It’s actually hard to be friends with your mom. I mean, she’s your mom. It’s difficult to see her when she’s sad, or to have to tell her what you think she should do if she’s feeling down or she needs a kick in the pants.
When I was about 15, my mom was upset about something that had happened in the house. Something had gotten broken or whatever, and I knew I wasn’t the cause. Being 15 of course and lounging on the couch watching TV, while she was yelling to the house “who did this” I made some smart ass comment like “I was gone all day at school then I was at work so don’t you dare blame me.”
On that day I learned Mom’s can fold space. On that day I also learned they are ninja at finding the pain point on your body that child services cannot detect the influence on your behavior. She was across the house from me, a good forty feet. But there was a *POP* as her body moved instantaneously to me, and the air moved into the vacuum of where she was. Her voice was suddenly quiet in my ear, her hand carefully positioned with index finger and thumb at the lower half of my bicep. The warm breath and pinch of her fingers called into instant clarity my mistake.
In my mother’s house, you do not *dare* her anything. “I’m sorry,” she said, “did you just smart off to me?”
My mother fears few things in the light of raising her children. She fears raisins. She doesn’t like sweets. Beyond that, she fears little. She will not brook lying. She is not interested in less than your best. She will not tolerate absence of phone calls when you are upset or need help. Any violation of these can bring the dreaded feel of her index finger and thumb at that crucial ancient Asian documented pain point of the skin at the lower bicep.
I have a tip for those all bothered about “Enhanced interrogation". I am a grown man, and if my mom is allowed mere seconds to pinch that spot under my arm, I WILL SING LIKE A GOD DAMNED FUCKING CANARY. I WILL SELL OUT THE NEXT GREAT XBOX SECRET IN SECONDS*. Let’s stop the waterboarding, and let’s bring in my mom.
Focus, like a snap point. I’m 15 and my mother is leaning over me and all I can think is, not because I was right, but because I was so very wrong: “What was I thinking?” I say to her, “Sorry sorry! I uh….was stupid”
Mom’s get a lot of credit. And they deserve it. But I don’t think they get a lot of credit for their methods, or a lot of detail about where they were important. They just get “credit”.
So for this mother’s day let me thank my mom. Let me thank her for the reasons that I am where I am today.
Marmalade our St. Bernard. I remember riding him when I was 4. His fur was soft and he was so gentle. And so large. Even today I hear the word “Duncanville” where we lived at the time, and I think of his face. At once sad in his droopy eyes, yet so happy. I also remember when I wanted to call Aunt Penny and Uncle Jimmy one day and just picked up the phone and started dialing numbers and reached someone random who spent too much time in 1976 trying to find out why I was calling. My father was mad that I had called long distance randomly and you told me wanting to talk to people you loved was always ok. When Marmalade had to go I cried. You held me while my father made butter and onion and salami sandwiches (my favorite at the time) and you told me how he was visiting us, and now had to move on to his next family. We sat in the kitchen and ate, the cool blue of the pool outside. The onions were sharp in my nose as my father ruffled my hair. I loved those sandwiches.
I had my tonsils out and tubes put in my ears when I was 6 after a long and puzzling diagnosis. I used to wake up nights in pain. The surgery was a blur, I only remember the shot they gave me to make my mouth dry. Dry it was indeed, and the drugs that drifted me in and out of lucidity. But I always woke up to your smiling yet tear stained face. Uncle Dick said the prayer before my surgery as the animated Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe was on the hospital room television. But your hand was tight in mine. That taught me something even though I didn’t know it at the time. Fear is ok, and love is strong. It’s insanely strong. Such that I sit here 32 years later and can feel it in the memory of your squeezing my hand. Your hands always felt so strong, no matter if it was across my backside (when I needed it) or in my hands (again, when I needed it)
Shortly after, when I had vitamin problems and had to go to special visits to the doctor while you had to truck along my infant brothers, you never let on your worry. I remember having to eat some horrible biscuits and take some horrible pills and mostly I remember your valiant effort to turn that into a game.
