It has occurred to me that I don’t dedicate enough space on this page to portraying my mother in the positive light that she deserves. Of course, I’ll never cease to find the humor in her technological shortcomings, her lack of tact at key moments, her rhetorical questions, and her bizarre use of cutesy words to describe her low-carb eating habits. But while it is true that years and years of nagging on her part has developed a deep sarcasm on mine, it is probably not entirely fair that I glorify these moments for all the Internet to see and blatantly ignore the rest.My father has gotten more than his share of best-father-in-the-world stories on my blog—hell, my senior year of college I wrote a 25-page homage to him for a literary journalism class. But my father died when I was nine, several years before I was to develop a typical teenage attitude and the obnoxious sense of humor that accompanies it. This is not to say that I don’t still admire my father for everything he was and for the memories he left behind. But it is to say that were he alive today, I’m sure some of his less-than-impressive moments—the ones my nine-year-old memory was unable to store—would have been witnessed, recorded, and well-documented for all of you to enjoy.
It seems highly unfair that my father only gets the good stories and my mother, well, her whole office now knows about her unfortunate use of the word di-di thanks to yours truly. The truth is that I can’t remember anything bad about my father whatsoever; if he ever had a moment of not knowing how to operate something, I have entirely blocked any knowledge of such an event and stored my image of him as the most perfect person in the entire world. Surely, then, if my memory is so fallible, if the images I retain are only the ones I tell, then by blogging only about my mother’s embarrassing moments I’m shaping a truly unfortunate and highly unfair picture of her—and doing a disservice not only to her, but to my memory of her in the future.
So, for an incredibly strong and powerful woman who has endured and survived more crap than any human being should have to in a lifetime, an attempt at a more accurate memory of my mother:
I often complain that she isn’t supportive of my decisions. What are you going to do with your life? was the main topic of conversation for the nine months I lived at home following my graduation from college.
I had no real answer. Maybe I’ll move to Santa Fe, I kept threatening.
And do what? she would counter.
She was, and always has been, demanding. She nags because it’s the best way she knows how to show her support. She cares, therefore she nags. She nags, therefore I’m sarcastic.
Some of you know that I’m planning to move to Portland, Oregon. The details remain, per usual, fairly sketchy. I’m trying to sell my car and buy another one. I may or may not bring my mattress, depending on what kind of car I may or may not end up acquiring. I’m moving in with my bearded boyfriend (my mother has not yet met him, but still cannot seem to get beyond the fact that he has lots of facial hair), but I may or may not decide to get my own place. I’m applying for jobs, but I have no idea whether or not anyone will find me worthy. I’m basically just going to pack my things into whatever car I have at the end of the month and drive.
Plans like this one, the kind that lack any evidence of planning, are not the kind that my mother appreciates. She needs to know more—where am I going to work? Where exactly am I going to live? Will Asa shave off his beard? etc. These are details that inquiring motherly minds want to know, but sarcastic daughterly ones have little in the way of an adequate response.
And so, on the phone the other night, the conversation began as it usually does:
“When are you going to Portland?” she asked.
“You don’t know when?” she asked with such an incredulous tone that you would have thought I had announced that I was flying to the moon instead of heading out to the Pacific Northwest.
“Well, I was thinking I’d wait until I heard back from one of the jobs I’m applying for before I leave. I think it’s a good idea to have something lined up before I go.” There. A responsible answer to a nagging question. I thought it would satisfy.
“What if nobody hires you?” There she goes again. She’s doubtful. She’s always doubtful. “If you don’t get a job, will you go anyway?”
My heart sank and I got frustrated. Not getting hired, particularly in Portland, an area plagued by a notoriously bad job market, is a very real possibility. A very real possibility that I hadn’t even allowed myself to consider. Of course I’ll find a job, I’ve been telling myself. Of course.
“Uh,” I paused. “I guess so. Yeah, I guess I’d go anyway.”
And this is where she caught me by surprise:
“Well, if you’re going to go even if you don’t have a job, then what are you waiting for? Why don’t you just pick a date and go?”
I almost didn’t know what to say back, and that means a lot for a girl who has a bagful of obnoxious quips to toss at her mother in the event of a bombardment of doubt.
“Gee.” I’m not sure if I actually used the word gee, but you get the point. “I hadn’t thought about it that way. I should just go. I guess you’re right.”
And that’s the point of this story—she very often is right, and she very often has more faith in me than I give her credit for. She may be a demanding woman—someone who orders a side of steamed milk with her coffee, who often carries a shield of “there’s nothing that you can do that I can’t do better,” someone with a heavy dose of doubt slung over her shoulder—but she also can surprise me with her compassion and understanding. Sometimes, it is clear, she does believe in me.
And so this is one of those moments I don’t want to forget.
:::::::::::::::::Unrelated side note: Whoa. It’s been four years. And it’s still so hard to believe.