Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a momma’s boy. I love my mother, and I’ve been known to get a bit sappy about it, like writing a whole article :). However, I won’t bury the lead here because I think it’s important to admit that this is as much as an apology as it is a love letter to my mom. See, I messed up … big time. A couple of days ago was my mother’s birthday, and I didn’t call her. I know, I know, but perhaps this will make up for it a little bit.
I was raised primarily by women. Between my mother and two grandmothers, I’m confident I spent more time with women than men through my budding years as a growing boy. This is by no means unique, as a child of divorce, and skyrocketing divorce rates in the late seventies and eighties, I’m pretty sure my upbringing will have a familiar tone.
Now, the words of Tyler Durden from Chuck Palahniuk’s book and David Fincher’s film Fight Club might be echoing in your ears, “We’re a generation of men raised by women.” Although we may have different points in bringing up this idea. I’m not attempting to highlight the negative, just as I’m not an imaginary person living in the mind of a broken man (I know SPOILERS). Perhaps we men are all a little better off because of our estrogen filled upbringing.
The first memory I can conjure of my mother is from somewhere around the age of two or three. It’s super foggy, but I think I remember it primarily because I got in trouble. I had learned a new word, and I knew that it had been labeled a bad word. I didn’t know what made it a bad word, because it was just a word. So, the only way to figure it out was to toss it out into the world and see what happened.
There was a narrow space between our refrigerator and the wall where I knew I could squeeze in between. I was preparing for the worst by barricading my rear end into a corner, that way it couldn’t be reached should this experiment go badly. Yes, I was spanked, and those of us who were are better off for it … just ask my kids … in another twenty years.
I waited for the house to quiet down. I believe it was early in the afternoon because the light coming into the kitchen window was bright. The kitchen would glow in late afternoons shining off of all that Formica and linoleum. Mom was always an avid (i.e., compulsive) cleaner and still is to this day.
I ran my tongue around in my mouth and then swallowed. I wanted to make sure my use of the word was precise for mom to understand, as she was the only one at home. I placed both hands behind my back, just in case she could reach through the walls, took a deep breath, and screamed, “SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” with all the effort my small body could produce.
At first, there was nothing but silence. Then I heard footsteps coming, searching. Oh man, this was a bad idea. I immediately regretted what I had done. This was a bad word. I didn’t know why, but I knew for sure that I was going to be in trouble. I don’t know how long it took her to find me, but she did.
The funny thing is no matter how hard I attempt to strain that memory, fill in the gaps, I don’t remember how I was punished, or if I was punished at all. What I do remember is my mother’s face. She was stern, perhaps disappointed, but in my memories eye, all I can see is her pretty, long, straight, red hair. It was backlit by the sun from the kitchen window. She was beautiful, although perhaps a little upset.
We spent a lot of time together over the years between that moment and the day I left for college at eighteen. She drove me to my dorm and helped me unload my things from our small Toyota pickup truck. I was full of excitement and anticipation, but she knew that an era had passed. She tried really hard, but she ended up putting on her sunglasses to hide the tears before she left. You know I read somewhere that you spend more than eighty percent of the time you will ever spend with your parents between birth and the age of eighteen. I think of this often when my kids ask me to read a book, play a video game, or go out to eat. Whatever else I was planning on doing seems a little less significant.
I still hold a clear memory of that moment on my first day of college. She’s standing in my dorm room door frame, red hair glowing in the fluorescent lights. It’s shorter now. She’s got dark sunglasses on, and she’s trembling a little bit. She had already left once, and I noticed the tears coming then. Now she had returned having intended to give me some walking around money before she left. That was when I knew that an era had passed. Seeing your mom cry is never easy and is guaranteed to make me turn on the waterworks. My roommate and I were old friends, thank goodness. Would have been odd to meet a new guy with dewy eyes.
Mom’s my rock. She always told me to follow my passions and has been supportive of every crazy path I have taken in this life. She’s a strong lady full of love and a fiery spirit … I mentioned the red hair, right?
Happy belated birthday to a sweet lady … with an imperfect son.