I’m neither a mother nor a grown-up. The sum of my experience is as a kid; I’ve been one my entire life. Somewhere around the age of 10, I took a look around and decided to halt the maturing process right there. Irresponsible and heedless suited me better. Therefore, I know a little about the need for forgiveness.
In the early years, my mother was incredibly innocent and hopeful; she beamed at the progress of her kids — first steps, first words, et al — and just assumed those successes would continue forever. She dressed us in petticoats and little white gloves, sent us to ballet and swimming, enrolled us in Girl Scouts and cotillion. Like every parent, she had lofty, ambitious plans.
Like every kid, I had other ideas, funner ideas. And the two were nothing close to compatible. An early example of our differing objectives stands out in my memory:
One fine spring afternoon, I discovered a pond near our house that was teeming with wildlife. Frogs and fish, bugs, algae and floating scum. I didn’t try to resist, I just waded straight in to catch some real, live specimens for a rip-roaring Show and Tell presentation. My classmates would be goggle-eyed at the exotic creatures — the tadpoles and such — and spellbound by the plucky narrative I’d surely deliver. (Maybe toss in a few sea monsters for good measure.)
I splashed and dove in the fusty water of that dank pond all afternoon. By the time I left, I was coated in wet slime and filth from head to toe and as proud as it’s possible for a human to be. I swaggered across the backyard, grinning from ear to ear, and was met at the back door by a woman who looked very like my mother, but didn’t sound familiar. This woman sounded squeaky and high-pitched. Not a scream, per se, but in that neighborhood.
I watched her face turn a purply red as her hand flew to cover her nose, caught the word ’reek,’ something about a ‘swamp,’ and I think ‘crazy’ was mentioned, then she grabbed the hose and turned it on me. Full blast. And washed away all her bright, shiny hopes for a ladylike daughter. I think it was probably her Waterloo, but you know what?
She stuck with me for the rest of her life. Shell-shocked and wary, but my greatest champion nevertheless. Oh, she threatened to move regularly and without a forwarding address, she also turned off the lights and hid when I stopped by, and disguised her voice when I called, claiming not to speak ‘zee inglitch’. She didn’t fool me for a second.
My old mom was, and still is, the best friend I’ll ever know.
Happy Mother’s Day, all!
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