Mother May I

The anniversary of my mother’s passing is tomorrow, just one day before Mother’s Day.  Eleven years ago when my mother passed quietly in her sleep the calendar was the same — the day before Mother’s Day. My Mother’s Day with my children is forever marred by the loss of my Mother.

My mother and I had a difficult, sometimes challenging relationship at best. The more time that passes I find it’s easier to remember the few good times we had together rather than dwelling on the many awkward or confrontational times.

 Like many mothers, my mom was no different than many mothers of her generation in the fact that she offered a lot of “one size fits all” parenting tips such as:

  •  Don’t run with scissors
  • Look both ways before crossing the street
  • Never talk to strangers
  • If all your friends jumped off a bridge, does that mean you have to also?
  • Be sure to change your underwear everyday just in case you’re ever in a car accident

 Those are all good points — especially that last one.  Once I got older and began having children of my own, I didn’t always pattern my own motherhood skills after my mother. If fact, the older my children got the clearer it became that Mom and I approached motherhood in two completely different fashions.

For instance when my first husband and I hit a bad patch in our marriage and my mother counseled me that a cheating husband is better than no husband – well, I opted not to follow that advice and filed for a divorce.  When Mom told me a strong cup of coffee and a cigarette are a great way to jump start your day – I merely rolled my eyes and replied, to each his own.

My parenting styles and my mother’s may not have always agreed but it’s hard to argue with her logic to sort your whites because not everyone can wear pink; there’s no such thing as too much garlic or too much red sauce and always hide some mad money in your underwear drawer because at some point your kids will drive you mad.

Mom and I were light years apart when it came to spiritual matters. She taught me to believe that if I married a non-Catholic I was damning myself to hell itself for all eternity. (I hope she got that one wrong.) She also believed there were some sins that the Catholic Church could NEVER forgive like divorce, but eating meat on a Friday if you were travelling was okay and the one indiscretion that God could and would overlook.  

Growing up I swore that the one thing I would NEVER do when I became a parent would be the waving finger thing.  When my mother was angry with me she would wave her index finger in my face as though she were brandishing a poison wand in my face that was bent on my sole destruction. She always sported long fingernails filed to a terrifying point which merely added drama and produced the requisite amount of fear and trembling on my part.

Imagine my surprise when during a particularly trying time during my oldest daughter’s pre-pubescent rebellious phase I found myself wielding a waving finger of my own. The funny part was my daughter had retreated to her room and slammed the door in my face leaving me to wave my finger helter skelter as if my finger had suddenly become possessed with the soul of my dear, departed mother. Staring at my waving digit I found myself alarmed and baffled as to whose finger that was waving at my daughter.  Certainly not mine!  Lucky for me there were no witnesses to my sudden transformation into one of those kinds of mothers.

As my children grew to adulthood, there were times when not surprisingly, I would hear my mother’s words spill forth from my mouth and wonder, “How did my mother get inside of me? When did I become my mother?”

Perhaps we’re all destined  eventually – to become like our mothers.  It’s difficult to completely ignore our upbringing without acknowledging at some point we swam in the same gene pool as our mothers.  The following are some of the flotsam and jetsam that floated to the top of my mother’s gene pool that I have passed on to each of my children:

  • When unexpected company comes calling, hurry and clean your bathroom immediately – especially the toilet. If you can’t excuse yourself to go and clean, assign the job to someone else because company isn’t likely to notice your unmade beds but almost always will visit your bathroom and no one likes a dirty toilet!
  • Never cut your own bangs – remember your brother’s gum incident.
  • A towel bar is a poor substitute for a chin-up bar.
  • Beds are for sleeping – they are not a poor man’s trampoline.
  • Close the door! We are not paying to cool the back yard!
  • No I am not made of money! Do you think money grows on trees?  
  • If you can’t say something nice, say something funny. If you can’t think of anything funny, smile and simply say, “That’s interesting.”

Somehow the passage of time has transformed memories of my mother who was a Sicilian woman of average height into a little Jewish grandmother. I hear her words coming to me in voice all nasally and throaty and she sounds just like George Costanza’s mother. I in turn relay these words to my children in the same little Jewish grandmother voice.

I find that the words of the poet, Maya Angelou have become more and more real to me with each passing year:  “I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.” 

In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend, in my best Jewish grandmother’s voice, I implore you to, “Call your mother; make right that which is wrong … and if it is at all possible, hug your mutha! 

Happy Mother’s Day Mom and to mother’s everywhere!


Blessings in Christ and as always … Happy reading …

Kathy K.