It’s becoming quite clear to me, as these things do.
You told me it would — that one day I’d understand why you did the things you did when I was a kid.
Remember our clashes over curfews, battles about boyfriends, and disputes over driving? Back then your motivation was opaque to me — not mysterious, just whack. We seemed so wildly different: Me a gangly, new-wave, camo-clad poet. You a petite ex-hippie breadwinner with a Motown jones.
We wanted such different things. For example, I wanted to be with my boyfriend at every moment, and you wanted me to occasionally eat, bathe, sleep …
But the enlightenment you predicted has finally arrived. Having kids now myself, I often find myself walking a mile in your strappy stilettos. And I’ll be honest: My feet hurt.
Mothering ain’t for sissies. It’s hard. Yeah, yeah, rewarding. But hard. One wonders if her kids will ever truly recognize the effort she put into molding them — day by day, episode by episode — into kind, courteous, capable, curious, world-wise humans. Frankly, I’m not sure mine will.
But I want you to know that yours did.
You were right to let me wear whatever I wanted for my school pictures — especially the faded T-shirt with the iron-on Wonder Woman decal. The parents who made their kids sport ruffles and polyester suits were wrong. But then, polyester suits are always wrong. (You taught me that.)
You were right to let me walk down the street to my best friend’s house during a torrential downpour on a frigid evening, saying that if I got sick, I’d have to cope with the consequences. I bundled up in five layers to make you laugh and made a run for it. I didn’t get sick (that time). But I did feel powerful in my own choices.
When my 3rd grade teacher strongly advised you to get me involved in team sports — because I was bossy or had control issues or some other entirely truthful thing — you thanked her. Then promptly ignored her. You were wrong about that; I’m still bossy and don’t play especially well with others. But I love that you liked me just the way I was.
When I was about to dye my hair pink just before giving the valedictorian speech at my high school graduation, you said it was my choice, but that pink hair could look like a giant eff-you to the school and to the honor I was being given. I told you it wasn’t being given to me — I earned it. And that I did so with a mind that happens to dig pink hair. So I planned to go through with it and hoped you could live with that. You could. And you did. Thank you.
Unlike my husband’s parents, who said he wasn’t allowed to live with a woman unless he married her first, you told me I wasn’t allowed to marry a man unless I lived with him first. We took your advice, and it’s worked out just dandy.
You were right about our wedding, too. You said people would want to dance to a band or deejay. But we wanted a sophisticated affair with a string quartet and no chance of the Macarena rearing its unsightly head. Looking back, I do wish there had been dancing; it’s not every day you get to boogie deliriously with the people you love most. Given another chance, I’d dance the crap out of the Macarena. With Grandma. In front of everyone.
When I saw you briefly before heading off to my 25th reunion and you told me I needed more color on my face despite the heaps of money I’d spent on makeup and scads of time I’d spent applying it — damn it if you weren’t right. I added some blush, and it made all the difference.
And Mom. Guess what? You were right about Motown.