Ways I am Not Like My Mom

The exciting sequel to my post from a few days ago!

As I thought about a few things that were so particular to my mom, that I now mimic, I couldn’t help but think of things that she did that were uniquely “her”.  She had a few of those.  Things that I don’t carry on (Yet!  Maybe some of these things are still to come!) but are so poignant when I think about my mom.

So.  Here are a few:

1.  Talk radio.  Man, could my mom tear up some talk radio.  Coming in the door after school, I was very frequently greeted by my mom and by James Dobson.  Or Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  Or whatever else was playing on our Christian radio station at home.  My mom lived for these programs.  Driving in the car, she always wanted to hear her programs, and hear that one last caller before she would let me change the station.  Addictions!  Money troubles!  Family fighting!  Christian talk radio had it all.

It made my ears bleed.

Not necessarily because of the content.  Or because of the personalities (though Dr. Laura was a doozy).  But because, as a kid, I could not fathom why anyone would turn the radio up really loud to hear people talk to each other.  It bored the skin off me.  But whenever I hear that gentle, soothing voice of Dr. James Dobson, I am taken back to my own kitchen and Dr. J’s voice coming (semi-statically, depending on where you were standing) from the radio.  Let’s turn our hearts toward home, shall we?

These shows inspired my mom to read various books that she would later quote to us, or buy us for Christmas.  I am convinced that the whole “Boundaries” series was personally funded by my mom for the first few years.  “Boundaries”, “Boundaries in Marriage”,  “Boundaries with your Cat”, and so on.  She also picked up a few sassy phrases that she would enjoy using later.  “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” was a favorite, in reference to pre-marital sex.  I’m pretty sure I can thank Dr. Laura for that one.

2.  No harm in asking, right?  My mom would ask anyone for anything.  You know how the typical exchange between two women, when a favor is involved, sounds something like this?:

Woman 1: I’m going to Target.  Do you need anything?

Woman 2:  Oh!  Diapers!  We need some size 4’s.  Do you mind?

Woman 1:  No problem.

Woman 2:  But if you don’t make it up there, don’t worry about it.  Or if they don’t have anymore of the Target brand ones.  Don’t, like, spend any extra time looking or anything.

Woman 1:  Okay.  Yeah that’s no problem.

Woman 2:  Are you sure?

Woman 1: Yeah!

Notice all the back and forth?  The “I don’t want to inconvenience you” type of stuff?  This was not really in my mom’s vocabulary.  Here is an actual exchange that she had with a friend who was getting ready to take a European vacation with her husband, after many years of waiting and planning:

Mom:  Hey Lynn!  I heard that Mustang convertibles are selling for more in Europe these days than in the U.S.  I’m thinking I could ship my old ’69 Mustang over there and you guys could drive it around for your vacation and, you know, sell it while you’re there.

Friend:  Whaaaaa…?

Mom:  Oh come on!  Live a little!  You’d have a free car to drive around with the top down!  It’s a 3-speed, so not ideal for highway speeds.  And it’s quite a long tank of a car, so not great for those little European streets, either.  But a convertible!  In Europe!

Friend:  How would we sell it?  How would we know how much to ask for it in various countries?  What if we have car troubles and it doesn’t run well?  What would we do if we did sell it- hitchhike the rest of the trip?  And what if we can’t sell it?

Mom:  Live a little!  You could figure it out.

Notice the complete lack of self-consciousness in asking a friend to be responsible for driving around and selling her car in a foreign country.  My mom was ballsy, you all.

In my teenage years, once I was driving, this became more than just a thing that I overheard while she was on the phone.  Then, her request for favors were directed toward me as well.  I think had something to do with living out in the sticks.  The nearest big town was 20 minutes away (not far, I realize, but far enough that we referred to it as “going into town”).   So me trying to leave the house looked like this:

Me [sidling quickly toward the door]: Mom!  I’m picking up Heather and we’re going to Leesburg for lunch!  Okayseeyoulaterbye!

Mom:  Oh!  Wait!  Here are seven items that all need to be returned or exchanged at various stores all over Leesburg.  And will you stop by your dad’s office and pick up those envelopes that he addressed for the Life Line fundraiser?  And take them to the post office and buy stamps and mail them?  I’ll pay you back!

Me:  Argh.

