It’s like a train that’s heading right at you for years and years and years. You see it coming, but you can’t stop it and you can’t get off the tracks.
And just like that, it hits you.
You’ve become your mother.
If your mother is my mother (in which case we should definitely hang out because we’re long lost siblings), this transition from A Unique Individual to Holy Shit I’m a Carbon Copy of My Mom involves the taking on of some specific characteristics. Some are good. Some are less good. For example:
My mom talks unusually fast, as do I. When I was in high school, my friends used to save my voicemails and play them back for me as proof that nothing I said made any sense at all because it was so poorly enunciated and spoken at such lightning speeds. My mom talks so fast that she literally forgets what she’s talking about, as if her words move faster than her brain can even process them. She’ll be in the middle of a story, which will remind her of another story, which will remind her to ask me if I’ve made a doctor’s appointment and how is my husband’s dry skin doing and did I get the newspaper clipping she sent me about how cilantro is good for psoriasis? Oh, I did get it? Then why didn’t I ever mention it and why didn’t I thank her for the card she sent? and then will end the whole diatribe with, “It was a nice time.”
What? What was?
Oh, she’s back on that story she started telling fifteen minutes or a week ago. Try to keep up.
Also, try getting off the phone with someone who has so many words. I’ll say, “Okay mom, I’m walking into work, I gotta go,” and she’ll say, “Okay, I just wanted to tell you not to forget to call your uncle because it’s almost his birthday and it’s not nice to not call people on their birthday, and also you should email your sister because she was asking about you the other day, also she’s not been feeling good, my poor girls are always sick! I hope you’re not getting sick too, you don’t sound very good. Do you have a cough? Is that allergies or a cold? Are you taking anything? Oh that reminds me, please make an appointment to see an eye doctor, because your eyes are so important! They really are. You don’t want to be fifty and have no eyes. I know you think I just say things and you never listen to me but this one is important, because everything I read says that your eyes are the first things to go and that would be so sad, wouldn’t it? Yes it would. You don’t want to not have eyes. So remember to do that. And you have good insurance now so you have no excuse! It’s a good thing you have good insurance. We have the worst insurance. Did I tell you how much your father’s dental work was? THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS! There’s three thousand dollars in his mouth! It’s just ridiculous. But it had to be done. When’s the last time you went to the dentist? You know your teeth are so important, everything I read says that you need to be brushing AT LEAST three times a day! I brush after every meal, because I don’t want to lose my teeth! No I don’t. Are you flossing? Please tell me you’re flossing, but don’t lie to me, sometimes I think you lie when you tell me things. I don’t really believe you’re flossing. Anyway say goodbye to me now, I have to go.”
Yep, bye mom.
If you know me well, you know that at any given time I’m about six seconds from completely freaking out. I wouldn’t call myself a “laid-back” person, or one who “rolls with the punches.” No, I’m wound pretty tightly and my stress level is disturbingly high, so much so that my husband has gotten pretty used to saying things like, “Calm down. Just breathe. We’re only deciding what to have for dinner.”
I would like to publicly blame my mother for this.
My mom is capital-N Nervous. She is a champion worrier. She worries about things days, weeks, months before they’re likely to occur, and she worries with passion. If she’s traveling, or I’m traveling, or you’re traveling, any time in the foreseeable future, she’s gonna go ahead and fret about that at least a few weeks in advance. Did you make a list of what to pack? You’re going to forget something, and she just doesn’t want to hear it.
When we talk on the phone, our conversations will be ticking along just fine until she hears the sounds of a car, a person, a siren, or a dog, at which point her voice will drop an octave to worry dark thirty and she’ll say, “Oh no, are you outside? By yourself? You know I don’t like it when you’re outside by yourself,” or “Oh no, you’re home alone? You know I don’t like it when you’re home alone. Lock the doors. Don’t open the doors for anyone,” or “Oh no, you’re driving? You know you shouldn’t be on the phone when you’re driving. Are you looking at the road? Everything I read says that you shouldn’t be on the phone when you’re driving.”
As progressive as she is, I’m pretty sure she would like me to have a gentleman caller escorting me from place to place in a covered wagon. During the day. With a security detail.
Oh, and that reminds me: my mom reads a lot. She reads books, magazines, the newspaper, the internet, and the sides of boxes. She wants you to know that everything she reads says that everything you’re doing is the exact opposite of what you should be doing, and also, apparently you should really be wrapping your cheese in foil or else it will go bad faster, and don’t even get her started on the proper way to store strawberries for maximum freshness.
Seriously, don’t fuck with her strawberry routine. (It has something to do with paper towels and organized rows…I’m not sure, I still don’t really get it. It’s pretty complicated.)
Basically, she’s kind of a know-it-all, and I say that with affection, because so am I. (Um, I developed this entire blog just so I can share my opinions with more people. Everything my mom reads tells her that this blog is the best.)
By now, I think we’ve pretty much established that I am and have always been a fashionista. If there’s any doubt as to where my love of clothes and badass haircuts came from, I invite you to look no further than this photo:
Seriously, I can’t even look at it. It’s like staring directly into the sun. I’m actually sorry for showing it to you, because now you’ll have to live the rest of your life knowing that you will never be that awesome.
Anyway, back to me and the girl from Ipanema up there.
I like to think that I’m pretty thoughtful, and I attribute that, too, to my mama. She may not remember what the hell she was talking about, but she will sure as shit remember your birthday. And your anniversary. And your kid’s birthday, and your favorite color, and the type of coffee you drink so she can have it waiting for you when you come over.
