My mom celebrated a birthday on the 14th, and it got me to thinking about that moment we all have…the one when you realize that your parents are people first, and your conviction that you are their sole reason for living is truly off base.
I was 13, and I was having that “coming of age” summer with my cousins in Alabama. My sisters and I were having the time of our lives…sleeping late, watching the soaps with my aunt, riding on the back of my grandfather’s flat bed truck (My older cousin Tammie would get permission from him and we’d go to the old cemetery after dark with some apple wine she’d bought and we’d sit there for hours telling stories and talking about the differences between Alabama boys and California boys) and eating, Eating, EATING!!! Homemade mac and cheese, homemade ice cream, my uncle’s famous ribs, smothered pork chops, pound cake, fried baloney sandwiches, greens, cornbread…and that was without the snacking in between our 3 solidly square meals a day. Ever heard of be-bops? They’re Kool Aid popsicles that the neighbor made and sold for a quarter. We kept her in business. Needless to say, I couldn’t fit in the clothes I’d brought with me when it was time to return home…my 2 sisters and I had to have outfits made for us by the local seamstress!
Anyway, time was moving on, and we were fast approaching the end of our summer vacation and we were not happy about it. We’d gone to my grandparents place to pick up the truck as usual, but this time when we walked in, my parents were there! My mom had a huge smile on her face as she yelled, “Surprise!” and she waited for us to reciprocate her joy—to go running to her for hugs and kisses…we didn’t. We stood there completely smile free. She signaled the end of our summer–we already knew it was coming and didn’t need a reminder!
I saw an expression flash across her face that I’d never seen before, but then she rallied and came and claimed the hugs that we were slow to give her. We hung out at the house momentarily out of obligation, and then wanted to leave and head out to the cemetery. My aunt told us we’d have to ask permission from my folks this time, and we when we did, my mom said no. I couldn’t believe it! I asked, “Don’t you want us to have a good time?” She looked at me pointedly and replied, “No, I don’t.” I was stunned. That response shouldn’t be possible! Wasn’t she supposed to ALWAYS want me to have fun? We ended up going, but all I could do was think about that expression on my mom’s face and her tone when she told me she didn’t want us to have fun. It wasn’t until I got back home a week later that I recognized her expression as hurt and disappointment. We’d hurt her feelings in Alabama, and her response was rooted in that.
I felt so ashamed when I realized that. I also remember being surprised that I had that power, but shame was the overwhelming thing.
Of course, my mom got over it, but I never forgot it. That was the moment I realized she has a right to her own feelings, and that they’re not contingent on mine, nor should they be. I realized that she is her own person, a loving and remarkable woman who, among many other things, is my mother.
The woman part came into play a few weeks later when I witnessed the butcher hitting on her when we went to pick up our weekly order. The world had opened up with examples of how much her own person she was…or more accurately, my eyes had opened up and I was finally aware of it.
I absolutely treasure this woman. She is my friend, my confidante, my shopping buddy at Nordstrom Rack, the maker of my favorite meals on the planet. (Yes…we’re back to food.) Among many other wonderful things, she is my mother.
Happy Birthday, Doretta!!!
I adore you.