Several weeks ago I was with my sister in law and she asked me how I am similar to my mother. I was pretty stumped. Not many things came to mind when we were talking, but it sort of percolated in the back of my mind for the past stretch of time and now I have a thought or two.
Here’s some important backstory: My mom died almost 8 years ago. She was diagnosed with leukemia in November of 2003, did chemo and radiation, had a successful bone marrow transplant, and was home to recover when an infection took her very abruptly in June of 2004. Strangely, that mostly feels like a lifetime ago. I say “strangely” because I remember that first year after she died, feeling like it had all happened the week before.
So my mom is no longer here. She can’t give advice on parenting. She was never able to come after Chicken or Monkey were born and do those mom things- make meals, hold the baby while I went back to sleep, buy little outfits. I’m pretty confident she would have driven me crazy at times, but I would take the crazy-making over her not being here at all.
With Mother’s Day approaching, here are a few ways I am like my mother:
1. Cheap. Frugal. Tight-fisted. “Good stewards of our finances”. Whatever you call it, it is a trait that I get from my mother. Not that my dad is Mr. Spend-the-Benjamins, but he never taught us jack about reusing aluminum foil or buying in bulk to save money. My mom, conversely, could make her pennies go far. Now I buy plain yogurt because the sugar content is lower and the greek stuff has probiotics or something good in it for my kids. My mom bought plain yogurt because it was $.07 cheaper than the strawberry kind. And don’t think that she ever bought those little individual serving sizes. Did you not hear me mention buying in bulk? She would buy the biggest size of plain yogurt, then tell us to add sugar to it if we didn’t like it.
Whenever I rinse out a plastic bag and reuse it, it is because I am my mother’s child. It’s a perfectly good bag! Plenty of life left in that gallon freezer bag!
Things we never had, growing up:
Individual or snack-sized anything. No small bags of chips, little yogurts, or applesauce cups. No- just pour your applesauce into a bowl and hope you don’t spill it since you are pouring it out of a two gallon Costco container that weighs more than your five year old self does.
Ziploc bags. The foldover “sandwich bags” were cheaper, even though your stuff would inevitably fall out of them.
Name brand food. “Mr Fizzy” soda will work just fine, thanksverymuch.
Speaking of soda- my oldest brother still remembers going to a friend’s house when he was younger and having a coke, and consequently thinking his mouth was about to explode. Why? Because my mom cut all of our sodas with water. Ethan didn’t even know what hit him. (This may have been part sugar/part frugality. Hard to say. But either way- the image of the first hit of soda on the tongue- priceless!)
I was pretty convinced that we were poor growing up because it felt like all of my friends had individual sized bags of Cheetos, and I had Cheez-Ums in a foldover sandwich bag (which meant fishing half of them out from the bottom of my bookbag). Now I know that we weren’t poor, my mom was just frugal. And, admittedly, the last time I bought an individual sized bag of any sort of chip, it was the “managers special” (read: about to expire), and thus half the price. Also, I just got up to pour myself some juice and cut it in half with water. And- juice! What a splurge!
Like mother, like daughter.
2. “Just one more thing”. My kids are too young to know that this should royally piss them off, but I know they will learn in time. Because I did.
My mom was the queen of thinking she could/should squeeze one more task in before leaving the house. For a kid who was almost utterly dependent on my mom to drive me places until I was about 15, this was torture. Where I grew up, there was no walking anywhere to meet friends, (unless you walked through the cow fields, which we certainly did from time to time). By and large, mom held all the transportation power. She would tell me she was ready to go, then remember seventeen little things she needed to do before actually walking out the door. Picture a know-it-all teenager, waiting by the door or sitting in the driveway HONKING THE HORN (can’t believe what a jerk I was) while my mom made one last phone call and who knows what else. I waited on my mom. A lot.
I totally do this to my kids. “Get your shoes on! Put those two toys back in the toy basket! Okay- we’re ready!”. And then I remember that I still have to pee, refill my water bottle, pack a snack, and find my own shoes somewhere in the house.
3. The purse. The seemingly bottomless bag of who knows what. When I was a kid, I marveled at the purse versus billfold dichotomy. How did my dad always have everything he needed, folded neatly in a billfold and able to fit in his back pocket, while my mom carried a purse roughly 30 times larger, in which she could never find what she needed? When we were driving she might ask me to find her lipstick for her. Receipts, change purse, eyeshadow putter-on’er things, small mirror… here! Lipstick! “No, not that one. I need the other one.” Keep digging… Gift certificates, pens, broken lipliner pencils, business cards, grocery lists, sermon notes… You name it, it was in there. And any scrap of paper had blotted lipstick on it.
I tried to find my keys in my purse last night and just kept pulling out disposable diapers. And receipts (what is it with my mom and I, and receipts?). The keys were nowhere to be found in the bottomless pit. It took me five minutes of searching.
In my home now, we have several things that were my mom’s. Big items, like pieces of furniture that she found at estate sales or antique stores. Smaller things, like books or jewelry. I think my mom’s purse is the item that I have which zings me the most. Going through it is like a time-warp. The lists! The blotted lipstick! The receipts! It sort of epitomizes her to me.
Mother’s Day approaches! Happy Mother’s Day week, everyone!