck! Once the steak leaves the table, any number of things can happen. I won’t go into detail, just realize that your steak will eventually be returned to you (possibly) along with some form of DNA that isn’t yours. And that’s not the only reason I would be gracious and not give the wait staff a hard time. I’ve also worked in the restaurant trade and it sucks. It’s long hours on your feet and you deal with all kinds of people that aren’t necessarily ‘on their best behavior’. You can do everything right and if the person that is responsible for the check isn’t happy with the meal, you’re often the one that pays the price. How do you pay the price? You pay the price by getting either a paltry tip or no tip whatsoever and if your only income is from tips, it can really impact your livelihood.
“When women get older, they should wear their hair short,” is another one of my mom’s famous sayings. During my lifetime, my mother has always had short hair. I don’t know her any other way. I saw some pictures of her in high school and it was medium length, but once she left home, she took the scissors to it. Because she wears her hair that way, she thinks all women should. I disagree. I tried cutting my hair short a couple of times and I looked rather butch, especially during the early 90s when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were all the rage. I’d wear a flannel shirt and pair it with denim jeans and hiking shoes, it was not flattering at all. I look better with longer hair. A lot of women look better with longer hair. Old, young, it doesn’t matter. I refuse to cut my hair short again. The last time I did was when I stopped dyeing my hair. I had a large stripe running down the center of my head and it looked silly so I cut almost all of my hair off. Terrible idea. When I see the pictures, I am mortified.
Something else my mother did that I refuse to do? Talk over people and/or not listen at all. Ack! It makes me crazy! My mom has perfected the art of ‘looking like you’re paying attention when you’re not even listening’. She was able to fool most people because she was so good at nodding and agreeing and giving the impression that she was 100% engaged but my siblings and I know better. Too many times I’ve told her something (not once but multiple times) and she outright denies I ever said it. And most of the time, before I even finish a thought, she’ll interrupt with, “Unh-huh, unh-huh, oh yes!” When people talk to me, it is so important that I am ‘all in’. I know how it feels when someone feigns interest and doesn’t really listen. I don’t want to be ‘that person’. You want to talk to me? You’re getting my full attention whether you like it or not. Just give me a second to shut off the radio because it’s distracting; if I have to listen to ‘Diamonds’ one more time, I am going to throw the radio out the window.
Here’s the thing. As you can clearly tell, I am desperately trying not to emulate my mother. Try as I might, I have not been entirely successful. Every now and then, my husband or my kids will make the following, extremely jarring comment, “You sound just like your mother!” Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!! Yes!! Even despite my efforts, I have been unable to prevent ‘the inevitable’. It’s happening, my friends. Sometimes my mind will start to wander when someone is speaking to me. Most of the time I’m thinking about what I’m going to discuss on my blog. “How can I allow this to happen?” I’ll say to myself, “I promised I would always stay fully engaged.” I also have a tendency to repeat the same stories I’ve shared numerous times. My husband never skips a beat, “You’ve mentioned that before,” he’ll say with a look of amusement on his face. “Don’t say it!” I’ll threaten him, “Don’t even tell me I sound like my mother!”
I wish you could have heard his laugh and seen his face when I complained that the restaurant got my order wrong last week. He laughed so hard that he actually cried. Oh, Lord! It’s happening, I am becoming my mother. When, why, how is this even possible? It’s so unfair!! Come on, if destiny has determined that I am to become my mother, could I at least get a better handle on the pie-making? My pies always turn out like crap. I have yet to master that skill. Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.