Happy Mother's Day to Mothers Everywhere!
By Sharon Allen
May 09, 2005
It is a frightening moment. One day you are the rebellious daughter and the next you are the worried mom, staying up all night vacuuming, dusting, wiping, washing, drying, loading, unloading, shopping, cooking, driving, flushing, ironing, sweeping, picking up, changing sheets, changing diapers, bathing, helping with homework, paying bills, budgeting, clipping coupons, folding clothes, putting to bed, brushing, chasing, buckling, feeding, pushing trucks, cuddling dolls, coloring, crafting, jumping jacks, and waiting for your child to come home, not wanting to go to sleep until you know every member of your little family is safely home and in bed.
For me, the realization came suddenly. It was about fourteen years ago. My daughter was eleven and my son nine. As they were playing together inside on a rainy day, a fight broke out between them and I found myself becoming a WWW referee, pulling the two kicking, screaming tornados apart, yelling, "If you two don't straighten up, I'm going to knock both of you into next week!"
I was appalled when I realized that I had just screamed out one of my mother's favorite scoldings. It was a life-changing moment. I can even remember lying in bed later that night, recalling all my mother's old clichés and trying to remember how many adages I had regurgitated to my kids already.
The one I seemed to repeat most often was to my tree-climbing daughter. Every time I'd turn my head, she'd be scrambling up bark and I would find myself yelling, "Get out of that tree! If you fall down and kill yourself, don't come crying to me!" Like that makes any sense!
Then there was my food-picking son. To him I would warn, "If you don't eat your vegetables, you won't grow up to be big and strong, like Popeye" or "Eat the crust on your bread, or you won't grow hair on your chest." Well, at least he was male. My mom said to me despite the fact that I was a girl and probably shouldn't have been encouraged to emulate a sailor or try to grow chest hair.
I also recall that both my son and daughter seemed to be going through a silly-putty-face-phase at that time. I was constantly warning both of them to "Stop crossing your eyes or your face will stick like that." Never mind that I used to cross my eyes and stick out my tongue at my own brother soooo many times as a kid, and my face never stuck that way . . . at least, I don't think it did.
Of course, there were many others I remembered shouting, touting and tooting at them as well. So many, in fact, that I doubt I could list at one sitting. That night, I also recall swearing an oath that I would never again quote one of my mother's maxims.
But, it was an oath I couldn't keep. In no time at all, I was back to mouthing hand-me--down motherhood mottos in response to various outbreaks of naughtiness from my offspring. And it only got worse as I got older. Not only did my retorts grow to include "Because I said so, that's why!" but I also found myself giving them my mother's "always wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident" speech.
I even noticed one day that I had begun to look like her. I was walking past a mirror one day and for a moment I thought she was standing there instead of me. Now, don't get me wrong - that's not really a bad thing. I mean, my mother was and is a very attractive woman. She has big hazel eyes, a perfect complexion, coal black hair perfectly "done-up" by the local beauty parlor at all times, never went anywhere without lipstick and unlike me with my yo-yo dieting, always had a fabulous figure. She always looked a bit mystical and magical. I remember I especially loved it when she wore a gorgeous green chiffon dress my father had bought for her as an anniversary gift one year. She seemed even more urethral whenever she wore it; sort of a mix of a mermaid and a tree nymph. Even now, in her seventies, she looks more like she's in her middle fifties. I only hope I will age as well.
She knew everything back then too. Things like what thunder was (angels bowling) and how to tie shoes (make two bunny ears, the bunny runs around the tree and jumps in the hole, etc.). Come to think of it, everything I ever needed to know about life and living life on life's terms, I learned from Mom.
Throughout the years, after I had encountered difficult or unusual situations, I would recall her words and find that my mother had been and always would be, right about everything. And not just about silly things, but about every single thing. It was uncanny. It was scary. And it was maddening to realize I could have avoided years of mistakes, messy breakups, and ruined friendships if only I had consulted my mother each and every time I made a decision. It was irritating to look back on my seemingly perpetual humiliations and bad fashion choices, knowing that one word from my Mom could have prevented them.
But, we live and learn, especially after becoming mothers ourselvesfor example, I learned that my mother suffered excruciating pain in order to bring me into this world on the day my first child was born and I experienced exactly what it feels like to have something the size of a watermelon try to go through something the size of a grape. From my son's practice of taking everything he touched apart into little tiny pieces, I learned mathematics and mechanics; including how to put everything from an etch-a-sketch to a Pentium III computer back together again. Motherhood also allowed me to gain the ability to multi-task at more than five things at once - like how to listen to a girlfriend on the phone while changing a diaper, wiping a kid's nose, making a grocery list and dying my hair, all at the same time. Even better, because my daughter began studying how to become an international spy at age three, I learned how to hide Christmas presents so even Russian enemy intelligence agents couldn't locate them.
