By the time my mom was 25, she had three kids in diapers…three kids in three and a half years. To keep things exciting, she also had a new house and a puppy.
You’ve loved hearing about how she gets burrs stuck in her hair, how she calls me the wrong name, how she feels about small rodents, bats, and birds. She loses things a lot, and sometimes leaves the frying pan on the stove and then gets in the car to run errands, starting a small fire. She likes to tell me how drowsy she gets behind the wheel of the car and, in case that results in her death, to bury her with her Yankees blanket.
She’s a lot of fun. Life is, er…more exciting with her around. And I love her dearly. But because it’s Mother’s Day, rather than tell you a funny story about her, I thought I’d tell how truly fantastic she was when I was a kid. And so, without further ado, here are some of her words of wisdom.
“Work it out.” My mother did not listen to our bickering like a judge, calmly listening to each side’s many complaints about our siblings. Instead, she’d say, “Work it out. I don’t care.” This taught us to do just that…or to ignore the sibling in question. Mom was also famous for saying while driving, “If you don’t knock it off, I’m gonna turn around and smack someone.” Working together…and also keeping it down while someone was trying to drive…were the lessons of the day.
“Go play.” In my memory, we were barely allowed in the house as kids. Every day, we’d play. Outside. We’d run around with the neighbor’s kids, climb trees, brush the horse, and make forts. At dinner time, Mom would stick her head out the door and bellow, “Supper!” and we’d come running. After supper, it was back outside until bedtime. This is the formula for a happy childhood, FYI.
“Make it yourself.” Mom cooked for us almost every night. My father never did. Ever. If we wanted a snack, or if it was the weekend and we were hungry for lunch, she’d say, “Make it yourself.” Why, after all, should she stop doing her thing? She had other interests and responsibilities. “I’m not your servant,” she’d also say. We did our own laundry and cleaned our own rooms. Of course, we did! Why wouldn’t we?
“It’s none of your business.” This was actually pretty cool…the secret life of adults. Being an adult was mysterious and fascinating. We didn’t live in a household where kids were treated like little bonsai adults. We were children. There was a difference. We were sent to our rooms when big conversations took place. Mom protected us from knowing too much, too soon. Her worries were not our worries, because she was a grownup, and we were her kids.
“Go kiss your father.” My dad wasn’t as hands-on as Mom; he worked long hours and valued his space. But Mom made sure we didn’t forget about him as he nursed a glass of wine in the living room. Dad always got his kiss, even if he was too deep in a book to remember to ask for it himself.
“I love you.” My mom wasn’t perfect. But she was pretty damn good. I never once doubted that she loved me. Not for a second.
I love you, too, Mommy! Happy Mother’s Day!