There are days when I believe myself to be the meanest mother in the world. I'm supposing this is genetic, because as a child & teenager I thought my own mother held that title. While I loved her, I remained convinced she was out to get me, as she would never let me do/wear/buy fun stuff, or hang out at all the cool places. I mean, come on! Recently I made a list of all manners in which my mother stiffled my enjoyment during the teenage years:
*In 7th grade, when everyone else was being dropped off at Parkway Cinemas on Friday nights, I was not allowed to go unless an adult was with me, nor was I able to walk the 50 yards (gasp!) to Mazzio's Pizza and hang out with everyone after the movie. C-R-U-E-L.
*Remember Guess? jeans? Remember how everyone in the world had them? Even Anna Nicole Smith? To this day I can say that I have never owned a pair of jeans emblazoned with that perfect Guess? triangle on the pocket. My mean Mama said it'd be a cold day in Hades before she paid $50 for a pair of blue jeans. Hell's still hot, folks.
*In 9th grade a big group of my girlfriends planned a trip to see New Kids On the Block in concert. For whatever reason (my smart mouth, probably!) I was on restriction at that time and Mama said I Could. Not. Go. No amount of whining, crying, begging or pleading would change her mind. I got one of those, "You made your bed, now lie in it" speeches. Utterly devastating!
*I was not allowed to have a phone or television in my room. Ever. My parents insisted that if given my own, I'd spend the evenings tucked away in my bedroom, chatting for hours with girls whom I'd just spent the entire day at school. At the age of twenty I finally procured a telephone for my bedroom...because I had a job at the mall and bought it with my own money. And then I moved to Lynchburg, VA, a year later and it really wasn't that big a victory anyway...one year of having a phone in my room. That's all. Whatever.
*Speaking of the phone, I was not allowed to call boys. I couldn't even call boys who were just friends. I can't tell y'all how many times I'd sneak and call some guy (because yes, I was disobedient), only to have Mama pick up on an extension and say, "I didn't hear the phone ring...get off, NOW!" Sneaky for her. Embarrassing for me. Leniency was given as I grew older...by my senior year she could've cared less who I called, within reason, of course. But you know what? She was right with this ruling. Girls, let the fellas call YOU.
*When it came time to shop for a prom dress, I fell in love with a long black & gold number, heavily sequined with all kinds of designs on a diamond pattern. I wanted that dress. Badly. Mama took one look at the price tag and said, "You can forget it!" I didn't forget, but I did pick out something less expensive that I loved almost as much. And then I got to the prom and saw that Tori had the dress. Being the smart mouth that I was, the next day I whined to Mama, "Tori had on that dress I wanted. I guess her parents really love her." I think Mama's reply was something along the lines of, "Well, I guess they do, get over it." End of story. Meanie pants, that's my mother.
*My mama (and my dad, of course!) made me go to church. Every week. Whether I wanted to or not. My brother and I had to be barfing up a lung or bleeding out our eyes in order to miss church. I've heard it said that if one shoves their children into the church doors, in spite of their protesting, those children are going to grow up resentful of church and all it stands for. Bull-freaking-crap. (Woo, getting fired up here!) My Bible tells me to "train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6) Mama knew this even then. It was mean of her, sure, but still...I'm thankful for it.
(Yes, I quoted the Word and thew in a little "Christian cussing" in the same paragraph. That's so me, like it or not.)
Y'all get the picture by now, right? I could go on and on, but it's sufficient to procclaim that I lived a deprived existence as a teenager. No fair!
While I thought my mother to be pretty much the meanest ever, she did have redeeming qualities that I look back on in fondness. During my senior year of high school we both skipped a day (she was a teacher at my school--and yes, I had her in class and called her "Mrs. Roth." Embarrassing.) and headed up to Atlanta for some mother/daughter fun. We went shopping at Lenox Sqare, ate a fabulous meal, then changed into some fine evening duds and saw the musical The Secret Garden at the Fox Theater. What fun!
On weekends when I'd go out with my friends or whomever I was "in love" with at the time, she would always wait up for me until I returned home for the evening, sometimes past midnight. I'd usually find her asleep in the sunroom, TV blaring, but she was still waiting. That's serious love and concern right there.
When I became a new mother and was struggling through learning the ropes of nursing, Mama would get up with me and Libbey in the middle of the night and sit with us while I tried to get my baby and my boobs to cooperate. At the same time. Caroline came along 3 3/4 years later, and while she was a champion, no-instructions-needed nurser, when she'd wake for her 5 am feeding, Mama was still right there with us. She kept the baby monitor with her in the guest room, and when she'd hear Caroline rousing, she'd come downstairs and watch QVC or TV Land with me, sitting in the darkened living room. When I told her, "Thanks, but I really don't need you, go back to sleep!" her reply was, "I know you don't. But I don't want you sitting here by yourself." Gulp...sob-sob. I almost cry just thinking about this. Because it's precious. Even though we got on each other's nerves after a while, I was beyond thankful to have my Mama with me for a few weeks after giving birth. She was an enormous help, to say the very least.
After my husband, my Mama is my best friend. We named our firstborn after her, and gave our second child Mama's maiden name as a middle name! Even though she was the meanest mother in the world when I was younger, somehow, through the passing of time & experiences, she's earned the title of best mother in the world. Her own mother, my maternal grandmother, passed away when she was just 33 years old. I am 33 years old now. Not having Mama in my life is unfathomable to me and if I write too much more about it I'll fall into a weepy mess and possibly ruin my laptop. I'm thankful to God to have such a beautiful, special, talented, wonderful and caring mother. My girls have the best grandmother ever. I'm pretty sure Scotty will admit she's a swell mother-in-law, too.
I'll end with this little story: When I graduated high school my AP English teacher (who was also a family friend and colleague of Mama's) wrote letters to the parents of each of her students, thanking them for a good year and offering congratulations and best wishes for their new graduates. The last part of her letter to my parents was directed to my mother. It read, in part, "Mary, as a mother of two boys I have often envied the relationship you and Leigh Anne share. I hope you both realize how precious and rare this is, and how it should be cherished. I have enjoyed watching you two grow in your mother/daughter roles through these 18 years..."
Happy Mother's Day, Mama! I love you forever! And Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers and moms-to-be out there.
(Mama, Caroline and Libbey--October 27, 2005.)