Category Archives: Yep I’m Becoming My Mother

Musings about the various ways I’m unwittingly mimicking my mother.

Hippy Music

I just took a road trip back to the motherland (Tennessee) with my son Ian. He usually has his ears plugged into his music via iTunes collection on iPhone and cushy headphones. “I’m gonna listen to some music ok?” He always tells me before going into his music world. Because god knows he cannot hear me once that happens. 

He appreciates a pretty decent range of genres for an 11-year-old. Lately he has been into Rhett & Link, YouTube stars who create some pretty humorous videos and songs. My favorite is the one about OCD because I can relate to wincing when a chip bag is opened from the wrong end or one blind slat is flipped the opposite way. 

Ian usually shares what he’s listening to and loves to sing the songs to me, especially if there’s a rap bit. He’s got a great memory (multiplication tables excluded) and can repeat lyrics quickly after he hears a song a couple times. 

He knows my complete adoration and need for music as there is some sort of speaker in every room in the house. So his love of music is well, music to my ears. But he has still not grasped the importance of appreciating The Beatles.

My brother Art and I spent hours and hours of our childhood in the basement listening to our parent’s old 45s. Thus a lifetime of Beatle love was born. 

Halfway into the road trip Ian didn’t have his headphones on and wanted to just sit quietly next to me wondering if we were there yet. He needed a break from his electronics. Bob Dylan was echoing out of the car speakers. 

“Sorry you gotta listen to my hippy music,” I said half apologectically. 

He shrugged under his downy blanket. 

“Do you know what a hippy is anyway?”

“I know some of what a hippy is.”

“Well what do you know?” I asked.

“Someone who drives a van covered in peace signs and does drugs?”

“Well not exactly.

I explained to him what a hippy was. How their culture came from a revolutionary movement during a time of war and unrest. He wasn’t fidgeting or distracted. He was listening to me. So I decided to take this time while we were encapsulated in the car together to teach him a bit about history. Musical history. 

  
I have my Sirius satellite radio favorites at the ready and will switch between them depending on mood. Each time I landed on a great road-trip worthy song (mainly those that you can sing along to and don’t put you to sleep or drown you in their sorrowful lyrics) I took the opportunity to tell him a bit about the artist, the genre, and what was going on at the time. 

When a Paul McCartney song came on I told him how each member of the Beatles had their own solo career and how I had seen Paul in concert back in the nineties in Louiville with his uncle Art and some friends. “Is Paul dead now?” He asked. I explained to him that Paul and Ringo are the two remaining Beatles on this earth. 

I told him about grunge music when Nirvana came on. And what an integral part they played introducing the Seattle-based guitar heavy sound to the world. “What is he saying, Mom?” 

Yeah.

I told him how I couldn’t listen to Stars by Hum when he was away from me because it reminded me of how much he loved that song when he was very little. 

I told him about New Wave and early alternative when Morrissey’s melodic groaning flowed through the satellite airwaves. And how I got a speeding ticket once while rocking out to Pop Muzik by M. 

I’m hoping he’ll remember some of what I explained to him. I don’t have old 45s for him to listen to (my bro took all those before I could protest). But perhaps he’ll raid my cassette or CD collection one day or download a Beatles song. And perhaps he’ll even remember the lyrics to Let ’em In the next time he hears it. 

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Burnt Bagels and Mayonnaise Sandwiches

Harried, overwhelmed, inadequate. That’s how I felt one morning while standing over the breakfast I’d prepared for my 11-year-old son. I’d burnt the bottom of a bagel, the last bagel. Among the lapping of the dog at the empty dog bowl, the annoying motor sound of the leaking fridge, there was sobbing. “I’m a crap Mom!” I said out loud while trying to slice off the charred chunk and keep my tears from falling into the butter. “I can’t do anything right.”

I don’t know how my mom did it. She raised two kids, worked, kept an immaculate house.

