Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lessons From Mom

My mother and I have a funny relationship. We are both very territorial, so consequently, we get along better when we've got a little distance. But we're not very much alike at all. I can't credit her for my love of reading and writing, and I can count on one finger the times where I've told her about some hobby I've picked up and she hasn't been bewildered by it. When I lived in my parents' house, we fought all the time. We still do argue a lot, and most of our dialogue centers around one of us thinking that the other is daft for doing whatever she did. My mom and I don't like the same things, we wouldn't make the same choices, and we probably would be as distant as strangers passing on the street if not for the circumstances of me being born to her.

Which is why the things she did share with me, the things she did teach me (or attempt to--I still just don't get the logic behind making a bed) are all the more precious to me. My mom and I are learning, now, to be friends, and to treat each other like friends. In so doing, I'm learning to appreciate her not as The Hammer (because when I was growing up, no one feared Dad except to make his ego feel good, because it was Mom who could--and did--drop the hammer on anybody edging out of line, and it was Mom who got reeeeal creative on the punishments. The Spank was a light to medium swat on the rear end, but the Anticipation of Spank could probably still turn my guts to water. All Dad could do was shake The Finger--sorry, Dad, but the Anticipation of Spank trumps The Finger), but as a person.

My mom taught me that there's a certain kind of magick in living on the edge. Somehow, she always manages to get five bucks' worth of something out of three. She's an expert thief and grifter, robbing Peter blind to pay off Paul.

She's no hippie (it's my Dad who had the bell-bottoms you could camp out in--one leg of them eventually became a coat for my son), but she recycled long before it became "green" to do so. Some of the ziploc baggies she uses are as old as I am.

She taught me that you'll always have use for something you threw out. She taught me to quit wasting efforts in saving pennies for a rainy day when half a pound of ground beef would make a two-pound meatloaf a hell of a lot more useful than a couple copper coins.

My mom taught me how to fold fitted sheets so they wouldn't look like balled-up crap that springs out of the linen closet, and she taught me how to iron a circular hem. She taught me how to crochet, and that lap-ghans never don't come in handy.

My mother taught me that there are times when you just don't back-sass no matter what. She also taught me that there are times when you just don't keep your mouth shut, either. Sometimes you take the hit that comes with speaking up.

My mother taught me that when something traumatic happens to one of your friends or one of the neighbors, you send a card or a plant. But you also make a lunchmeat tray and take it over there because the last thing they should have to worry about is what to make for dinner. You also pick up their kids for school, practice, or just a few hours because life goes on often before they're ready to.

My mother taught me that cleaning up after dinner takes away the need to do it for tomorrow morning, but I didn't learn that lesson very well. She still tries to teach it, though, which is more important.

My mother showed me there's a very good reason for falling asleep on the couch at 8 PM, but I didn't really learn that one until my own kids came along. The lesson was there, though, just like the vestigial ability to see out of the back of my head.

My mother gets credit for teaching me a lot of things. I didn't inherit any musical ability from her (I'm not sure she has any herself), or much of my looks (although I did get her ass. Thanks Mom. :P But I favor my dad's side of the family, except for my mom's mother's nose). I may yet get the dementia that runs in her family at the end of life.

We are learning to be friends and adults with each other, and we'll keep learning that lesson, I've no doubt, because even if we don't have much in common, I'm stubborn, and in that respect, I'm just like my mom.

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