My mother in six words

In honor of Mother’s Day the New York Times asked readers to “Share six words about your mother.” I enjoyed reading the entries, and came up with a few six word momoirs of my own.

“Have I made myself abundantly clear?”

My brothers and I always knew it was time to shut up and wipe the insolent look off our faces when we heard this line. It was oftened followed by this one: “A simple yes ma’am will do!”

“Paint a picture, work a puzzle…”

When we were little we’d complain to mom about being bored. She had the same canned answer every time we complained, and to this day we can all recite it in the same sing song voice: “You could paint a picture, work a puzzle, write a story, go outside, read a book, clean your room…there is absolutely no reason to be bored in this house!”

“I always love anything you make.”

My mom is very creative. I am not. I often mention wanting to try a new craft, but those are usually hollow threats. However, on her most recent visit here, I mentioned wanting to try needle felting and before I could mount a protest over my lack of artistic inspiration we were standing in line to buy wool roving and barbed needles. My first creation was hideous and I was disappointed that no one could identify it at all (It was an owl). While I slept in the next day, she added eyes to it and it was immediately identifiable!  I was inspired to give needle felting another go, and I made a really sweet little bluebird sitting on a bifurcated branch. Mom kept threatening to take the bird home with her, but I couldn’t bear to part with it because I was afraid I would not be able to recreate it. With some time and effort I was able to make more birds, and I mailed the original bird to her for Mother’s Day. I included a felt ball gone wrong that I had fashioned into little nest for her wedding ring. She loved them!

“I am so proud of you.”

My mom is great at recognizing achievements big and small. When I won a prize for the self-portrait I drew in second grade, she had it professionally framed and hung it in the house, resplendant with the blue first prize ribbon. It was a small gesture that had a big impact. Throughout my life she has continued to cheer us on in all our endeavors. School concerts, plays, and recitals were well attended. High school graduations were celebrated with handmade scrapbooks documenting our lives in photographs and momentos. My brother’s progressively larger and more professional concerts are met with an entourage of family and friends who gather to savor his success under the galvanizing force that is my mother.

She’s neither the mom who blithely doles out hollow praise, nor the mom whose love is conditioned upon measuring up to success as she defines it. Rather, she’s a mom who celebrates our acheivements with reckless abandon, encourages us to do our very best in all things, and helps us evaluate ourselves fairly when we fall short of our goals. Always cheering, always ready for the victory or the defeat.

“I want ‘Mother of the Year'”

As a single mom with three different jobs my mother had neither the time nor the interest to play June Cleaver in the evenings. We often ate cereal or pizza for dinner until the storied year she decided she wanted to win ‘Mother of the Year.’ Chasing after that prize meant eating  a lot of Tuna Helper. When we yearned for our usual diet of Fruity Pebbles, our complaints were met with her declaration “But I’m going for ‘Mother of the Year!'”

“That’s not a color God created.”

In the seventh grade I soaked my dark brown hair with an entire bottle of Sun-In. It turned more or less flourescent orange. I got in my mom’s car and she said “What have you done to your hair?” I said “nothing!” and tried to convince her it just changed naturally over the course of the weekend at my father’s house. She said “A, that’s not a color God created.”

“Does this explain your stomach problems?”
When I finally worked up the courage to come out to my mom, we were sitting in the car, parked in front of the public library. I fumbled over the words, but mom didn’t miss a beat. She turned and asked if I thought my worries about being gay might be causing my gastrointestinal problems. I said yes, and she went into the library to drop off her book while I wiped my face off in the bathroom. It was a non-story.

My daily bouts of nausea and diarrhea ended shortly thereafter.

Ha ha (silent chest heave) ha ha (gasps, clutches chest with hand) ha ha.”

Mom and I are famous for our identical ability to be swept into fits of stomach shaking, chest heaving laughter. These episodes are usually brought on by socially awkward situations, like the time I received a really weird winter hat for Christmas. It was made from a scratchy wool and trimmed with black faux fur. In short, it was ridiculous, and when I pulled it out to model it for mom she dashed to the closet and whipped around wearing the exact same hat! She had one too! Only hers wasn’t a gift. She bought it herself because she thought it was soooo cute. Whoops. We burst into laughter and couldn’t stop for several minutes. R, bewildered by our state, snapped a photo of us mid-cackle and it’s one of my favorites.

My inspiration, my strength, my friend.

I am so lucky to have her inspiration, her strength, and her friendship.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


2 responses to “My mother in six words

  1. Even as I read this I was practically rolling on the floor of the car in the parking lot of Target (probably original home of the now infamous hat) blinded by tears, laughing uncontrollably, and coughing as I could get a breath with my new found asthma.
    What a dear, sweet post which will be printed out and go into a file labeled “Beth” in my file cabinet that contains other moments I’ll never forget that some day when I’m gone you and your brothers will enjoy going through.
    Thanks for a lovely Mother’s Day gift-bird, branch, nest and post.

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