My mother and I are polar opposites; from personality to humor to fashion to decorating. When I was younger she worried that I was “too punk” which in her defense I could totally see from the ONE TIME I wore a sweatshirt with the collar cut out a la Flashdance as opposed to my Gap button down shirt. She doesn’t overreact at all….ever…
For the record, she cut it in half and threw it away and informed me much later in her mamadonegotlofty voice which was a combination of bitchy/authoritarian/sympathetic/lesson-teaching/soprano which I actually heard again the other day while helping them move which is what prompted this writing.
My husband saw the physical reaction I had to that acid tone seeping from her bedroom into the hallway and after the brief fight I walked out and snarled, “You just got a glimpse of my teenage years.”
My dad used to joke that you knew I was up because that’s when the screaming started. We just had that kind of relationship. We fought over everything, including whether water was wet. Honestly it would not have surprised me if a boxing announcer showed up to my house one day anywhere from the ages of 11 through 19 and blasted:
IN THIS CORNER, IN THE BLACK ARGYLE SWEATER, WEIGHING IN AT 598 POUNDS IF YOU INCLUDE THE ATTITUDE….MISS SHANNON “BOOM BOOM” TEENAGAH. AND IN THIS CORNER, IN THE COTTON CANDY PINK TEDDYBEAR SWEATSHIRT THAT SAYS “BEARLY HANGING ON” WEIGHING IN AT NONEOFYOURDAMNBUSINESS IS MRS. MAMABEAR “DON’TYOUUSETHATTONEWITHMEMISSY” ADULTYPANTS. OK LADIES, MAKE IT A CLEAN FIGHT. NO HOLYFIELD EAR LOSSES.
OH MAMABEAR IS GOING IN FOR THE UNHOLY TEENAGE DEVIL SPAWN KILL. BOOM BOOM DUCKS AND COUNTERS WITH A YOU’RERUININGMYLIFE WAIL WHICH HAS BROUGHT MAMABEAR TO TEARS. WE CAN’T BE SURE IF IT’S LAUGHTER OR GUILT. WAIT, WAIT JIM. I THINK SHE JUST CALLED BOOM BOOM AN UNGRATEFUL BEAST. BOOM BOOM ASKED WHAT SHE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL FOR. OOOOOP. OOOOF. THOSE TEARS ARE REAL. MAMABEAR IS GOING DOWN. I DON’T BELIEVE IT! MAMABEAR IS GOING DOWN. SHE’S ON THE ROPES. BOOM BOOM IS CIRCLING AROUND HER WITH WHAT COULD ONLY BE INTERPRETED AS A SMUG GRIN. MAMA IS BACK. MAMA IS UP ON HER FEET! WAIT SHE JUST PULLED THE PENULTIMATE MAMA STUNT. “I GAVE YOU LIFE”. BOOM BOOM IS DOWN. JIM! WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE ONE LONE TEAR ROLLING DOWN HER CHEEK. NOW MAMA IS CRYING BECAUSE BOOM BOOM IS CRYING. THIS FIGHT IS A DRAW! THIS FIGHT IS A DRAW! THEY ARE BOTH KNOCKED OUT.
I could try to analyze it or I can be grateful for how close we are now. I choose to believe that I was a model child and she had a long long bout of menopause; clearly rendering us both victims in this scenario. So…tone set? Great, let’s get on with it.
As previously mentioned, my parents moved back home. They ran away for 14 years and have finally come back to their home state. In the midst of unpacking I SHIT YOU NOT, 20 sets of placemats and napkins, 42 pot holders, 65 doilies, 24 baskets, 2 sets of dishes complete with butter dishes, creamers and sugar bowls et. al.
I spent a healthy chunk of time unpacking stuff and literally spitting with disbelief whilst documenting via a downward pictorial spiral on Facebook, complete with a photo of Santa in the closet. It’s not that I’m not sentimental. I can be. My mother had a 458,000 knick knacks, insisting that these things make a home. My grandmother was even worse. We now live in a world were what was once a sign of either wealth or knowledge or contentment, shelves full of books and music and photograph albums; now is all digital. Is this what it’s like to get rid of generations past? Is it as easy as a snake shedding it’s skin?
I remember having a shirt of a friend who died long ago. It smelled like him. On the days that missing him was more than I could bear I would pull the shirt from its hiding place and hold it to my nose and breathe in all that was once him and feel the heartbreak all over again. That smell slowly disappated day by day. I would hold the shirt up to my body and wrap my arms around it as if I were wrapped in his embrace. I would put it back in its bag and grieve again and again and again, though every time, a little less. In my darkest hours that shirt was there as a reminder that I had once loved. When I thought I had no emotion left I would pull that shirt out and remember that I had once loved and what I had once loved. I used to put that quantitative value on him solely, until much much later, I realized that what I loved was life. I loved life – with him in it to be sure, but nonetheless, my love affair was with life. Then one day I realized I couldn’t smell him anymore. That unique stamp of humanity was gone. It didn’t make the value of that last relic any less valuable but it did make it less tangible just like my grief. It wasn’t as razor sharp. It was buried, deeper and deeper under the layers of sarcasm that usually hide the deeper, softer side that is very much intact. I still miss him. There are times I’ll see someone who reminds me of him and I have to stop and hold my heart in place as I realize the girl that once knew him is now a woman much older and wiser than he or I ever thought we’d be. We were Bonnie and Clyde. We were rebellious and wild and naive; and I have long outlived the age that we carelessly etched in our minds as the date of our demise. He made it there. I didn’t.
Does this translate to trading new views for old ones? My once young and ambitious and idealistic views have hardened a bit. I’m more realistic now. I cherish life now and never again will that confusion of loving life be dulled with apathy. I cherish life and try my best to give some small voice of reason to those who need it. I no longer try to save the world, only those in my corner of the world who need it. I’ve shed the lofty ambitions and now see the world in more structured terms.
Where I once used to threaten to turn my mothers doilies into a naughty bikini I now realize that one day, those will be handed down, along with my grandmother’s chowder recipe. I am mightily blessed. I have family and friends who teach me everyday. A couple I know and adore is moving this weekend. I saw the love in the house that hasn’t yet become a home. I saw their belongings packed in boxes and bags and had to stop for a moment and think that once, 40 something years ago, my mother was here, in this emotional place of turning a house into a home in whichever way home was for defined her.
Some people say I’m wise. I received a text from a friend today seeking advice with the opening plea, “Tell me oh wise one.” I tend to think of myself more as the inner drunken child/comedians voice slyly poking away at the universal questions of life and love and challenging the status quo.
Wise? I’ll take it.
Just not wrapped in a doily.