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Mother Knows Best?
I love my mother. She’s an incredibly strong woman. She raised four children and worked in the family business for twenty-five years at a time when women were not expected to work. She has this strength that I knew passed down from generation to generation; my great-grandmother, my grandmother, mum, me and my own daughters. And that strength was mixed with old wives’ tales, cooking, and Mom’s own worries and fears for her family… too much, I might add.
Mom got married young. She met my father when she was fourteen and she never looked back. She raised babies on Karo syrup and formula milk, changed cloth diapers and plastic panties, washed us after playing in the mud all day, got the four kids ready, her husband and herself to go to church every Sunday, and she even fell down a church basement staircase with my newborn brother in her arms. As she descended the entire flight, she kept him safe and sound. She didn’t know it at the time but she had broken her hip. She now walks with a distinct little limp which she discovered in her later years that she had healed. It might sound like most moms of old, but mom also took care of her own mom when she was eight and even cooked for her baby brother. They thought mum’s mother was pregnant but after two years and no baby, but still growing belly, it was much worse. She had a water tumor that weighed over fifty pounds. Not believing in doctors at the time, everyone hoped she would pull through. Mom and her grandmother took care of the housework. Mom worked in a peach factory when she was nine to help support the family. Eventually, her mother had to have surgery, but she couldn’t be moved, so the operation was performed at home. While mom was at school, she wasn’t sure her mom would be alive when she got home that day. Her mother lost seventy pounds that first day and they then rushed her to the hospital.
Mum returned to a “normal” life after that, but inside she had already begun to form her own perceptions of life and these perceptions trickled down to the upbringing of her own children.
Mom and dad have lived with Lee and me since Peanut was born. Peanut is almost thirteen now and was blessed to have been raised by two generations of women.
I find myself laughing now at some of the things my mom used to tell me that I thought were true. I discovered that some of Mom’s wisdom was born out of fear and the need to know all the answers even if you didn’t.
I arrived last. I was the baby of the family. Mom was so excited that I was a girl. Mom had a hard time with me during labor, but why wouldn’t she? She had a broken hip and had no idea. She tells the story on the eve of my birthday every year: “You just didn’t want to come out. You were stuck. The doctor used forceps and everything. They were preparing me for the operation. . I shouted “God, Universe, Angels… whoever is there, give him a yank! I then shouted, “I’m your mother and you better listen to me…get out…NOW!” She said at that time I flew out like I heard what she said. She said that from that moment I always wanted to stay indoors rather than being in the physical world.
We get along wonderfully. Like a couple of girlfriends tied at the hip. We have fun when we go to town and eat Chinese food together. She needs my arm to get from here to there. She won’t use a cane and she won’t go to any store that doesn’t have a basket to lean on. She doesn’t want anyone to think she can’t pull her weight at her age of eighty.
She likes to complicate a simple experience. This doesn’t come from wanting to be too complicated; it comes from not wanting to “put yourself out” one way or another. If we decide on a place to eat, she asks me again and again if I want to go somewhere else: “We don’t need to go. We can go here if you want. it fits you well…”
“That’s great mom. I like Chinese.”
“Me too but maybe you don’t feel like it today even though I do. Your dad likes Chinese. We could always go with him instead when you take him to town for his date at the doctor.”
When we’re driving, she grabs onto the handle and yells “Oh!” every few minutes. She has poor eyesight and that eyesight makes things look closer than they are.
“Where are we going? You’ve never been here before,” she said as if I was doing something wrong.
“We go around here all the time mom.”
“Well…I guess I’m just a bit of a jerk then. I have no idea where we are. Are you sure you…”
She insists on buying me candy when I help her like I’m a little girl. This totally freaks me out. Don’t get me wrong, I love candy but I don’t eat much of it anymore especially since I lost weight but that doesn’t matter to mom. She always tells me that I’m too skinny and if I lose more weight I’m going to look older than I am and I’ll look skinny.
“It’s just not healthy, Bethie.”
“Bethi? I made pinto beans with ham and bacon in them. You’re going to eat them, aren’t you?
She doesn’t seem to remember that I haven’t eaten pinto beans since I was a little girl. They gave me stomachache then and still do.
“You don’t like my beans, do you?” Alright…you know beans aren’t fattening? They just give people gas… that’s all. I figured out how to stop the beans from making you fart. to know.”
I can feel the laughter rising in my throat. I hold it together. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.
” How is mum ? »
“You soak them in baking soda.”
“Did you know that vinegar cures EVERYTHING? If you drink a cup of vinegar every day, you won’t get cancer.”
I don’t say a word. She had cancer and it is in remission. She drinks a cup of vinegar every day.
“Bethie? You know what drives me crazy? When your dad sneezes. I’m afraid he’ll blow his head off one day. You know…that happens sometimes.”
“Bethi? I’ve always heard that as a man gets older, he doesn’t feel like it anymore. You know what I mean by envy, don’t you?
I nod, hoping she doesn’t go any further on the subject.
“He ALWAYS grabs my butt. Can you believe it?”
Yes I can believe it. Since his stroke, he does it in front of us all the time.
“You know…I love that old fool. I wouldn’t take a million for him but I wouldn’t take a penny for another.”
I have to say that living with my parents is a wonderful experience. They make me laugh every single day of my life whether it’s intentional or not.
I know that all her worries, all her stories, all her complaints; all her questions are part of who she is. And I’ll take it all for a few more years with this wonderful woman I call ‘Mom’.
As I cut the guinea pigs breakfast, mom comes up behind me and gives me a big hug, “I love you baby girl.”
“I love you too mom.”
“Can I feed the pigs? »
I hand him the tray full of vegetables. It’s one of his favorite activities. She walks into the guinea pigs’ room with that cute little hobble, holds the lettuce up and giggles like a little girl as they raise their little starfish legs.
My mother… one in a million… I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
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