Your mother? Please. Try being the only daughter of SuperMom.
I look back now and realize hatred of my mother brought people together who would never have been friends otherwise. It was the one thing they all had in common. We kids were always the best-behaved, with the highest grades. Mom not only handmade, but designed our clothes. She ran every church function, every school committee. When she shopped for her gourmet cooking she wasn’t just the fastest, with the best-stocked pantry, she did it on a budget I took for granted and now know (having been told) is ridiculous.
We meant business for real estate agents, even though they never knew it. People moved out after we moved in, and it was never long before we moved on. It didn’t matter where we moved though, nobody ever came to our freaky-clean house. Despite all her community service Mom had no friends and neither did we. My brother and I had the same nickname, every school we ever went to—“The Robots”. The other kids thought if they got within range of SuperMom they’d be controlled.
Maybe they were right. She did say that as babies, we stopped crying when she asked.
When the two of us got old enough to not need her there every second, she took her SuperMom trademark strand of pearls and went to work, teaching. The state honored her every year the rest of her working life. When she retired, they wanted her to do seminars for the State Department of Education, but of course that didn’t happen. You couldn’t teach what she did.
I try not to think about it. I know my grades went down when I went off to college. When I moved out of my mother’s sphere of immediate influence. She let me go. I’m still not sure why.
College was where I met my husband, five hundred anonymous miles from home. He reminded me, a little bit, of my father. Not in an icky way, but, you know. He was funny and kind and good to me. It was like he was all the friends I’d never had.
He’d grown up in town, and still lived with his mother.
That didn’t bother me, though, because I fell for her almost like I did for him. She was the negative of my mother; a harried single mom who was grateful I embraced her, messy house and all. She used to say she wasn’t just an open book, she was open drawers, cupboards, and closets. She pronounced me a godsend for the cleaning and cooking that came as naturally if I’d done them before. As if I’d been doing them all my life. She worried that being involved with her son would distract me, keep me from getting my degree.
She cried when we ran off to the courthouse and got married, then threw us a reception at a restaurant (the last party with more than family we ever attended). She gave us a check for an amount I knew she couldn’t really afford, and we used it for the deposit on our first apartment. She said I was the daughter she never had.
She was wrong. I was my mother’s daughter.
My mother sent us a king-sized quilt. She’d designed the pattern and executed it by hand in one-inch squares of fabric; the blue ribbon from the state fair was pinned to it, along with her SuperMom pearls. My husband picked up the card when I dropped it, and read, “Your life is going to change.”
She was right, just like always. Life changes. No matter how you start out thinking or feeling, you grow up; the baton gets passed. You make your own saga, have your own daughter. One day you lean over her, pearls dangling, when she cries, ask her to stop—and she does. God help you, she does. You have that power, like you’d had it all your life.
One day you look in the mirror, and pearls or no, you see your mother looking back. It’s the way things go.