There are dozens of dog hair tumbleweeds rolling about my floors. And I can’t even toast a proper bagel for my one kid.

Being a working Mom ain’t no joke. Being a Mom period ain’t no joke. I’ve been the stay-at-home and the working. They both have their challenges. Time is never on your side.

I am a perfectionist but I have had to learn to change my idea of perfection. And I certainly can’t compare myself to other Moms. God forbid go onto Facebook and see all the seemingly perfectionism going on there. Makes me want to choke on a bagel. But nothing is perfect. There’s always a burnt bagel or a sob fest or a moment of defeat behind gorgeous repurposed doors.

I can look back at my childhood and glorify and romanticize. But it had its moments, too.

My mom usually packed my lunch. Most of the time it was decent enough for a kid in the 80’s in the South. There was a lot of white bread and pimento cheese and I think maybe a piece of fruit every once in a while. But sometimes the content of the sandwich consisted only of mayonnaise. Which I hated. But the crusts were cut off. And while I choked down the vile thing I kind of felt sorry for my mom cause I knew she was doing the best she could do. And she left little “I love you” notes in my Smurfs lunchbox.

I never wanted her to feel bad about the mayo sandwiches so I never said anything about it.

After I salvaged my son’s bagel I brought it to him while holding back tears.

A few minutes later I heard him call out that it was the best bagel he’d ever eaten. And that I was the best Mom there could ever be.

We may not be perfect. In other people’s minds and especially our own. But we do the best we can. And a special note, gratitude, and some sugar and cinnamon goes a long way.

Caprice Estate

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

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Walking in Flip Flops, Working in Heels

One of the first realizations that I was stepping (pun intended) into the corporate, professional world this past September was that I had to place these somewhat foreign objects on my feet everyday. Calf straining, toe-crunching, sweat breeding objects. No flip flops allowed. Ouch.

I was so nervous those first few weeks. Ten minutes before start time there I was in the parking lot fiddling maniacally with the straps of a pair of heels I bought at a second-hand store. The rubber inserts were peeling off and I had to constantly reattach them.

My work clothes consisted of a few outfits from said thrift store and a sprinkling hodgepodge of items I put together from my own closet. Items I hoped did not show too much back or leg, or resembled a wardrobe from Gilligan’s Island/Punky Brewster/The O.C.

Surely these people knew I was a fraud. I’m a writer, a beach bum, a stay-at-home Mom. A girl who sometimes doesn’t get out of her jammies until late afternoon. A girl who loves flip flops so much she fashioned a blog after them.

I staggered across the parking lot hoping I didn’t look drunk. Like a fawn trying to get her footing after being in the cozy sheltered womb.

I smiled as I passed my business casual-clad coworkers. Hiding my grimace from the pain of the shoes, the claustrophobia of the underwear. Hoping I at least looked the part.

Four months have passed. I still stagger from time to time. Ok, often.

And I still drive to work in flip flops.

But I am not alone. There are others who suffer from flip flop separation. We slip our heels and toe-covering flats off while sitting at our desk. Our foot-coverings of choice stashed on the floor boards of our cars, waiting to be reunited.

We may work in heels, but we walk in flip flops.

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I Want My Mommy

I felt it coming on during the Memorial Day pool party Monday afternoon. Seems as soon as one of my neighbors announced he had a cold and wasn’t feeling well my sinuses began to clog.

I don’t get sick very often. Take my vitamins. Eat healthy. Work out. Wash my hands like an OCD sufferer.

During this month alone I nursed my son through conjunctivitis and the flu. Then my husband through Shingles (meaning I sequestered him to the guest room and occasionally brought him tea). And then through a series of surgeries which had me applying ice patches, eye drops, administering meds, draining fluids and recording them, and holding a bucket for him to pee in. And let’s not forget enduring the moaning and groaning.

I could have made a pretty damn good nurse.

But now the nurse needs a nurse. And no matter how much my husband and son try to help they cannot live up to the high standards of the one who nursed me through countless bouts of strep throat and a few horrendous stomach bugs as a child.

