Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oh, Mother

The year I was in fourth grade I had an obsession: guarding my mother's bra strap.

I would notice it slinking down her arm and stage whisper, "Mother! Your bra strap!" out of the corner of my mouth.  Utterly ridiculous, but I had just begun to wear a 'trainer' bra  and I wanted no one to know I had one underneath my t-shirt, because I was a DECENT person. (What is a trainer bra anyway, and what are we training our poor prepubescent bodies for?)

At ten I just found it completely humiliating that my mother's bra strap could be seen in public by friends and total strangers alike. For Pete's sake, no DECENT lady would ever let another soul know they wore a bra.  If people knew that my Mother wore a bra then they would know that she also had breasts.  If they knew she had breasts, they would also be able to figure out that she wore underwear, and that was an unwelcome can of worms I did not want opened.

1983 was the momentous year; the year I considered myself to be keeper of the secret of Mama's lingerie - a knight of sorts.

I stood watch at all times. If I caught a glimmer of of strap beginning the wayward descent I would push it back under her shirt and do my excellent stage whisper. In my ten year old mind I was practicing the art of subtlety; to my mother I must have seemed an obnoxious fool.

Now that I have lived through two ten year olds - I'm on my third and have one more to go - I kind of get it. Kids are completely enamored of their mothers until about age 10. My kids still think I'm beautiful and wonderful and all of that, when we're at home.  However, once we step out into public I am capable of inflicting humiliation on them simply by existing. It's awesome.

I think noticing Mom's bra strap also caused me notice the fact that she was a person who lived her own life. I could not fathom that she did anything while my brothers and I were away from her.  I imagined her sitting idly at the kitchen table, bored out of her head, until we came home from school or wherever we had been.

Ten is about the age I started to fight with my mom in earnest - and that is about the age each my children have chosen to exert their individuality. (Read:  be completely rude and irrational at any given moment.)  I wanted to become my own person and I decided that should be the exact opposite of the person I was finding my mother to be.  I think this must be encoded in our DNA because it is such a painful, tedious, bizarre process no one would willingly participate in this ritual dance of independence.  

I can honestly say that I have, thus far, enjoyed every stage of parenting. This is not to say that I do not find it difficult.  I do; gut wrenchingly so, and I have the gray hair to prove it. :)  There are two things that keep me going on the days when I feel that I am being crushed beneath all the mental and physical exertion of parenting:  1. Baby pictures of my darling children  2. The relationship I have with my mother now.  Those two things remind of me of how much I love those human beings that can cause me sleepless nights, and give me hope for a future with them.

My relationship with Mom began blossoming when I married, but was solidified when I had my first child. The interesting thing about birth is that also brings the birth of a mother, and in turn the birth of a grandmother. Mom's emergence into being a grandparent allowed me to glimpse another facet of herself, and was a gift to watch. This continuation of lineage put us somewhere we had never been: equals. We were both beginning a new stage of life and even though I still look to her for security in small ways, Mom and I learned to do this new part of life together.

There were days, early days, when the baby was so new it was scary.  Lee had to leave for work at the crack of dawn so Mom came over to fix me breakfast for the first few days home. We would lie in bed together, our daughter/granddaughter between us, watching her wiggle and squeak and stretch. I had postpartum depression that made me feel it would swallow me whole, and mother just took my hand and led me through that dark forest. Those days cemented our friendship.  Each child that has come along has added more layers to our amity.   When I rolled over in the night to nurse a baby to find a thermos of cold milk and peanut butter crackers sitting on my nightstand, I learned that I would never stop mothering from my Mom . That was a hug from my mother, her way of still nurturing one of her babies.

I had forgotten about the bra strap thing until we were all together this summer. One of my kids elbowed me and muttered 'Your strap is showing'. Mom cracked up and told me it was just punishment for the year she endured with me pushing her strap up. She said she sometimes pushed it down into view just to get me going. I'm so glad she thinks it's so funny.

Later, when we were leaving a restaurant I noticed her bra strap hanging down.  I pointed it out to her.  She just wiggled her eyebrows at me.

Oh, Mother.

1 comment:

  1. You crack me up with your awesome stories of growing up. Reading this made me realize how much mom meant to me and how much I miss her. You have a wonderful, brilliant, and funny mother....hold on to her everyday.