3.  GSD?  What’s that and why should I care?  Something that was unique about my mom was her ability to have absolutely nothing to show for her days sometimes, and not an ounce of guilt over it.  For me, on the days when the kids both nap for a few hours and the house is still dirty and we are still picking up a $5 hot-and-ready pizza for dinner, I feel guilty.  I should have something to show for those uninterrupted hours!  A floor should have been swept, a meal made, or a project tackled.  Or something.  Anything.  I might let myself rest while the kids are resting, but it is not without some amount of having to remind myself that it’s okay.  And even good.

Conversely, my mom seemed to suffer no angst or self-loathing over this.

A consistent image I have of my mom from summer vacation mornings was going into her bedroom at 10:00 or 10:30, and finding her still in bed.  Newspapers spread out on the bedspread, lukewarm coffee on the bedside table, a Bible open somewhere, and crumbs from her toast sort of sprinkled everywhere.  At 10:00 in the morning.

That sounds like a lovely dream sequence to me, and one that I might visit once a year on Mother’s Day, but my mom lived the dream consistently.  She didn’t have that guilty angst to drive her out of bed and keep her “productive” and “busy”.  She didn’t need to have something to show for her day.  I don’t think she had to talk herself out of feeling bad for not sweeping the floors or weeding the garden.  She didn’t seem to need things on her calendar to keep her moving and feeling okay about herself.

Not that she was a total bum.  And maybe by the time I came along (youngest of four kids) she was like “Meh.  Sweep the floors or don’t.  They’ll just get dirty again.”  But I have to admire and marvel at times at the memory of someone who didn’t need to continually give herself permission to relax and let tasks slide.  She just did it.  Truly- living the dream.

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to you and yours!

14 thoughts on “Ways I am Not Like My Mom

  1. Liked this one a lot, too.
    I totally listen to talk radio and LOVE IT! My newest obsession is podcasts, actually. I can remember my uncle listening to it on road trips (and I was occasionally trapped in the backseat) and wondered, as you did, who would ever listen to people talk? And yet here I am.
    That second one is HILARIOUS. I don’t know anyone like that. :)

    • a friend of mine did just remind me of my outside-of-the-home profession…which does involve listening to people talk… haha. so maybe i’m more like my mom in this way than i thought!

      yes! asking someone to drive your car around europe and sell it for you! she was a piece of work.

  2. Kathrine, So good to hear stories of your mom. Amazing how we understand our parents stories more as we become parents. Talk Radio? I can’t stand it either but your mom was a wise woman. Happy mothers day Katherine, thanks for sharing.

  3. I wonder if your readers know that, among your counselling assignments, you worked with some families in Green County who were served by your mother some 40 years ago when she was a social worker with Albemarle County. And they remember “Miss Parkinson” and see her in you. She would share with me the joy and pride I have in you. Dad

  4. Oh my word, this is too funny. Once my mom and dad and I had to drive to C-ville for a surgery on my broken leg. Your mom of course said, “Hey, since you’ll be down there and all can you drive by this stranger’s house and pick up a veil for Elizabeth’s wedding.” I am so honored I got to be on the receiving end of this ballsy trait. Maybe we should all be a little less afraid to ask for things we want : ) So cute.

  5. Ok – I have laughed and cried reading these! Here’s my “Ballsy Story” about Ruth: She knew Denny and I were going to be in Montana on vacation visiting Denny’s family. She and your Dad were going to be out visiting Ethan. (way north of where we’d be) She wanted to drive a rental car to us and have us drive it another 8 hours to a location in Wyoming to save her about $200 bucks on the rental car. Yes – 2 days of our vacation. I will never forget Denny on the other end of the phone countering all of her persistency (with a smile!) “No Ruth, that just doesn’t make sense,” “Ruth, Dan isn’t going to want to do that,” “Ruth…it isn’t worth saving the money.” “No, Ruth…we aren’t going to do that…we seldom make it here to visit family, they wouldn’t understand.” “Ruth..no.” I bet she’s stirring him up with negotiations in Heaven too and he’s loving it! I miss her so much!!!!

    • hahaha!!! i can TOTALLY see that interaction between my mom and denny! you had to really dig in your heels to say no to her- she didn’t make it easy.

      $200! 2 days of vacation!!! i can’t stop laughing…

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