I want my mommy!

As I sit here on the stained recliner I finally regained command over I am overwhelmed with a craving for Mom’s sweet, soft southern voice. And some bacon, eggs, and biscuits. I can see her now, dashing about the house in her muumuu, carrying a box of Kleenex, a thermometer, and a recycled plastic honey bear filled with ice-cold orange juice.

But right now she is in her condo. A mere fifteen minutes away but still. Probably in her muumuu, sipping coffee and watching some network morning show. I texted her I wasn’t feeling well and of course she replied she’d be available if I needed help. Then she added the emoticon with the kissy lips. I instantly felt a small surge of healing.

Still want that biscuit though.

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When I was Ten

I remember snippets and chunks of my childhood. Mostly because my mom has the bulk of it archived in 70’s and 80’s faded photographs.

I look at my son sometimes and think, God it would be great to be a kid again. Would if I were you right now. I also say this to my dog when she’s lying around snoozing and I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

But really, wouldn’t it be fantastic to be a kid again for a day? Especially a kid like my son who lives in a safe place, surrounded by friends and parks and beaches and the invention of some really kick-ass nerf guns?

Or come back as myself, time-warped back to the 80’s, where my playroom smelled of chalk, encyclopedias, and Strawberry Shortcake farts. Where there was no worry about diets or jobs or bills or relationships. It was all, how are we going to keep our bed-sheet tent from falling on top of my 8×10 glossy of Noah Hathaway from The Neverending Story? Or ouch this hose water is hot but we’ll drink it anyway. And oh crap the streetlights just came on, better run home before the pot roast gets cold and we hear Mom screaming our names in that annoyed sing-songy way.

Not that childhood doesn’t have its share of problems, but come on, wouldn’t you love to trade a hectic day, or even a melancholy crap adult day to run in the sprinklers and smell the honeysuckle without the nagging worry of time or sunscreen or disappointment?

My son is at school today. And that is definitely not a place I long to be. I have lots of work to do. But maybe I can sneak away for an hour, go to the beach. Splash in the water and smell the sea air. Wearing sunscreen, of course.

Anyone wanna join me?

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The Worn Path in the Carpet

Lately I feel like I’m turning into my grandmother.

I’m going through walnuts like they’re becoming extinct. My nana’s cheeks were perpetually bloated with the masticating remnants of an assortment of nuts. She somehow managed to keep them from spewing out as she multitasked between chewing, housework, and yelling at us kids. But never in anger. Always questions, like how many pieces of butter toast did we want for breakfast.

And speaking of multitasking, she did it every minute of the day, but she didn’t do it well. I pride myself on being an esteemed multitasker. But I find sometimes these tasks are not completed, merely started and left to sit unfinished like Nana’s breakfast dishes. She would “wash” them all day long. It would be time to start dinner and the toast crust would still be lingering on the edges of the Currier & Ives.

There are days when my breakfast dishes are still stacked next to the sink when the sun is setting and I’m searching for the wine opener.

Nana also loved chocolate. Fudge to be exact. She made three homemade pans full (with nuts of course) in the afternoon and by evening they’d be scraped clean. But the woman never gained a pound. Her house boasted a pea-green carpet that had a path worn thin from her constant moving about. I don’t think I ever saw her sit down. My floors are tile so there are no threadbare indications of ceaseless activity. But at least a half dozen times a day I will enter a room and say aloud, “Now why the hell did I come in here?”

But in the evening when I’m walking in the kitchen I know exactly what I’m there for. The chocolate.

Nana was also very scatter-brained. She eventually ended up with Alzheimer’s. Lately I have lost the spatula and the dustpan, and for the life of me have no idea where they could have gone. I also lose track of my point or story mid-sentence, and sometimes call my son every name except his own. She used to do this too. When she got to the dog’s name, Fuzzy, we knew she was close.

