In Honor of My Mom

In Honor of My Mom

My mom turns 84 this week, so I thought it was only fitting that I write about her. Of course, I knew she wouldn’t be here because she doesn’t go out after dark, so I knew I was safe. I am 50 years old, and I am still afraid of my mom. Do we ever get beyond wanting to please our mothers? My mother is a strict mother; she always has been, and she hasn’t mellowed out much in her senior years. I first realized this when she threatened my misbehaving children with a fly swatter when they were youngsters.

When we were young children living in Hammond, my older brother and his friends spent hours outside building forts, riding bikes, and trying to stay out of trouble. Mom was a stay-at-home mom of the 70s, so she always knew where we were. When it was time for us to return home, did she call us like the other moms? Of course not. She blew a whistle. She would stand out on the front porch, take a gigantic breath, and blow that damn whistle as loudly as she could. Birds and small animals would scatter in fear. Mortified, my brother would act like he didn’t hear it, wait a couple minutes, and then announce to his buddies that he thought he’d head home. By the time I was a teen, Mom had given up the whistle (or maybe it disappeared), and she began flashing the front porch light when I was out. There was no pretending it wasn’t coming from my house, so I’d hang my head and walk home while the neighborhood kids tried to control their laughter. Thanks, Mom.

Most parents have some memorable phrases they use with their kids. My mom’s favorite phrase was It just isn’t necessary. No matter our request, if Mom didn’t want to give in, she gave no reason other than it wasn’t necessary. “Can I take gymnastics, Mom?” “No.” “But why not?” I’d inquire. “Because it just isn’t necessary.” Oh, great, Mom. But those piano lessons are necessary? “Can I go out with my friends?” “No, it isn’t necessary.” But it’s fun, Mom. Can’t something just be fun? Algebra isn’t necessary, but I can’t get out of that. Dusting the floorboards isn’t really necessary, is it? But I had to do that.

My mom hates cooking, but she made sure we had balanced meals that included vegetables. I hated – okay, I still hate – vegetables, but she force-fed them to me: spinach (canned, cooked, nasty spinach), green beans, peas, lima beans – we had them all. I think the benefits of these vegetables were canceled out by the Spam she also served. She was one of those moms who made us sit at the table until we had eaten our veggies. Apparently she thought that was necessary. My brother would stash his in his napkin. I, being the younger, more creative sibling, swallowed them whole with my milk. Have you ever swallowed whole green beans? Just the thought of chewing a green bean gags me, so I became quite adept at swallowing them with milk. My family was amused by my ingenuity, and would watch me as I swallowed them down one by one.

My mom is a clean freak. In Mom’s home, everything has a very specific place. Her books and remotes are lined up with the edge of her end table. She has absolutely no clutter. How does she live like that? She is at that stage in life when she is getting rid of things. She’s even given back family photos we have given her. Thanks, Mom. Wouldn’t want those old things cluttering up your house. Every single year, she did spring and fall cleaning. Her house was already spotless, so I’m not sure why this was necessary. She would scrub down every wall; I’ve never scrubbed down an entire wall. Is that really necessary? She would Jubilee every piece of furniture (remember that thick, white furniture cleaner?); I am certain that’s not necessary. Mom, even at nearly 84, still keeps her house spotless. Last August I heard my cell phone ringing at school. I checked and saw it was Mom; she never calls during the workday, so I answered. In her weakest voice she told me she had fallen, and was certain she’d broken her wrist. I took off to get her and take her to the ER. As we were driving, she explained that she had been standing on a stool, cleaning her top cabinets. The next thing she knew, she was on the floor. Cleaning is dangerous, Mom. Stop it. It just isn’t necessary to stand on a stool when you’re home alone just so you can clean something that no one will ever see.

Not only is my mom’s home spotless; she also keeps her car looking like new. A few years ago, Mom decided to spruce up her car a bit. Do you remember those spinners that young kids put on their wheels? They were metal and, well, they spun around as the car moved. They were really intended for hot rods or cars that were all jacked up and had bass that could be heard from a mile away, but for some reason, Mom thought they were neat, and had a set installed. So, on the front of her car was a plate that said ‘I Love Country Music’, and on her wheels were spinners, the ultimate oxymoron. That’s the year I bought her black bikini underwear that said “Hot Momma” for Christmas. She did not find that amusing.

My mother did not find me very amusing this past Christmas either. I decided to buy a couple bottles of wine. My daughters are adults, as are my nieces, so I thought it’d be nice to try some local wines. I had worked my tail off preparing a nice Christmas; my husband had knee surgery two days earlier; and I was stressed. Wine was necessary. I thought it was a nice gesture, but later found that if she could, Mom would have used that fly swatter on me. I was in trouble – at 50 years old – for serving wine in my own house. I’m getting her a bottle of wine for her birthday.

Someday, I am quite certain my own daughters will compile their own list of “mom” stories. I intend to follow in my own mom’s footsteps and provide them with plenty of material.

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