Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And then Firefox exploded, or, a love letter to my mother

Hello. It is Wednesday, it is gray, I have not slept well, I am doing a gigantic data entry project for work, and my Firefox has exploded. All my bookmarks/blog feeds/everything else, gone. GONE.

So if I don't comment on your blog for awhile, I swear I still like you. ALL of you. It's just that...well, I need to work sometime, right?

Just ask my mother. (Hi, mom!)


It is a truth universally acknowledged that, a single woman in possession of a fairly medium-ish salary and her own apartment and a boyfriend and some friends and a dog, must be in want of a mother's advice.

Notice I said "a" mother, not necessarily "HER" mother. The older OA in this office often stops by my desk to "catch up"--she has a daughter a few years older than myself, and she wants to trade stories, no matter how much I would like to keep my personal life private. "Watch out for boys," she often says. I was stopped on the street yesterday by a nice woman drinking a sugar-free latte through a straw out of a Tully's cup, Dockers, sensible shoes, sensible makeup, gray hair, glasses for fading eyesight. "You're losing your hem, dear," she said, warmly, not condescendingly. She put her arm around me. "I just thought you would want to know." I jumped, already on edge, but I appreciated her saying something, although it was a little weird to be hugged by an elderly lady on the streets of Seattle by the courthouse.

Yes, the courthouse.

It is ALSO a truth universally acknowledged that, a single woman, no matter how old she gets, will be in more fear of her mother than her boyfriend.

So when my ACTUAL mother called yesterday, and she said, "Where are you? I've tried the office AND your cell, just now," I therefore responded, "I came home for lunch."

Which was true.

But I came home for lunch because I had a midmorning appointment downtown, at the Seattle Municipal Court, for a traffic ticket.

Which I neglected to mention.

I am in the unique--and oft-envied--position of being friends with my mother in my adult life. And we ARE friends, sort of mother and daugther too, which we always will be, but mainly friends. This has not been easy. There was a period in high school in which things between us were so contentious that, after every occasion in which we spent time together, we rated it: "Well, we only got in that one screaming match, and we only gave each other the silent treatment for half an hour, so we did pretty good!" This was a habit we had to then consciously break ourselves of as we began to get along better, or else it felt (to me, at least) like too much of a reminder of that contentious period, and I really didn't want to be reminded.

I went to college far away, and got an internship in DC, and lived on my own, and had a boyfriend, etc, and then I graduated (by the skin of my teeth) and came back to the old homestead, being out of work and sort of lost. It wasn't a good time for me. I spent barely three months at home and got out again. It continued to not be a good time, but at least I wasn't living at home.

But this is not a story about me. (Not really.) This is a story about my mother, and our relationship. After this troubled time, I waited tables for awhile, and then Mom--ever so gently--mentioned one day, "So, my friend tells me they're hiring at B."

And I put my resume in, and the rest is history.

It wasn't that she wasn't my friend before; after all, she and my father came to every restaurant I worked at, to show support, even though they weren't crazy about my lifestyle. But I get the impression now that my lifestyle is more...understandable, my mother. I'm young, I'm single, I'm a professional, I live in my own apartment. She did this herself. She never graduated from college and decided to slum for awhile. She graduated college--without drinking a drop until senior year--and started a career. True, she had been married for two years already when she was my age, but she was 21 when she graduated and she was on her own for two years, so almost parallel to where I am now. And then her career offered to send her to Thailand, and then my dad heard about it, and then he proposed, and here we all are, thirty-five years later. Life is a funny thing.

And now, like all mothers, she attempts to live out her life through me, her other life, what would have happened if maybe she had gone to Thailand instead, but at the same time she's held back by sixty-year-old dating advice. She told me the other day, for example, that I should be careful to put the LT's needs first at all times. With maybe this exception: "You don't HAVE to sleep with ANYBODY until there's a RING ON YOUR FINGER," she reminds me occasionally. Well, no kidding, mom, I don't HAVE to do anything except go to work on a daily basis and feed myself and Titan. What happened to my needs, MY choices? Dating in the sixties didn't allow for the woman to have an opinion, I guess, except the word No.

