The Golden Goose and I just spent a week in beautiful Exuma, in the Bahamas. I know, poor me. All that spare time caused me to do three things, drink too much, get too much sun and think. While I should have been enjoying brain dead time gazing at the florescent blue water, my mind whirled.
One night, I awoke at 3:00 am, the time when everything in the world is wrong. Suddenly, I needed to know that my kids, who were free wheeling at home alone, were okay. For years Cricket has been in charge of The Boy. My friends who travel with me joke that I’ve been leaving The Boy home alone since the 7th grade. This isn’t strictly true. Cricket has always been in charge and has been fully able to run a small country since the age of 6. I never worry that things will run smoothly when she’s in charge. The Boy, however, tends to go AWOL, ignore texts, failing to email or check in. Thus, I suddenly panicked at 3:00 that I was a terrible mother.
I prodded The Goose and asked him if he was awake. I told him I couldn’t stop thinking. This produced a sarcastic laugh and he told me he thought he smelled smoke.
“Am I a terrible mother?” I wailed. “Have I gone wrong by being so trusting? I mean, what could a 16 year old boy get into while home alone?”.
So The Goose and I got to talking about mothers. The Goose was left to walk himself to school in Kindergarten. He got himself ready and took himself to school. I, on the other hand, was driven door to door in an armored car. That’s the difference in a 4th child and an only child. We have long exhausted the subject of my happiness with my own perfect mother as well as my delight at finding such a groovy wonderful birth mother. This subject has been inspected, turned around, talked about and diagrammed. I just have happy mother issues and am covered up with great mother feelings from all sides.
Things moms say make a big dent in who we become. My mom never went to the grocery store without full make up and lipstick. Because of her, I know what’s tacky, what’s acceptable and what’s “done right”. I know children shouldn’t say “yeah” or “huh”, that legs really should be crossed at the ankles and that if an artificial nail comes off in the cotton candy at a school festival, one should look the other way and pretend it was someone else. I know from her that the we are in a constant war with germs and should be ever vigilant with the Lysol, that there are peeping toms waiting around every corner and that women who color their hair bright red usually can’t be trusted. Cricket recently had shoes that hurt and when she started to complain about it she held up a hand at me and sighed, “I know, one has to suffer for beauty. You’ve been telling me since I was a toddler”. I had no idea she even listened and my heart swelled because I’d passed that one right on from my mom.
The Goose’s mother was decidedly different. Although she had many great qualities, she wasn’t a lovey-dovey mother or grandmother. “Did you feel properly mothered?” I asked him. The Goose answered that he was perfectly happy with his mom. Although she was not a very loving person, he always felt as if she would be there if he needed her. Maybe this is what counts, having kids secure enough to know that there is someone there to be their safety net. The Goose’s mom had several important pieces of wisdom to impart. Frequently, when he was a teenager, she would say to him “a penis has no conscience”. When asked how she felt, she would often answer with “well, I feel like I do now better than I did when I first got here…but don’t tell anyone” or some convoluted version thereof. She called having a bath a “Clara Barton” and named her end table “Abnot”. These oddball sayings have become dear to us since she’s been gone and I find myself thinking about the quirks she had and how they helped to form the great Golden Goose that I have now. Surely she was the perfect mother for him.
The other day I wrapped my arms around The Boy and asked him if he felt happy with me as a mother. Did he feel he could always depend on me? This caused him to laugh and say, “Well, Mom, you ARE a total pushover but you are a great mom.”
“What about all those Bible songs we listened to in the car when you were little? That was pretty darn respectable. Remember how much we read and how we played in the creek?”.
“I remember you read “Are You My Mother” over and over to me because you thought it was funny that it made me cry.”
“Okay, but I was strict enough with the rules that you are a good kid now”.
“I remember when you whacked the daylights out of my head with a giant sucker” he replied.
How long I’ll pay for that particular miscalculation, I don’t know. They never forget.
“Well, what about when I was your room mom?”
“Sure, that’s back when you were allowed in the school.” This referring to the fact that I am, mysteriously, not asked to sub anymore.
“Uh, huh, well, I gave you my great car.”
Finally, then I received a hug and some reassurance that he was, indeed, happy with me as a mom.
Both moms and dads shape who our kids will become. Cricket never walks into the house without The Goose yelling “you da bomb, baby!”. She, in turn, rolls her eyes. Every single game of The Boy’s life, whether he does well or fails, I have told him, “you were definitely the cutest one out there.” While there have been groundings and spankings, plenty of yelling, mainly over math, and several slammed doors and temper tantrums, my kids never have to guess how much they are loved.
And so, I sought out The Boy, who had so recently called me “a pushover” (which I very well may be), looked him in the eye and told him that after much introspection, I feel that if all he has to complain about is being hit on the head with an all-week sucker, then I must have been an okay mother.
But really, I have to thank my great kids. No matter how “mommy” I might not have been, I still walk around in the world, connected to these strange two people about whom I know their quirks and fears. Whose fat, wrinkled necks and Johnson’s baby shampooed bald heads I can still recall, who wrote on the back of my baby blue linen chair with a green marker, who brought a garden hose, turned on full blast, through my house while coming in to get a popsicle. Those toddlers with deep husky voices who would climb out of their beds, come down the stairs, get as close to my face as possible and yell “MOM” to see if I was awake. Two loonies, one of which recently put on a pair of size one jeans and called herself fat. I know what they will eat, what they won’t, who threw up in a baseball hat and cried because I threw it away, who can sing and who shouldn’t. I know both of them love school supplies, thrift stores and sour gummy candy. These are the kids who changed all my passwords to Penis. The idiots who have caused such disruptions in churches that we have a list to which we shouldn’t return. Almost grown children who hold true to their Christian, animal loving, chaotic hippie homed, vegetarian values. Two individuals who can catch my eye and burst into wild laughter at inappropriate moments. These two humans whom The Goose and I whipped up, from scratch, who understand us, share our scary humor, love us and one who might take care of us when we’re old. These two oddballs, without whom I wouldn’t have the great and inexplicable joy of calling myself mother on Mother’s Day and everyday. Happy Mother’s Day to every mom who finds her children to be the very best, no matter what weirdos they actually are.