She goes all out on holidays, and don’t you think for a second that that stopped when her kids grew up. This is a little glimpse into my mom’s spread this past Easter for my 30-year-old husband and me:
Every time I’m home, my mom tries to give me everything in her house. She goes through the rooms, saying, “Tell me what you need! Do you want this garlic press? Do you need napkins? You should take these rubber gloves for cleaning. Could you use this jacket? Put these beach chairs in your car. Take a jar of peanut butter, I can always get more peanut butter.”
My mom seems to fear that there are no stores where I live.
I’m waiting for the day that I arrive to my parents’ house to find it completely empty, my mom and dad sleeping on a blanket on the floor, having given away all their worldly possessions. I can just hear my mom now: “Do you want this blanket? Go ahead, take it, we don’t need it.”
Sometimes I check just to make sure she’s not secretly dying, since she so readily disposes of her things. She assures me she is not.
Here are some of the ways in which I am nothing like my mother:
She’s a morning person. (You may recall that mornings are my greatest nemesis.) She has more energy than anyone I know, especially me, which is pretty sad because she has a few decades on me. She’s up at 6:30 every. single. day and if you’re not, you’ve basically wasted a huge portion of your life and hers. When my husband and I go home for visits, my mom can barely restrain herself from waking us up, even when she promises the night before to let us “sleep in.” What this actually means is that around 8:30 on Saturday little Joanie is coming bounding into your room, having already vacuumed the floors and done the laundry and shopped for groceries and worked out at the gym, tsk tsk tsking you for having slept in so late and pulling the covers off you like a serial killer in a horror movie.
This is not my favorite.
You may think that my half-naked husband or random slumber-party guests or visiting friends would deter her, but think again. Cover yoself up, she’s coming in.
I sometimes have to remind my mom not to have more than one cup of coffee, because on two, she’s like a junkie on speed. And since she’s pretty much already like a junkie on speed at her baseline, coffee is adding fuel to the fire. Recently we were at breakfast and while my mom was in the bathroom, I had to kindly ask the waiter to cut her off.
Also, she’s a cleaner. (I don’t much care for cleaning, myself.) During my most recent trip, my mom and my dad and I stayed up until two in the morning talking. My mom left for bed and my dad and I continued chatting for a while until I realized it was almost 2:30 and past my bedtime. I headed to the bathroom to wash my face, and instead found my mom cleaning the toilet. At 2:30 in the morning. Duh.
I don’t even clean my toilets during the day.
If you stay at my house, bring your laundry, because mom’s gonna get that shit done. Put it in the hamper before bed, and you betta believe your whites will be washed and folded by morning. She just gets more hours in a day. I can’t explain it.
Now, I know, you’re probably thinking that a woman doing her adult daughter’s laundry is ridiculous, and you’re probably also thinking that I seem totally spoiled and rotten.
Yes. Oh, and yes.
How else are we different? Well, she’s skinny. Always has been, always will be. I’m not sure how I ever lived inside of her teeny little body, but I can only imagine that my giant arms and legs protruded from her belly like the monster from Alien.
She’s also about 4’10. Like a footstool, or a tree stump. You can rest things on her, which is quite a nice perk, actually. You can carry her around in your pocket and feed her M&Ms, but know that she’ll have you up every morning before seven.
When I used to complain to middle school friends that my mom was strict or mean, they would all say, “But she’s so cute!”
Deceptive, I know. But don’t be fooled by the trendy 70’s jumpsuit and Jennifer Lawrence pixie. Joan can be terrifying.
When I was in elementary school, I had to take this horrible medicine three times a day every single day. It was orange and sticky and disgusting and I would gag every time I tried to get it down. My mom would try to hide it in orange juice, on bread, over ice cream, but it was no use. To this day, pulpy orange juice makes me gag.
Anyway, I used to try to find any way possible to avoid taking this crap. I would toss it down the sink or pour it in a drink, but my mom always knew and always made me take it anyway. Until the day I devised The Plan. Every morning I drank hot chocolate made with Swiss Miss. You remember the little packet of powder, right? On the morning of The Plan I stealthily poured my terrible orange medicine into the empty Swiss Miss packet and pushed the packet – medicine included – deep into the trash, congratulating myself on my brilliance. I danced through the school day gleefully, innocent and carefree. It was a simpler time then.
Hours later, I victoriously returned home from school to find my mom sitting quietly on the couch. She didn’t yell or scream – my mom’s not really a yeller. Instead, she just sits. And stares. She waited for me to speak.
“What’s wrong?” I finally asked, knowing in the pit of my stomach that the day of reckoning was upon me.
“Do you have something to tell me?” she asked.
You and I both know that this question is the kiss of death.
I, of course, said no.
She said, “Okay.”
And that was all. That was all! She’s like an terrorist interrogator. She let me retreat into my room, knowing full well that I was done for.
I maybe lasted ten minutes in a sweaty ball on my bedroom floor before coming clean. It didn’t matter, though. She already knew.
She always knew.
4’10 and bone chilling.
Basically, I see, and especially hear, myself turning into my mom more and more every day. Except for the fact that I don’t clean, am incredibly lazy, am not a very good cook, have no patience, don’t like working out, hate mornings, don’t know how to budget, ignore dust, and can drink more than one cup of coffee without turning into a lunatic, we’re practically twins.
I could certainly do worse.
So thanks, mom, for being a little bit crazy in all the best ways.
Happy Mother’s Day.
A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.