In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a post I wrote last year in honor of my mom.
You’ve probably gleaned from previous posts that I have a good relationship with my mother. The truth of it is that I have a great relationship with her: I value her opinion like no one else’s; I trust her moral compass; I never want to disappoint her; I want to someday have a relationship with Baby Sister like the one my mom and I have now.
And I’m not sure that I ever realized how much I appreciated her until I became a mom myself.
In some ways, I’ve repeated elements of my mother’s journey: moving from the state of my birth to the state of hers, having three children. And I learned how to be a mother from her. From the little things she did. From the big things I learned from those little things.
Like delayed gratfication.
When I was in junior high, I really wanted a Benetton sweatshirt – in the way I really wanted Eastland shoes, Love’s Baby Soft perfume, and an anorak from L.L. Bean. My mom didn’t see the need in a $50 sweatshirt, apparently, and resisted my requests. But, on a family trip to Utah, she compromised and bought me one that was marked down at the Benetton store in Salt Lake City (marked down, perhaps, because it had “Utah” printed on it in an odd turquoise cursive font under the ubiquitous Benetton logo). And she didn’t make fun of me – at least not that I remember – when I asked the salesgirl for a specific kind of shopping bag for my loot, one with a drawstring that I could wear messenger bag style, like the other girls in my class did.
It wasn’t the exact sweatshirt I wanted, but I treasured it anyway. Maybe because I had to wait to get it. Maybe because that hokey “Utah” bridged my tween-age insecurities and desire to fit in and the understanding and generosity of my mom on that trip.
My mother also spoiled me rotten, but in the simplest ways.
When my brothers and I were little, she always listened to the “oldies station” (“Big D 103!”) so we grew up singing the greatest hits of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s – even though, it occurs to me now, the 80s weren’t, technically, “oldies” in the 80s – while sitting in the back seat of our dark green Chevy Citation hatchback, the backs of our thighs sticking to the vinyl seats. If a song that one of us really liked was still on when we had reached our destination, my mom would keep the car running until it had finished. That’s just the kind of mom she was.
One day I was riding in the car with my Aunt Kathy (she wasn’t really my aunt, but she was one of those mom’s-best-friends-who-feel-like-family-kind-of-aunts) and her daughter. We were meeting my mom at the bowling alley where she was in a Tuesday league, a place that smelled of smoke and sweat and a type of cheese one only finds on Doritos. When Aunt Kathy pulled into the parking lot, a song I loved - Bertie Higgins‘s “Key Largo” – came on the radio:
We had it all
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our old late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo
Here’s lookin’ at you kid
Missing all the things we did
We can find it once again, I know
Just like they did in Key Largo
“I love this song!” I called out just as Aunt Kathy pulled into a parking space. Giving me a smile of appreciation – and no doubt acknowledging my superior taste in music – she proceeded to kill the ignition and “Key Largo” right along with it. I was shocked, somehow hurt, when she turned off the car.
That wasn’t what moms do when a kid likes a song, I thought.
Years later, I’ve long forgiven Aunt Kathy, but still thank my mom for teaching me the beauty of spoiling my kids in the simplest ways: an extra hug, an extra chapter of The Hobbit, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” on repeat in the minivan.
Happy Mother’s Day to you.