Last Sunday our sermon was about child rearing. Since I am almost done with this, I used this time to doodle, play with the charms on my bracelet and admire my shoes. One thing he said, though, slipped through. How important a good mother is in making a great child. Gosh, I started out to be a swell mom. We sang Bible songs, we did crafts, I swore by using phrases like “gee whiz” and “heck”. All went well until I purchased an Offspring CD when my daughter was in 4th grade. She swears this is when we went to hell in a handbag.
Well, I felt the guilt slipping in so I changed thoughts and considered my own mother. She was a True Southern Lady. By this I mean she was perfect. I never heard my mother swear, never saw her perspire, never heard her raise her voice to my dad, who believed she was an angel personified. There was never a moment when there wasn’t a warm pound cake on our counter. She made hospital visits, casseroles and never had a disagreement with anyone that I can think of. As an only child, I benefited so greatly from her undivided attention that my best friend used to nudge me in church and say “look, your mother is watching you breathe from the choir loft”. I also frequently got “the look” from the choir loft that told me to stop wiggling, drawing and making designs on the velvet pew cushion with my fingernails.
That’s not to say she wasn’t without her quirks. Growing up in the Bible belt, my mother was so pure that the weirdest things bothered her. Who knows where she got these ideas? For instance, I was not allowed to play the game Operation as a child because the man was nude. I don’t believe she even said the word “nude”. I’m sure it just involved another “look”. There was no word for breasts at our house, it was just chest. There were no words for boy parts or ladytown, just “the bottom” whether front of back. One did not refer to things that went on in the bathroom unless one needed to see a doctor and the bedroom was not even considered. Perrier water was out as well because the bottle was suggestive of beer. The one that, I believe, catapulted me into the middle aged lush that I am, however, was that I was not allowed to sing “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” because, of course, he drank his wine.
I did pick up lots of good knowledge from the True Southern Lady, though. My mother fully believed that if one kept moving while eating, the calories would never find you. Our housekeeper, Sassy, claimed that she had once seen Mother eat three entire bags of Hersey’s Kisses while circling the dining room table and talking on the phone.
Although I was a terrible teen, my mom kept up with a smile. When I informed her that I was going to a concert at the dark and enjoyable Agora Ballroom, my mom and her best friend went down, during the day, to check it out for safety and propriety. My mother fell and sprained her ankle never knowing that I had already changed my weekend plans. I just keep imaging the guys in those dark depths picking up my mom as she smoothed down her skirt and straightened her pearls, oh gosh and oh geeing all the time.
Probably the only thing I can think of that she ever did wrong was wear a fur coat. There is nothing more evil in the world than fur and I couldn’t bear (no pun) to look at her in it, but like so many others of her generation, she adored it and popped it on anytime the temperature dipped below 65. When she died, I was left with the dilemma of what to do with it. I couldn’t sell it because I don’t want anyone to wear fur. I couldn’t throw it away because so many little mink lives would be wasted. So, I keep it in the back of my closet and sometimes when I miss her, I bury my face it it and it still smells of the Oscar that she wore. Besides, it made a great addition to Cricket’s boyfriend’s pimp outfit last Halloween.
I know that my style of mothering has been entirely deficient when compared to my mom. Life is so much faster now and I have certainly not lived up to her standards. I know my kids will never hear the theme music to Days of our Lives and conjure up images of sitting at the table with sweet tea and little sandwiches while Sassy irons to the clean smell of Niagara spray starch and discusses “their story” with my mom. I haven’t worn many respectable length skirts and they’ve never seen me in a one piece swim suit. They probably won’t use me as a role model in which to judge what’s right and what’s wrong. They’ve seen too much and really, it’s hard to fully respect a mother wearing a tiara and prom dress on horseback.
If you have a mom handy, call her up and lie about how good you’ve been and tell her how much you love her because without these True Southern Ladies, the world is a darker and less sparkly place.