The fact I feel I’m losing my mind recently is cause for concern. Am I really becoming Nana? Am I gonna get Alzheimer’s? I still know the key is for the door. I just don’t know where I put it.

At Nana’s funeral they played Glenn Miller’s In the Mood. We all sat, heads hung low. I imagined her swinging with Papa at some cool speakeasy. And then I imagined her the way I remembered. Her taking time out of the daily and nightly grind of tending to husband and house and kids to stop and just cut a freaking rug. Usually in the front room next to the stereo turntable. I always loved that she danced.

Nana dancing

Nana always danced with me.

When I have my kitchen dance party, or cut a rug in the living room, or groove in front of the bathroom mirror I am channeling some of that energy.

She is within me. I am a part of her. I hope I’m not going crazy. But if I am, I hope I’ll be dancing all the way to the nursing home. And I hope a bar of chocolate will be in the top drawer of my dresser. Just like we used to leave for her. But please let it be dark. With nuts, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That’s My Jam

I have satellite radio in my car. It is one of the best inventions of our time. You can cruise to about any genre of music you’re in the mood for. No commercials. Even news (bleh), comedy, live concerts, and interviews. No commercials!

Today I was running errands under a cloudy sky when Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven bounded from The Bridge and out of my kick-ass Prius factory speakers. Yes, despite that I named my car “the Blue Vagina” the sound system really kicks ass.

Listening to Stairway’s melody on a sunless morning reminded me of my mom and days when we drove thirty miles to her parent’s house for a visit. That trek from Nashville to Murfreesboro was flat like these Florida streets. Except in my memory those Tennessee trees were barren of leaves. I looked out of the passenger window as a teen and caught a glimpse of the train track running parallel to the monotonous roadside. Sometimes a train would slowly lurch forward, never quite keeping the car’s pace. Most of the time the tracks were empty. But the flashes of naked-limbed oaks and maples blurred by as if they were a locomotive. And many times a Zeppelin song would resound from Nashville’s premier classic rock station. Mom has said Stairway is her favorite.

When I hear a Doobie Brother’s song, which sometimes plays from the satellite radio and sometimes from my phone or TV on Pandora (another fabulous invention) I think of my dad. I always have this vision of him washing his rust-colored El Camino in the driveway of the first house I really remember. I must have been four or five. Don’t know why this one instance has stayed with me so long. I can even see his dark blue jeans, slightly flared as the bell-bottom style was hanging on for its last days of glory. He had a Burgundy mustache. He sudsed the car with military precision. Later I would come to despise this meticulous way of washing the car. But damn if his cars never bore a water spot post-dry.

Thank God my parents introduced good music to me and my brother. When we weren’t listening to it in the El Camino or the Minivan we were in the basement scouring their old 45s. My love for the Beatles flourished early. Doobies, Zeppelin, New Wave and Alternative rock were to follow.

Remember the Walkman? I distinctly remember pacing my driveway with it, waiting for the DJ to play Karma Chameleon. And when it finally leapt through the headphones I was completely ecstatic in my knee-highs. “They’re playing my song!”

Now with iPods and whatnot we don’t have to wait all day. We can listen to any song any time we want. And this is a great invention, too.

But there is something to be said for having your jam played just at the right moment when you don’t expect it. That’s how it was when I heard Stairway. A happy surprise mirroring my now life with my past.

Music reminds us of people, places we’ve been, seasons, eras. It’s the soundtrack we drive to as the scenery passes by like a long train runnin.

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I Heart Pie

The first six months of my life I cried incessantly. My mother was beside herself. She dreamt of me since she married my father five years prior in a ceremony she always complained about. The two of them, a justice of the peace, her in a simple frock.

When I came along her world was becoming somewhat complete. Until I began my wail-fest that left her guilting me about it for decades afterwards. The only thing that consoled me was the bottle. And I wouldn’t even hold the thing myself. She had to hold it. As soon as the liquid emptied the glass and filled my little belly I began cooing and waving my arms at the ceiling like a stoner grooving to The Grateful Dead.

