4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
My Mom’s a talker. She can talk on and on and on. Which means I come by it honestly, anyway. And although I never expected it, I realize now that her voice influences so much I do, whether I’m acting in reaction to a memory of my childhood or I’m just too much like her, but in different circumstances. Most days, it could go either way.
As she grows older and I grow older, I’ve begun to realize that so many of the stories she’s told me throughout our lives have turned to a shadowy mass of gray in my mind. And when she’s gone, I’ll be an orphaned child, with no one to tell me these things clearly again. So from now on, as long as she’ll let me, I want to take a moment every now and again and record her voice, telling me things I ask of her. This is our first go.
Blogosphere, meet my Mom. She’s a corker.
Mom, meet the blogosphere. They seem mostly pretty nice, except for ravizumibeatboxx and thailandrentalhouses, who I can’t vouche for.
(To set the scene, it’s the last night of her most recent visit, the kids are in bed, we’re both slightly exhausted with one another, and we’re sipping wine on the couch.)
ME: Mom, when you saw me with my new glasses after not seeing me for like six months by choosing to live in Virginia near my sister instead of living up here near me, and you said, “Are those new glasses, Jennie? Is that’s what’s in style now?” What did you mean by that?
MY MOM: I thought they looked nice on you. And people where I live now wear wire rims. I like yours more than mine and that’s the truth.
Me: Also did you or did you not fall flat on your face on my porch before even entering my house during this visit?
My Mom: Yes. I did. I slipped on a wet leaf and took a ‘wipe out’ as your children said.
Me, smugly: And did I yell at you?
My Mom: No, but you seemed discouraged. (Whispers *peeved*.)
(I ignore the *peeved* comment.)
Me: What does the word “blog” mean?
My Mom: To tell all and unnecessarily. I personally wouldn’t blog.
Me, protesting: But you did write a Christmas letter that told everybody every detail of our lives for, like, 20 years. And you do tell random people in the grocery store everything.
My Mom: But it’s all about you and your beautiful husband and kids. All my dining people know you and your husband and kids. I would show them pictures… but I don’t have any recent ones. (Sighs deeply and looks meaningfully at me.)
Me, ignoring her implied plea for school photos: Looking back on your life, what are you most proud of?
My Mom, sighing: My marriage.
Me: That’s it?
My Mom: It was extremely happy and our four (corrects herself) five children. We did it once and we did it right.
Me: What surprised you the most so far in your life?
My Mom: In my life? (Pauses) I guess giving birth to my first child who was extremely disabled and handicapped… and was accepted and had a happy life and was loved.
Me: What is your greatest disappointment?
My Mom: At the time it didn’t mean much but at the time that I didn’t have a higher education, the only person who went to college was… blah, blah, blah. (Goes on a long monologue about a friend who went to college and studied the French Horn or something like the French horn, I couldn’t type it fast enough and it wasn’t all that important.)
Me: That surprises me that you said that.
My Mom: This is now. I didn’t feel that way 40 or 50 years ago. It didn’t matter then. I supported your dad and it was like a twofer.
Me: If you could do anything at all in the whole entire world tomorrow, what would it be?
My Mom: Still have my husband alive. (I grunt for some reason.) Seriously. To say things. Why didn’t I say this? Why didn’t we do that?
Me: Is there anything you wish your children understood about you that we don’t?
My Mom: No. Because I think they know me. (Pauses.) For better or worse. I think I’ve changed. I used to be a neat nick and T.P. Bobbie, Time and Place Bobbie. Dad was the opposite.
Me: I don’t remember you that way.
Mom: When you were younger you could eat off my floors, but I wasn’t the mother you were. I ironed my husband’s shirt, I did diapers.
Me, taken aback by both the praise for my mothering capabilities and the judgement on my house-keeping skills: Are you saying you can’t eat off my floors?
My Mom: Nope. I think you do an amazing job, and you pick up and sweep up every night. That’s all you need.
Me: Huh. That’s not how I remember our childhood house.
My Mom: I guess when dad got ill I didn’t care about the dusting and the tidiness, making your beds. I never made you kids do housework. I never made you clean…
Me: Except holidays.
My Mom: Yes, that’s true.
Me: Anything I missed? Anything you want to add?
My mom, getting to the heart of the matter: I think I’m a strong woman, through the last 50 years or whatever. I have no regrets for what I did except for what I didn’t do, those two vacation trips we [your Dad and I] did. The paddle boat trip. We had a nice trip. And I wish I’d gone to college. It didn’t mean then what it does now. But I helped your father so that he could go, and I guess that’s the same thing.
Me, surprised: Wow. Okay. Excellent.
My Mom: Now I would like to enjoy my children and my grandchildren because I think that’s what dad would have wanted.
Me: Thanks, Mom. That’s it. Good night.
We hug and she goes to bed. I take her to the airport absurdly early the next morning.
And it only struck me just now, a few weeks after our actual conversation, when I finally make the time to type this up, that I should have said more. I should have said thank you for educating us all, Mom, for the BAs from Yale, Albright, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, and the loans, if we needed them, for the MFA, the MBA, the JD, the MD. Thank you for reminding me to cherish every moment with my husband, no matter the trials and tribulations. And just… thank you.
(This is a belated reply to the WordPress Weekly Challenge, Interview, which has been percolating in my head for weeks.)