As Mother’s Day quickly draws near, the same fabric that my mom and I are woven from becomes evident to me; it’s always there, of course, but I start reminiscing and wishing I could find the perfect Mother’s Day gift that will make her cry for days (in a good way). Instead, I resort to her favorite: an Amazon gift card. She loves those. I keep thinking she’ll find some magical coffee maker that she’d never “buy” for herself or maybe some really nice patio chair, but I know my mom – and I’m sure she’s loading up on her favorite books that she’s been patiently waiting for release by those authors she loves.
We are so much alike and while I think it’s a beautiful thing, I’m sure Mom probably questioned her decision to even have children when we were kids – most moms do at some point. After all, I’m the one, who after seeing snow for the very first time, run out onto the porch and declared them “FEATHERS!” and then promptly turned around and let myself fall off the porch onto my back before she could even get to me. I was fifteen…kidding….I was probably three or four – and I can remember screaming and crying for what seems like hours! And too, I was the one who begged her to “send her back” when I realized this little sister was going to be a proper pain in the butt for many years. But over the years, and as I grew, I realized how much alike we always were – even when she tells stories of her own childhood. When I look at photos of her and realize that she, long before she became a mom and grandma, was an adorable little girl who was probably a little shy and was most certainly loved – I know this because of her capacity to give love.
There were only a few rules for my sister and me. First – and most importantly – we were never, ever allowed to scare her. Prank phone calls to her that one of us had caught the kitchen on fire was grounds for…well, grounding. Actually, that probably made her mad because I actually did almost burn the kitchen down when I was 12. But in my defense, I was cleaning the kitchen before she got back from the grocery store and had put an iron skillet on the stove to dry it. Busting curfew scared her – and then busting curfew and not calling to let her know we were OK not only scared her, but scared us too when we got home. The next rule was nothing mattered except our education. Period. She’d say, “Wanna get married? Fine – have at it, girl…but you better make damn sure you have an education first.” Then she’d say, “Wanna stay single and travel the world? Have at it…but you better make damn sure you have an education first.” For Mom, it’s all about that sense of independence and choices and freedom and living by our own rules. She wanted for us whatever it was we wanted for ourselves – as long as it was legal. Seems like I recall her saying once or twice, too, that she’d visit us at college or in our own homes, but she’d never visit us in jail so we’d better make sure we avoided that avenue (and we did…though I still have evidence on my little sister).
Mom is always there. She’s there when I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing and she’s there to tell me how much she loves whatever my latest writing project is. She drove one hundred miles to get a dead mouse out of my laundry room and she drove it again when I called her and told her I’d had enough and was ready to come home and what in God’s name was I going to do with all the “stuff” I’d collected over the years and didn’t want to have to move? Two seconds, and she had a massive yard sale planned and that Friday night, she was there, helping me mark all that stuff so I wouldn’t have to pack so much. She told me I was too sentimental and was holding on to “things” and then she got distracted with me as I told some silly story about how I came to own whatever it was I didn’t want to let go of.
She’s always there when I least expect it, too. The best days from my childhood were those when I was called to the office out of class only to see my mom standing there. She’d check us out a little early sometimes for no reason – “just because”, she always said. I’ll never forget one of her 8 track tapes. It had a pink label on it and some of the 60s songs on it were “Walk Like a Man” and “If You Want to Be Happy”. I equate the music from that 8 track tape to those days.
Mom still teaches me the difference in stubborn and determined or polite and condescending. She told me I was beautiful and she told me to “carry your little ass right back in there and remove about two pounds of that makeup.” She told me to bite my tongue and she told me to speak my mind. She told me to compromise and she told me to stand my ground. She told me to pick up the pieces and move forward. “You gotta do something, even if it’s wrong, you gotta do something cause this here you’re doing? It ain’t working”.
We are one blessed family, that’s for sure and it’s all because of my mother. She epitomizes “matriarch” (but just don’t call her “Mother Burroughs” – totally brings out this weird shade of green in her pretty eyes).
And now, you have met Mom…
In honor of those days when the best days were the ones that included her standing in the school office, ready to bring us home for the day, here’s one of those songs that takes me back. The only thing missing is the scent of Joy dishwashing liquid and a little sister making the lyrics up as she goes (including changing the word “ugly” to “ollie”) –