Same thing happened as I got older and ate a piece of pie. Or doughnut. Or my grandmother’s coconut cake. I have always had a sweet tooth. There are brownies baking in the oven as I type. But they are for the three fourth grade boys here playing Nerf war. I will longingly look at the pan, probably eat a few crumbs (cause as we all know crumbs have negative calories), and walk away.

The face of a happy girl.

The face of a happy girl.

In high school I would come home and bake– brownies, chocolate oatmeal cookies, potato chip cookies, gingerbread, chocolate pie. But when I ended up eating half of what I baked I decided to get another hobby.

Writing is sugar and gluten-free.

When I was nursing my son I made up for all the ice-cream I didn’t eat while pregnant. I would have a large peanut butter custard shake every single day. But when the baby weaned and the pounds started creeping back I had to quit that hobby, too.

Now the sweets are occasional indulgences. I do make a mean gluten-free dark chocolate chip cookie. The last pie I made was a “disaster” according to my mother-in-law as she shoved a handful of the crystallized chocolate into her mouth. I haven’t made brownies in at least ten years so I hope I can satisfy these hungry little soldiers.

The house smells like chocolate cake goodness.

Success. The brownies are not stuck to the edges of the pan and the boys just asked for seconds.

I’ll scrape the remaining little shards and lick the knife. Then maybe just do a little hippie dance with a big grin on my face.

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Harry Connick Jr. and a Bubble Bath

I remember the loneliest of Valentine’s Days. I was in high school and just been dumped by a boy I adored greatly. This was one of two boyfriends my mom ever liked, so she was a bit heartbroken too.

I must have trudged through that day with a scowl on my face, watching all the couples holding hands in the halls. I’m sure I made some cynical remarks to my poet friends (what other friends were there, really?) about the absurdity of Valentine’s Day. I probably talked about how all it did was make us single, busted hearted people feel more alone and gave everyone expectations not even the prettiest of couples could live up to. At least that’s what we imagined as we saw the two most popular kids, both gorgeous, both from well-off families, both athletic, and well liked by all the staff skipping down the hall like in a slow-mo coming-of-age rom-com montage.

Cue pantomime gagging.

So the school day ended and it became early evening. No date night for me. No phone call (from a dial-tone phone with a swirly cord). No flowers delivered. No love note. No pinch on the bum. No soft kiss on the lips.

My mom suggested I take a bath.

“Baths always make me feel better,” she said half-reassuringly and half cocky. She was the bath expert. At sixty-five years old I think she’s maybe taken two showers in her life. We even switched motels once on a family road trip because they didn’t have bath tubs. Or it could have been because the beds looked like they’d been slept in by a hobo. Anyway, the woman loves baths.

Since my mom had a walk-around-the-upstairs-naked-while-getting-ready mantra, it was no big deal for her to see me soaking in the tub in all my slight baby-fat nakedness. She made sure there were bubbles. She brought three floral-scented candles, placed them at the edge of the tub, and lit them. She brought my boom-box into the bathroom and together we picked out my Harry Connick Jr. CD. She gave me a knowing look and left me by myself to wallow in my lovelorn misery.

Oh, if only Harry Connick were here to serenade me in person. If only Keanu Reeves would knock on my door and ask to use the restroom. If that heartbreaker of a boyfriend would have stayed a little longer. But alas, none were meant to be.

As the suds saturated my soft, fair skin and my heart cried a little, I realized I was OK. I was still breathing. I was with the only person who truly knew me at the time– myself. I wasn’t in a horrible relationship. I wasn’t making compromises. I was encased in warm water, safe, listening to gorgeous melodies. And although my mom and I had it out a time or a thousand during my teenage years, that night she came to my rescue. She showed me a kind of love that is not as passing as the late winter wind.

