Maybe it’s because I have a summer cold that would bring Attila the Hun and his army of elephants to their knees in a single, simultaneous act of surrender, but I’m feeling a bit like chopped liver. Sometimes when you are a mother, you feel a little bit like chopped liver.
I think I owe my mother an apology too.
I am also suddenly in awe, okay in more awe, of my mother, because she managed her chopped liver status with queenly aplomb and skill.
I can’t honestly comment on my behavior as a four- or five-year-old, but I can remember some of my behavior as a preteen, teen, college student, 20-something, 30-something. There were those times that I treated my mother like chopped liver: desperately wanting her NOT to be around, unless of course there was a crisis in my life and I wanted the kind of solace and comfort that only a mother can provide. She always did it too.
I don’t know how my mom managed to stay in the background and yet know everything that was going on, but she did. If I put a toe out of line, she knew it. If I was 1,000 miles across the country, she could tell from the way I said “Hello” on the phone if I needed money, a long talk or a good laugh. Sometimes, and I still can’t figure this one out, the care package or the card with the extra ten dollars would arrive magically on the day my bank account bottomed out at $2.50 and the lab experiments had led me straight into a solid brick wall—the ice cream cone or cola or cheap romance novel that came my way because of that well timed letter was Heaven.
My daughter is four. If we go to the park, her command will be “Play with me.” That is until a friend from school shows up, then I am discarded like a hand-me-down sweater. But, fall off the monkey bars and skin a knee? She wants the comfort of that ratty old sweater.
And, I delight in my job.
But it is a tough one, because sometimes I get treated like the maid servant, and I have to remind my daughter that she is perfectly capable of going to her room to retrieve Flop E. Dog or the Sam-I-Am blanket when I am busy cooking dinner or doing dishes or writing a Cheese Grits article. It’s annoying too when I put dinner on the table and the response is “yuck” or “how much to I have to eat to get a treat?”
But that contagious giggle and that warm smile and her hugs and kisses and the way she brings me tissues when I sneeze—those are so sweet.
It’s frustrating that I get “no” and “gimme”, but rewarding to hear her say “please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome” and “yes please” to teachers and other adults.
It’s frustrating that I can ask her ten times straight to put her toys in the bin and go downstairs every morning at school, and my words bounce of her ears, but when a teacher makes the same request, the compliance is instant.
I look at her and see myself. Where my mom was concerned I thought I knew much more than she did. And occasionally, I was right and she was wrong. My mom always admitted it when that happened. On the many occasions when she was right and I was wrong, I usually wasn’t so quick to fess up, but Mom rarely said anything, and she never said “I told you so.”
She was humble but tough. She was always there. She loved me. And all of those things that she repeated a thousand times over like “Sit up straight, knees down, say ‘yes, please’, say ‘pardon’ not ‘huh?’, don’t be so bossy, ‘I’m going to skin you alive’, and ‘I love you’, must have sunk in because I say them a lot now.
Oh, Mom, you were right about so many things. I sure wish I could talk to you now.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo All rights reserved.