And as my kids grew, I did too. I learned how to grow eyes in the back of my head so as to know what they were up to, even before they did anything. I developed stealth-mode abilities that helped me tell if they were telling fibs. I learned how to coax confessions from a subject with a secret biological glare guaranteed to render them helpless and gush forth confessions. I even grew the ability to transcend space and time. For example, to this day, I know when one of my children is lonely or sad or ill or just needs a hug and I can tell if they are living on two-day-old pizza and cheetos or have a craving for warm chocolate chip cookies. And finally, and most mystifying of all, I found I acquired the scary phenomenon of always having an endless supply of tissues in my pocket, especially when a child had a dirty face and needed a Kleenex spit-bath to clean it.
Of course, my Mom and I still have differences and there are still things I haven't yet learned from her. Some of which, I hope I never do. Like, when I'm with her for a long period of time, she drives me nuts fairly quickly. Sometimes she doesn't always understand me or like what I've chosen for myself. Occasionally, she is quite judgmental and makes embarrassing remarks about people about their appearances or lifestyles. There are days when she natters and bickers incessantly about stupid things.
But I hope I will learn how to emulate the way she's there for neighbors and friends. If someone falls ill, she's always there at the hospital to help pull them through. Though she's in her seventies now, she's still very active. She works at a coffee café and part-time at a discount retail chain. She often takes long walks. She goes to movies and theatre events and air shows. She makes Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the family. She's made endless trips to hospitals and homes with sad or ill or lonely or frightened people, including myself. I would hate to hazard a guess as to how many thousands of yards of fabric she's turned into clothes and curtains and gifts for family and friends, how many pot roasts and roasted chickens and red velvet cakes she's served!
She has had six children, buried one child and adopted a son. She has oodles and oodles of grandchildren and even a few great-grandchildren. Best of all, she has always loved all of us and encouraged us, despite her puzzlement at who we actually were. She made a lot of mistakes at parenting, but then we all do and because I'm far from perfect myself, I understand now why she did some of the things she did. There are some real doozies in my psyche that were the result of damage caused by her actions, but I don't blame her it. In the balance of things, the gifts she bequeathed to me by example far outweigh any "evil" she perpetrated on me. I only hope I can continue to learn from her example and develop within me more of her abilities, like her zest for life and the ability to adapt to change.
Of course, I doubt I will ever be able to adjust to things as easily as she does. I tend to kick and scream more before giving in and adapting to circumstances. For instance, a few years ago, mom discovered a lump in her breast. A week later, she went to the doctor and a week after that, she had a biopsy. The next week, we got the news it was a very fast-growing and terminal type of cancer and the next week, she was admitted to the hospital for surgery.
A dark cloud descended on the family as Mom calmly submitted to the removal of her breast, a procedure that changed her noticeably. Her energy and optimism seemed to have suddenly weakened. She slowed down and lost some of the intensity and passion she had for life. When she started chemotherapy soon afterwards, my brothers, my sister and I took turns taking her to the treatment centre.
Alone, without a partner to share her fears, Mom spent most of her time reading and watching old movies. After a while, she returned to work despite the side effects of the chemo and the ever-present exhaustion that plagued her. Slowly, she improved and gained back her appetite for food. But, all along, she never lost her appetite for life. When anyone would complement her on her zest for living even when battling cancer, she would confide, "Yes, dear, but I want to live."
Today, three years since my mother's surgery, my mother is happy and healthy. In fact, she has started dating again and often I am often at a loss to keep up with her social calendar. In fact, there have been times when I couldn't reach her by telephone at 10 pm.
It happened again last night when I tried to call to wish her an early "Happy Mother's Day." I rang at 10 pm and then at 10:15 and then at 10:30. I finally called my sister to find out where mom was.
"Oh, she's out on a date," my sister informed me.
"When will she be back?" I asked, concerned. "It's getting late."
"I don't know. You know Mom."
I murmured some inane remark and hung up the telephone, determined not to worry. So, instead of worrying, I stayed up all night vacuuming, dusting, wiping, washing, drying, loading, unloading, shopping, cooking, driving, flushing, ironing, sweeping, picking up, changing sheets, changing diapers, bathing, helping with homework, paying bills, budgeting, clipping coupons, folding clothes, putting to bed, brushing, chasing, buckling, feeding, pushing trucks, cuddling dolls, coloring, crafts, jumping jacks, and waiting for her to come home, not wanting to go to sleep until the mother of our little family was safely home and in bed.
Happy Mother's Day Mom! (Wherever you were!)
Contact Sharon at sharon(AT)sitnews.us
Sharon Lint-Allen ©2005