I didn’t realize it at the time but as I grew up I was taking notes on my mom. Who was she, how was she like or unlike other mothers? Consciously or unconsciously I observed her.
Fairly early on I knew I had a pretty mom. But my mother wasn’t pretty in the way Van Morrison says, “girls dressed up for each other”. She wasn’t stuck on having the "it" purse or following the latest trend. And she wasn't just pretty, she was sexy. A photo of her in her white short shorts, t-shirt and white round sunglasses leaning against her white sports car comes to mind. And as pretty as my mother was, she always said how beautiful I was (even at so many stages when I didn’t feel it or look it).
My mother was not the mom who knew when I had a test was or what my homework was. When I was in college I went on Semester at Sea. I was dating someone at the time and sat in his room as he packed for one of our ports. He reached into a drawer and removed a Ziploc bag. I asked about the bag labeled “China” and he said his mother made him parcels of socks and underwear for each port. Wow. I’m fairly certain my mother didn’t know if I packed socks and underwear or anything that did or didn’t go into my suitcase. In fact when I was seven I went off to sleep away camp. The counselors went around handing out keys for our trunks. Turns out my mom hadn’t sent the keys (fortunately it opened with one of the other keys). In her defense, my mom did have a letter waiting for me…priorities.
My friends often remark that our family goes on great trips. To me, it’s just what you do with children, almost part of their education. My birthday is in August and my fourth birthday was spent in Spain, my fifth in England and sixth in Italy. Our apartment would be rented and off we went. And it wasn’t always smooth sailing. My mom enrolled me in camp in Spain where there was no English spoken. In England my mother looked the wrong way at an intersection and we were in a car accident…with a double decker bus. We found out I was allergic to bee stings in Rome when I was stung landing me in the hospital. And cruel as it may sound, recently when my son was terrified on a not so safe boat ride in Jamaica, I laughed to myself- it’s sort of why you go.
My opinion of many of these things has changed. I didn’t like being told I looked “just like my mom” growing up. And part of me wondered what it would be like to have the mother who was always at school or packed peanut butter and jelly. My mother would bring me to the Plaza while she got her hair done and send me with money to Teuschers chocolates in the the lobby to buy champagne truffles.
Last week we were in Italy. My mother turned 75. I refuse to say, “she’s still beautiful” because she’s beautiful and almost ageless. When Facebook friends remarked that we looked alike, I felt proud.
As a parent now myself, I know it’s almost harder not to hover. Now my mother was working and I don’t think her parenting style was a conscious choice. I don’t know if I would allow my 12 year old (daughter!) to take the subway up to the Bronx or all the freedom my mother gave me. When I asked her about this recently she said, “you just did what you needed to do, I didn’t have to stand over you.”
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, to you and yours. And Mom I promise, despite my tendencies, to never make underwear packets for the boys.
What kind of mother do or did you have? Will you be with her today? Isn't it funny how things we ran away from are cherished now?