“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Things My Mother Taught Me

Happy Mother's Day!

I've been sitting here in front of my laptop for about twenty long minutes, a blank screen glaring at me all accusingly. The thing is, I know I want to write about my mother today, but the thing is, I have no idea where to begin.

The thing is, she's complicated.

I considered making this a tribute to how beautiful she is. No matter what else she's ever been--strict, overbearing, unreasonable, insane--she was always the prettiest mom. I look nothing like her, unfortunately. To my blond curly hair, hers is black and poker-straight. To my light green eyes, hers are, well, she'd tell you brown, but they're really black. In fact, when she's angry, they're a little on the satanic side. Especially since she wears such bold eye makeup. Dark black eyeliner and thick mascara, and then she'd look at you with her eyes all wide and perfectly round like saucers, and this black outlining the crisp whites, all around the coal black centers, and...man. When she looked that way, I saw my life flash before my eyes, I'm telling you. And, weirdly, she was always cooking, so there'd usually be some sort of weapon in her hands. Like a meat mallet or a wooden spoon. It's totally true that she chased my brother, sister, and me through the house with the spoon. She never caught us, though. We'd lock ourselves in the bathroom and she'd stand on the other side saying loving, coaxing things like, "YOU KIDS ARE GONNA KILL ME, DO YOU HEAR ME?" Well, actually, Mom, the whole state of New York hears you. "I'M GONNA CALL YOUR FATHER AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN THEN? HE'S GONNA KILL YOU!" The important things to note here are: A) She put the fear of God in us and B) she always let us get away. I can say now as an adult: God, that's good mothering. I always try to do the same for my kids.

I considered discussing what made my mom different from other moms, aside from her beauty. But there are just too many things. Quite honestly, I'm so much like her, I think I'd just end up tooting my own horn, anyway. (Which I do enough in other posts.) So instead, I've decided to create a list of the best advice she's ever given me.

1) Make it garlicky, and make it sweet. When in doubt, add parmesan. (This is for cooking, but can be a life metaphor if you wish.)

2) Hair: the bigger, the better, baby.

3) Be bold. Stand straight. People are watching.

4) No matter how bad someone is to you, smile and be nice. Have a good time. No--have the best time.

5) Smiling makes you a thousand times more beautiful.

6) Isn't it just easier to be nice? (The answer is no, it's way easier to be a bitch, but nice pays better.)

7) Shopping makes everything better.

8) Giving to the people you love is the best feeling.

9) Always cook enough for 700 people.

10) Always answer the door and the phone.

11) Words our men don't like: No, Wrong, Don't.

12) Words our men like: Yes, You're Right, and What can I do for you, dear?

13) It's okay to have the loudest, most ridiculous laugh in the room.

14) ADD/being scatterbrained are hereditary. There's no hope for me, but I'm still awesome.

15) No matter how far you've come, how publicly or loudly you've committed, you can always change your mind and do the right thing. 

16) Family comes first.

17) Family love is unconditional.

18) Never upset the woman holding a meat mallet or large knife.

19) Never tell Judy bad news when she's driving.

20) If someone has just had eye surgery and says, "No, it's okay, I can drive," it's not true.

21) Act in a way that no one has anything bad to say about you.

22) It's never okay to fart.

23) When Dad gets really mad, it's kind of funny. But if he sees you laughing, he gets more mad.

24) When Mom gets really mad, it's not funny. Hug her and kiss her and tell her she's beautiful.

25) Don't make mistakes.

26) You can never go wrong with a Polo dress.

27) Nobody wants to talk to you when you're on the phone with somebody else. And turn off your ringer in public.

28) A woman is not just her husband and children. She is much, much more, and should have and do things that remind her of that daily.

29) When you are feeling angry and venomous, shut your mouth and walk away.

30) Those times when it seems like only you notice that a person is awful, don't be the one to continually point it out. If you're right, they will "dig their own grave." (That's a Judy-ism.)

31) Children need and want their mothers no matter how old they are. Children need and want their mothers no matter what they say. Children need and want their mothers, even when they think they don't.

There are a lot of things I can describe concisely and well. Big Macs. Paintings. Middle schoolers. But my mother? I don't think there is any one word for her. And it's not enough to say she's everything, either. She's more like...everything, lit on fire, rolling down a dry, grassy hill. She's also the person who knows me best, knows my thoughts and feelings before I even know they're there, gives me my words when I can't find them.

Dear Mom, you have been the lighthouse in my storm, every time. I love you.

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