I can only hope to be that safe harbor in my son’s life one day when his heart gets broken.

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El Commando

My mother always wore muumuus to bed.  On Saturdays and holidays she might wear them all day.

The bird of paradise on my lanai-- inspirational flower for thousands of muumuu designs

The bird of paradise on my lanai– inspirational flower for hundreds of muumuu designs.

Although quite unfashionable, they looked comfy as hell.  Some were bright like the bird of paradise which blooms in the late summer in my tropical backyard patio.  Some were more subdued—perhaps a pale blue with lace around the collar.  They were varying lengths but Mom preferred the gowns that graced her firm, meaty calves.  In my beloved early 80’s childhood sitcom, Three’s Company, Miss Roper would wear those beacons of comfortable gaudiness like she was Lana Turner, pairing each of them with a classy, plastic bead necklace.  She was no Hollywood siren, but she definitely had something right.

Flash forward to the late 90’s.  I’m working at a mall photo store with this witch Dani who had it out for me ever since she learned I was ten years younger than her.  As I bend over to dust some shelves she starts cackling and pointing at me.  “Your panty line is showing and it looks ridiculous!”  Appalled I scamper to the restroom and look at my backside in the mirror.  The edges of my size 12 panties are visible underneath my geometric-style polyester dress.  It does kind of look ridiculous and enhances my already ample rump.

There are occasions which warrant the donning of undergarments.

There ARE occasions which warrant the donning of undergarments. What’s your style?

The next day I buy some of those new-fangled thongs everyone’s talking about.  Those crotch-scrapers definitely cut down on the panty line factor, but after a month or so I didn’t know which was worse—being embarrassed or in constant pain.  So I decided to, as they described it in my beloved college sitcom, Seinfeld, go el Commando.

See the thing about going commando (sans underwear) is that unless you happen to be wearing a dress and walk over an underground fan, it’s really your little secret.  That is, unless you start spilling it to your friends because you can’t believe how freeing it is and why the heck didn’t you do this sooner.  Why, on Golden Girls, my favorite sitcom of all time, Blanche is well known by her mates that she prefers that liberating feeling.

So this all goes back to the fact that I grew up with a mother who enjoyed being informally relaxed, at least apparel-wise.  Thank goodness slips and pantyhose are not a part of our daily modern wardrobe now.  Underwear is enough to deal with.

Gorgeously uncomfortable

Gorgeously uncomfortable

Period pieces, movies set in the 1700’s—I love them.  The décor, the thick, wood furniture, the renaissance paintings, the wigs, hats, ornate shoes and dresses—they are a feast to the eyes.  But underneath the ever-mysterious centuries-ago garments are the corsets.  My wedding dress was a floor-grazing long, cream-colored silk skirt and a corset with about a thousand laces in the back.  It was beautiful but after wearing the top half all day (my hairstylist had me wear it in the morning while having my hair done), by the time I walked to the end of the aisle that evening I thought I might pass out.  At the end of the festivities when my husband and I were back at the hotel for our first night of bridled passion, the very act of him trying to untie me out of that thing left us both exhausted and describing the awesome sex we would have once we got to the Bahamas and into our island clothes.

Yeah.

Yeah.

In fact, one of the main reasons I vied to move to Florida after less than a year of marriage was so I could wear flip flops every day of the year.  Once again, comfort.  And in our Florida department store Bealls, there was until a year or so ago, an actual muumuu section.  The first time I saw it I laughed and took a photo with my phone.  I texted my brother a caption underneath the photo that read, “My form of dress in 20 years”.

Some women wear stilettos, some don corsets.  Some prefer skin-tight jeans; others prance around in string-bikinis.  I’m not at the muumuu phase yet, but I do have a worn-in polka-dotted cotton dress that I call my “muumuu for my forties”.  And unless a gust of wind blows heavy at my hemline, I have a not-so-secret secret that keeps me in total comfort abandonment—all above a pair of luxurious $3 flip flops.

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