Saturday, May 12, 2012
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you...
When I was a little girl I wore dress ups, played with baby dolls and emulated my mother. On hot summer evenings, I’d sit on the gentle sloping lawn, thick with clover flowers and listen to my parents talk about the day’s events. I’d sit at Mom’s feet and admire her shoes. Back in the 1950’s I always wanted to clomp around in what Mom called her “wedgies”. While other moms wore make-up and teetered on high heeled spikes, my plain Jane mom balanced on chunky heels. The same style shoes are back in style. Yesterday I slipped my feet into my new pair of wedges 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 center 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 friends. She sure doesn’t act like a mom, I tell her. We enjoy one another’s company.
I’m a high school senior, and suddenly 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-two and Mom is forty-two. 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 make-up 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 just as good without make-up,” I agree. 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 at the neighbor with bright pink lips and no teeth. 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; I am forty; my daughter is twenty, and her little girl is ripping wrapping paper off her first 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 baby. That's the thanks I get.
I ask Mom 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, “Ever since menopause. 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 seventy-five, 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!” Here we go again.
I clean up the party mess, and as I wash my hands 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, “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 wrinkled cheek. “I love you.”
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 is forty-two; I am sixty-two. She telephoned today to tell me she is becoming just like me. It won’t be long before her twenty-two 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 five 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.
Happy Mother's Day to YOU!