But just because I don't take her advice in the dating arena--although I often ask for it anyway--doesn't mean I tune her out, just like I would a close friend. T-Town and I don't always agree, and neither do my mother and I, but there's plenty of things I DO take from her. For example: when I moved to Seattle the second time, I picked out an apartment that I could afford, and she did a drive-by and didn't like it. "There's a halfway house right by it," she said. "Fine, mom," I said, exasperated after having looked for apartments for a week. "YOU find me something."

She ended up charming the manager at my current (mom-selected and approved) apartment so much that I was allowed to bring Titan, even though the building has a no-big-dog policy, and he (the manager, not Titan) still asks to be remembered to her, every time he and I talk. (Full disclosure: there's a halfway house--a different one--two blocks away, and crowds of homeless people above the dog park, but that's Capitol Hill for you.)

I do this mix of taking and not-taking her advice because I'm still learning, too. If I see something I think she'll like, I try to pick it up, and pass it along to her. And then there's times in which I tell her I bought her a Mother's Day present and really didn't. Like this time. (Whoops.)

For slow readers, yes, my mother lives thirty-four miles away from me. And HER mother lives here, too, and when we go out, the three of us, we resemble three fussy hens, stackable by height, with me being tallest, or at least usually wearing the tallest heels. I was telling Roommate an anecdote once, and I started it out with, "So, my family was traveling together this one time," and got halfway through the story and realized his eyes had glazed over. "What?"

"I just can't imagine traveling--ANYWHERE--with both YOU AND YOUR MOTHER IN THE SAME CAR," he said, awed. "My respect for your father's patience level has just gone up five notches."

Every meeting recently with her has been a battle of wills. This particular time several weeks ago, for example:


"I just want to clean the bathroom," she says, absently, not stopping. She really hasn't heard me at all, or if she has, she certainly hasn't registered them as important, because she is still cleaning. An actual friend would have stopped, and we would have talked about it, and made a compromise, but not my mother--she knows she's the mother, and I'm the daughter, and therefore she pulls rank. My words are no more important to her than the music in the background. She occassionally complains that my father doesn't listen to her, or just goes along with what HE wants to do, but it's obvious to me that she has developed her own method. They have been married for thirty-five years, and they are still a wonderful couple, but they have developed defense mechanisms for each other, as all couples do. And they work on me. Power, it's all about power. Power over ourselves, power over each other.

Oh, well. My mother and I are both as stubborn as mules, so I at least have this guarantee: as long as one of wants to be friends, we will continue. I can't help it, it's out of my control. When I see her, my blood rises up within me.


Shananigans said...

It's actually pretty cool that you get to be freinds with your mom. I live far away from all my family. It has it's advantages and disadvantages, but what's nice about it is I actually really appreciate the time I do spend with them. I have an ok relationship with my parents, but it's pretty superficial. They just cannot fathom where I’m coming from, we're so different. But they've come to be very accepting, so that's about the best I can hope for.


Aarwenn said...


For non-buddhists: Shan has blatantly outed me, although it wasn't like I was trying to pass off such a neat phrase about the divine as my own. :)

Namaste, a traditional Buddhist and sometimes Yoga greeting and/or closing, can be defined several ways, from the wordy:

"I see the Deity in us both, and bow before Him or Her. I acknowledge the holiness of even this mundane meeting. I cannot separate that which is spiritual in us from that which is human and ordinary."

To the less wordy:

I recognize that within each of us is a place where Divinity dwells, and when we are in that place, we are One.

Or, finally, most common,

"The Divine in me recognizes the Divine in you."

In this case I meant it a little more personally, because of course Namaste is a standard greeting that can be used between strangers, and indeed it has much MORE meaning in this use. (The idea that even a chance meeting between strangers is important is very powerful, karma-wise.)

In this case, I meant something more along the lines of DNA recognizing its parent, or maybe more of a reference to the powerful mystic notion of "family". My blood cries out when I see her.