When I was growing up, the thought that I might turn into my mother scared the hell out of me. It didn’t seem likely, though. Where she’s vague and unorganized, I am precise and scheduled. She’s conservative, I’m decidedly more liberal. She never attended an event without taking an impeccably wrapped hostess gift. I am lucky to remember to deliver a Bionicle to the birthday boy two weeks after the party.
I’ve done a lot of things differently than my mother would have. My mom tried hard to keep her feelings to herself, but often the decisions I made were so completely opposite from what she would have done that she could not help expressing her opinions.
I refused to join the Junior League even though she swore I’d become a social pariah if I passed up such a coveted invitation (she was only partially right).
I insisted on black lace bridesmaid dresses at my wedding when pastel taffeta was the norm. She deemed it morbid, not stylish, but accepted it when I let her plan every other aspect of the wedding.
I kept my maiden name until my tenth wedding anniversary, confusing a large portion of the Kingdom, who simply had never heard of this. Mom disapproved– she thought this went against the whole point of marriage.
I dyed my hair a spectrum of colors, from mahogany to copper to strawberry blonde, despite the fact that my mom frequently dropped subtle hints like, “I think your hair would look wonderful if you colored it a nice light blonde, but not platinum like that trashy Madonna or that other singer you like.”
I continued to practice law after having children. She worried that the boys would be irreparably damaged, but eventually she came around and saw that my way could work, too.
I got a tattoo when I was much closer to forty than thirty. She was not iffy on this one. She thought it was crazy and tacky.
Despite our differences, in some ways we were similar.
A couple of weeks ago, I went in Drew’s bedroom to get him up.
“Wake up, sweet potato!” I said enthusiastically, giving him a big hug.
He squirmed in my arms. “Why do you call me a sweet potato?” he asked. “I’m a boy, not a potato.”
“Because that’s what my mother called me,” I said. “Mothers call their children “sweet potato” to show that they love them. Or at least I do.”
“Lizzie called you that?” Drew asked.
“She did when I was little. All the time,” I said, remembering.
“Weird,” Drew said, and he ran into the kitchen to get breakfast.
Later that day I thought about other things we do in our house. Almost unconsciously, I do things certain ways because that’s how my mother did them. For example, she’d give my sisters and me a penny for each pine cone we gathered, to get them out of the yard. In the fall, we have hickory nuts covering our driveway like marbles, and I pay my boys a penny for each one they pick up.
I believe in teaching self-sufficiency in the Glamore house, and I realize now that my mom also thought that showing us how to do things for ourselves was important. I was jealous when I went over to a friend’s house in the second grade, and her mom made lunch for us. She had cut the crusts off grilled cheese sandwiches and then cut each half into triangles.
When I told my mom about the fancy lunch I’d had, she was unimpressed.
“I’ll show you how to do that,” she said, and she did, and that was the end of it. If I wanted crustless bread, I could make it that way myself.
So a couple of years ago, when Porter asked me to cut the crusts off his peanut butter sandwich, it never occurred to me to simply do it. Instead I handed him a knife and showed him how to do it, just like my mom had taught me. Then I demonstrated how he could turn the sandwich one way to cut it into triangles, or he could turn it another way and cut it into squares. It was his choice. He was thrilled.
We’ve also got a nickel jar in the kitchen like the one from my childhood, but due to inflation, now it costs a quarter if you forget to make up your bed, say “yes ma’am” or turn off the lights in your room. At Christmas and birthdays, presents are barely unwrapped before the stationery for thank you notes is out, and the boys are at the kitchen table, laboriously writing such gems as:
Der Lizzie thenk you fer the
remotecontrolcar I luv it
luv Drew War eegl!
I’ve also inherited my mom’s love of adventuresome cooking. I can’t pass a jar of capers without thinking of her. She taught my sisters and me the joys of eating complicated artichokes, steamed crab legs dipped in butter, and bulgogi, a Korean beef dish that she learned to make while my dad was in the Army. I’ve introduced these dishes to my boys, who (surprisingly) love them as much as we did.
Even if you try not to turn into your mom, no matter how different you are or how much you rebel, there are parts of your mother that stick with you like dog hair.
And now, I embrace that fact, because I can no longer embrace her. My mom died unexpectedly last week. She was sixty-four. I am still in shock, of course, and can hardly believe I am writing these words. Part of me thinks she might walk in my door any minute, with a red Solo cup of flowers from her garden.
This post can’t begin to sum up my mother. I haven’t mentioned her love of adventure (riding camels!) or her stomach curdling meatloaf. I’m sure I’ll write more about her in the future.
For now, it helps to know that Finn, Porter and Drew are reaping some of the priceless gifts she gave me.