I have this mom…who is this huge force of nature. A conundrum really: tiny but strong, sickly yet robust, she’s the one you want in your corner when you’re sick, but she’s the often the one who’s ailing. My Mom, Suzanne isn’t just one thing. She can’t be summed up on a wooden plaque or frame and Hallmark has yet to scratch the surface. She can make me laugh or scream depending on the day. While being extremely opinionated and very good at imposing her will, she is also the most charitable and loving person I’ve ever met. She confounds me. I love her with all my heart and yet she can push my buttons like no one else in the world. In one breath, she can tell me how pretty she thinks I am while the next is spent reminding me how dried up my hair and skin look. Let me try and describe this complex mother of mine.
I am a child of a very tiny woman. With hands the size of a china doll and the stature of a small pre-teen I can actually tuck her little body under my arm; like a giant Crane with wing outstretched as if protecting a baby from the elements. Of course my Mom is oblivious to her Lilliputian size. She believes herself to be as tall as me and twice as tough. While my six foot stature surely casts a shadow on her tiny bones she actually is very strong. Don’t believe me? Try paying for lunch and then watch in horror as your once able bodied limb crumples to dust as her sweet baby doll hand clamps down on yours with a startling ferocity. If you can hear over the sound of your delicate phalanges being ground into oblivion you might hear her whisper, “I’ve got this.” Why she takes such umbrage with my attempts to pay for a meal is one of life’s great mysteries, like why Pluto is no longer a planet…
Mom is a real no nonsense type of lady. She doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, never had a manicure, never has had her hair professionally colored or highlighted, and never had a spa day. “Wasteful”, I can hear her say with a shake of her head, and yet her rules don’t seem to apply to her daughter. She is forever reminding me about keeping up my nails, my skin, and my hair. I know watching your child grow old must be traumatic, but the constant scrutiny wears this old daughter out.
I see my parents twice a year and the reunion usually goes something like this, “Mom, it’s so good to see you, how was the drive.” We then share a prolonged hug with excessive back patting, (on her part).
“Hmm, don’t get me started.” She sighs with an eye roll, and then her little baby hand touches my face and her eyes inspect me like a bug under a microscope. “What cream are using on your face? I don’t think it’s working.” She then strokes my hair, “So dry, have you tried Pantene.” And then the one, two knock out, punch, “You need to pay attention to your posture I think you are getting a hump.” At which point she whips me around and begins pounding on my “hump”. “Nothing uglier than a tall girl with poor posture”, she says raising her voice to be heard over the back pounding. Out of the corner of my eye I see Dad give me a wink and pour himself three fingers of Elijah Craig.
My Mom, Suzanne is a cancer survivor and when I was in High School she had the horrible surgeries, the wretched chemotherapy, and the unenviable job of raising me. Take your pick as to which one was the worse hand to be dealt. She hid her sickness from me. Of course I knew she was sick, but when she wasn’t in the hospital she put up a very brave face and to my knowledge unless hospitalized she never missed one of my volleyball games. Through all of her struggles, she still managed to make me feel important and find joy in my accomplishments. Her poor little body has been traumatized and yet she arises from the ashes every time like the old wily phoenix. Not much has changed all these years later. She still has the terrible habit of minimizing or denying her medical difficulties and despite the onslaught of “helpful hints and reminders” like reminding to be put on lipstick one hundred times a day, I know she is the one I still want in my corner. My Mom Suzanne, who comes to work with me every day when she is here on vacation and talks to every person who walks in the shop as if they are old friends is still someone I’m constantly learning from (but please never tell her that…)
My Mom has never met a stranger and is constantly stopping to chat on the street to compliment folks on their hair or sweater or dog… She often does this thing that used to make me crazy. My Mom will walk up to a stranger and tuck their tag back into their collar. The victim usually jumps a little but then upon seeing my Mom’s smiling face they relax and smile too. Now to my ever loving shame, I find myself doing the same thing. I hear Mom in my head asking, “Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if your tag was sticking out?” I’ve given this question a lot of thought and frankly; I don’t think I care. So why might I ask, am I now compelled to do the tag tucking? Genetics is the only answer I can come up with these days.
Here’s a perfect example of my Mom’s ability to gab with a total stranger. Several months ago a lovely woman came in to my shop and explained she had never been in, but heard great things about Mockingbird. We got to chatting, because let’s face it—I am my Mother’s daughter and she described meeting a lovely lady in Doug’s Auto Body. The customer explained that the lady went on and on about how great Mockingbird was and what an interesting combination of inventory I stocked. After a while the customer (Laura is her name, by now we’re old friends) asked, “Could the lady at Doug’s have been your Mom?”
I asked her, “Was she tiny with curly hair and compliment you on either your eyes or sweater? Did she by chance tuck your tag in to your collar?”
“Why yes, I do believe she complimented my eyes.”
“Of course she did, they are beautiful, so clear and bright.” Aw jeeze what’s happening to me? I think I’m turning into my mother!” I exclaimed.
With a slight pause Laura asked, “Would that be the worst thing in the world? She seemed lovely with such positive energy. I imagine she makes everyone around her feel good and she clearly is so proud of you.”
Why this comment stopped me cold, my Mother who is tough as nails and ready to give a person the shirt off her back. My Mother who always tries to leave people with a compliment or a smile was the type of person I’ve been trying to be without knowing it my entire life. So yes, I might have a sharp tongue and I even might tell you when there is lettuce between your teeth, but hopefully I am also the person you can call if you need support, a laugh, or a hot chocolate chip cookie. I am my Mother’s daughter and I can’t think of a greater compliment that that…can you?