When I was 9 I remember you arguing with my father about whether or not I was ready to see a PG movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” because of the ending. You were against it. My father, a hellfire and brimstone Southern Baptist, was for it. By then we were living on Heatherdale. So we went to the theater up at Skillman and Whitehurst and we watched it. We drove home in silence while KVIL 103.7 played over the FM radio, Air Supply and Dan Fogelberg. I sat in the back seat ignoring the music but soaking it in as part of my blog writing future. I sensed tension but didn’t understand it. I remember only one thing, when my mom asked me if I was ok. I wasn’t. The movie had disturbed me at the same time it had stimulated me. Now? Speaking decades later, I was ok. It wasn’t scarring. I get to write about it today as a formative experience. I was ready for it. Even if I actually wasn’t.
I think about being 7 again, and I’m doomed. I’ve spent the past several weeks falsifying my weekly school reports back home so I wouldn’t get in trouble. I was a genius little troublemaker, but Mrs. Sifford, my teacher, had caught on. She had send me home a must sign document that was going to result in my destruction. I was a bad 2nd grader. I ignored anything involved in class, hiding my comics and my books in my slider tray under my desk. Added to that I was kind of a know it all and I deserved every punishment I was earning. I trudged the quarter mile to home. Trees lined the street and it was autumn in Dallas so the birds were flying south. They trailed overhead in a pattern that, if you were avoiding going home, was long and put you in a trance. I was sure my mother, who I feared far more than the very infrequent and always justified father beatings I incurred, was going to simply kill me. The sidewalk stretched before me. I trudged it. What was I going to do, ride the rails or something? I was 7. I didn’t know where the closest rail was. I’d heard hobos eat kids like me for breakfast.
I stopped outside our house. it was on a small hill. I looked up. There was a window overlooking the front yard. A thorny holly bush my cousin Randy had fallen into just recently was the primary feature of the house. I was at the halls of justice, and I deserved my fate. I had a lunchbox then, Star Wars of course, and I set it down because my biggest fear was that I would be turned into Alderaan. But in the window overlooking the window was my mom. Back then as a child I collected clowns. It wasn’t totally my choice, but I didn’t disagree, it inoculated me for all my life against Coulrophobia. In the window was my mom, with a drawing of a clown. The school had already called her. And she knew the way to fix the problem. She was smiling, and although I had basically done everything I could do to be an elementary school class smart ass who deserved a smacking, mom knew what to do. I ran up the grassy hill in front of our house. I knew I had done wrong, I knew I wasn’t being forgiven. I knew that the school had called ahead, and that I was being allowed to learn a lesson.
I could go on, and this would become a book.
But. You remember these things, when you think about who you are. My mother was stern, and she was nurturing. And she, for a while, was doing this on her own. There’s that phantom pinch on my arm. I feel it sometimes when I argue when I shouldn’t. There’s people wiser than me that remind me of my natural tendencies. They wave that sign in the window that isn’t meant to excuse, it’s meant to point out better behavior. Sometimes I heed it. At my own peril, sometimes I don’t. But my mom put the sign there.
My mother encouraged music that I loved. She encouraged my passions. She smacked me when I needed smacking. It takes a village to raise a child I agree, but it takes your parents to push you in a direction that leads you somewhere. I got pushed by my mom into a place where I knew I had to work my ass off. I had to love my time not working my ass off. I had to be me, flaws and all. And I had to be willing to adapt and change. My mom made that part ok.
I’ve made so many mistakes. And the best part is? They have all been my own. None of them have been because my mom made them.
I have 38 years of stories about how my mother made me who I am. Today I’m going to call my mom. And I am going to read her this as her present.
Because I love her so much. She wears a tattoo. She’s bungee jumped! I could thank her for giving birth to me. She would say well, that was the easy part. The important bit? The difficult bit? The bit she deserves so much for? She taught me. That took a TON of years.
I like to think she taught me well. I mean, I think she did.
And I wanted to make sure she gets credit for that right now. I mean sure, sometimes she needs my help too. But I reach that conclusion out of shear amazement because the only reason I am in that position is that she put me there. I sometimes reel in shock at where my life has lead me. There is only one response.
My mom is my closest friend. And if I don’t always make that clear let me make it clear now. The person who is most responsible for my being in this existence is an amazing woman on her own, and I love her deeply. The best bit? My mom would read this then call me and say “hey YOUR READERS HAVE MOMS TOO”
You guys, call up your mom. And tell her the story of your life that she made possible. Because I’m calling my mom today. Write something for your mom. And read it to her. There is no better present.
*I will. Sorry Microsoft.