Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mother's Day

I am a little girl in the early 1950s. I play with rubber baby dolls with open/shut eyes and I emulate my mother. On hot summer evenings, I sit on the gentle sloping lawn, thick with clover flowers and listen to my parents talk about the day’s events. I sit at Mom’s feet and admire her shoes. I always want to clomp around in what Mom calls her “wedgies”. While other moms wear make-up and teeter on high heeled spikes, my plain-Jane mom balances on chunky heels and wears pedal pushers or house dresses.

The same style shoes are back in style. Yesterday I slid my feet into my new pair of wedges, slipped into my Capris (pedal pushers) and strolled down memory lane:

I’m a freshman in high school. Mom and I wear each other’s clothes and swap purses. On Saturdays, we walk a mile to Cherokee Street, the six block shopping district with a variety of individual stores. She forbids me to wear make-up like the other girls, but for the most part, Mom’s okay. She sits on my bed on Sunday mornings and we talk like girlfriends. She sure doesn’t act like a mom, I tell her. We enjoy one another’s company.

I’m a high school senior. I am tired of her being my boss. I don’t want to be anything like the woman I strongly resemble. Complete strangers stop us and comment that we look like sisters. The last thing I want to hear is, “You look just like your mother.” No matter how accurate the statement, there is a twenty year gap between us. I am my own person, seeking my own identity and independence. Soon, I plan to get married and start my own life. I cannot wait to get away from Mom’s rules.

I’m twenty-one and Mom is forty. She walks a mile every other day to my house to adore and spoil her first granddaughter. They idolize one another. I enjoy Mom’s company again. I can do my own thing, wear make-up if I want. She’s always available to babysit at a moment’s notice. I’m very blessed.

“Mom, why don’t you let me put make-up on you?” I beg until she finally gives in. I poof her bouffant hair, tint her lips, rouge her cheeks and smudge sky blue eye shadow across her lids. “There, let me see. You look beautiful,” I say. My puzzled expression makes her dash to the mirror.

“I look painted. This is not me,” she insists, but she leaves the makeup on to please me. As we sit across from one another dunking Danish – she always brings bakery goods – I can hardly bear to look into her face. One of her heavy eyelids sinks into the socket, and the blue eye shadow disappears into the fold. She looks like a clown with one bright, blue lid.

“You’re probably right, Mom, you look fine without make-up.”

Mom tells me that a little lipstick is good; as a woman ages it brightens her appearance. So I always wear lipstick and Mom wears it only when she’s going out. The other day she smiled with bright pink lips and no teeth at the neighbor. She had forgotten her front teeth partial dental plate, and her mouth sunk in like a collapsed clay pot. I was totally embarrassed for her and myself. “I’ll never be like that!” I vowed.

Mom is sixty-two; I am forty-one; my daughter is twenty-two, and her little girl is ripping wrapping paper off her birthday presents. I overhear my daughter talking to my mom.

“Gram, I adore you, but Mom drives me crazy!” This from the daughter who used to beg to go everywhere with me and now depends upon me to help care for her little girl.

Mom is seventy-five. Thinks she's still five feet two. She looks so small in her hospital bed. I ask if she has a nail clipper. I rummage through her purse and discover a bottle of Jergens moisturizer and a razor wrapped in a paper towel.

“What is this for?” I ask. She smiles self-consciously and taps her top lip, rolls her eyes and says, “You just wait!”

I cringe. NEVER-EVER will I be this way. Mom is becoming a real embarrassment with her bristly lip, droopy lids, sometimes toothless grin and unfiltered comments.

Mom is surrounded by three generations singing happy birthday so loud, the doctor pokes his head into her room and laughs at the sight of a birthday cake with candles ablaze.

My fifteen year old granddaughter shares a confidence with her great-grandma and me.

“My mom doesn’t know anything! I can’t wait to go to college and get away from her!”

Everyone is saying their good-byes. I clean up the party mess, and as I wash my hands with antiseptic soap, I look in the mirror and see that I bear a striking resemblance to my mother. I massage moisturizer into my facial creases and wonder when my eyelids got so heavy. I listen to the conversation in the room and smile when my daughter jokes, “Gram, we all have the same family traits: your sassy mouth and heavy eye lids.”

My granddaughter moans, “Oh, Mom!” She utters the same phrase that has been repeated by four generations of us women. “I will never look or act like you.”

I hug and kiss my children and grandchildren as they leave the hospital. After everyone departs, I walk over and plant a kiss on Mom’s cheek. “I love you,” I say.
She taps her lip, points at mine and says, “My razor’s in my purse if you want to use it.”

Mom’s always been a spunky little, fun-loving woman who speaks her mind. I enter the hospital elevator, send up a silent prayer and rub the space above my top lip. I realize that in more ways than one, I am becoming just like my mother.

My daughter will be forty-one on Friday; I just turned sixty-two. She telephoned to tell me she is becoming just like me. It won’t be long before her twenty-one year old daughter calls and says the same words to her. No matter how we disagree, we all know that our mother-daughter bond is unbreakable and sealed with a kiss.

Mom’s been gone four years now. What I wouldn’t give to feel the slightly abrasive brush of her lips across my cheek. I would cherish one of her sandpaper kisses.

May the angels in heaven sing Happy Birthday today on what would have been my mom's 81st birthday.


Kim Lehnhoff said...

Try as we might, we can't escape time - and the family similarities that crop up. Even tone of voice and mannerisms seem to be hardwired - and when we're not vigilantly working on hiding them, they're another reminder of our family legacy.

I never wanted to be my mother, yet I see traces of her in the mirror each morning - and I'm still shocked.

Claudia Moser said...

You made me cry Linda, such a touching story!

Pat Wahler said...

What a lovely tribute to your mom, Linda! It seems to be fate that we will become our mothers. I'm thinking that's not such a bad thing...


Allison Schreiber Lee said...

Thank you for sharing your mom with all of us. What a wonderful post.

Bookie said...

Beautifully done, Linda.

Beth M. Wood said...

Love it, Linda.
So true.

tracboy2 said...

This is so true and beautiful,mom. We all miss her very much. She sure touched our hearts and left a lasting impression on everyone she met. She is probably having her black watered down coffee and a donut or two in Heaven with Great Grandma, Great Aunt Mary and Grandpa Jim. She sure was a l'il firecracker with a love for Jesus. Thinking of you today Gram...with lotts of love and great memories that I will cherish and hold dear until we meet again. Happy 81st Birthday! Love Ya! Tell Jesus Hello for me :)

Chatty Crone said...

Whew - I'm breathing deeply - great story!

Lynn said...

Ahhh, such a touching story - makes me wish I had been able to see my mother grow older and well, I do hope I am like her!

Tammy said...

You just drew the circle of mother-life so beautifully that I didn't know whether to smile or cry. So I did a little of both at the same time.

Barb Hodges said...

Linda, you need to submit this somewhere. It is way so good.

Terri Tiffany said...

I really loved how you brought us through the stages--it is so true and I see it with my own mom and daughter. We pass our lives on,

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post. Delightfully and heartwarmingly written.
Terrific read. Thank you!

Janet, said...

I loved your post. It is so true. My mom passed away in 1996 on my husband's birthday. She was only 72. Some days I miss her so much (like just yesterday)and wish I could be with her again. We never truly pass away, we live on in our children.

BECKY said...

Beautiful, Linda! Is this something you entered anywhere? You should've!

jabblog said...

This is a lovely, honest, heartfelt tribute to your mother. Do we ever get over our mother's passing?