The Roundup -

Becoming My Mother


Ah, the arrogance and ignorance of youth. While we suffered through the pangs of adolescence and young adulthood, we figured we could race through fire and sail out the other end virtually unscathed, we could leap tall buildings in a single bound, and watch out world, here we were, ready to do great things. We would age gracefully, if indeed we aged at all, and we would never grow old and fall prey to aches, pains, gray hair, and all those other unmentionable things that happen to old people.

I recall way back when the world was young and my sister and I still rode pterodactyls to school, how the two of us would rummage through old photographs of our parents and grandparents. We would inspect the clothes and the hairdos and poke fun at the way these incredibly old people looked, acted, and dressed. I remember one picture in particular of our mother, who must have been the frightful age of forty or so at the time the picture was taken, and laughing gleefully as we pointed out the frumpy (to us) dress, the antiquated hairdo, and my poor mother’s sagging body parts. In truth, it was not a very flattering picture, but it did not deserve the ridicule we gave it at the time. In our pride, we assured ourselves and each other that no way, never for all eternity would we ever look like our mother or become anything at all like her. Perish the thought.

Of course, as usual the joke is on me. I pulled out a box of pictures the other day and that very same picture stared up at me with what I swear was a smirk lurking at the corners of my mother’s mouth (yes, pictures can mock you, trust me on this). I figure I am at least twenty years older now than my mother was when someone snapped that not-terribly-complementary picture. Yep, the dress still looks frumpy to me, the hairdo definitely did not do her justice, and sure enough, the body parts did indeed droop. However, the face staring back at me looked younger and far prettier than I remembered, and as I looked closely at the picture, I realized I definitely have become my mother, at least in looks, a fact my sister recently pointed out to me when she told me that I was the spitting image of our mother. “You look just like her,” she said one night.

I thought about my own older-looking body, my own less-than-stylish clothing, and my hair that I keep permed so I don’t have to do anything more with it than run a comb through the tangles once or twice a day.

Hmm, what did I find so hilarious about that picture when I was young and stupid? Remembering with chagrin the way my sister and I chortled at that picture when we were silly and naive, the pomposity we felt when we assured ourselves that we would NEVER look like that, that we would age gracefully and almost imperceptibly, made me laugh ruefully.

When I think about the exceptional qualities my mother possessed, I hope that I HAVE become my mother in more ways than just her looks. How much I resemble her in appearance pales beside the hope that I also now resemble her in the ways I choose to live my life. She loved my father and showed it, she cared passionately for us, her children, and she always lived with morals and ethics at the forefront. She kept a clean house, served as an exemplary example of a wonderful wife and mother, and she lived her beliefs. She served her family, her church, and her community in many, many ways. She expected nothing but the best from her children. The lessons she taught, the ethics she instilled in us, the examples she set and the way she did tasks have ingrained themselves into my core. I can still hear her admonishing me when I do something she would find wasteful, unprofessional, or less than my best. I can hear her chide me in such simple chores as how I do my dusting around the house. My mother kept the dust at bay, while I figure I will dust twice a year whether the house needs it or not. When I find a particularly large dust ball hiding in the corner, I can see the look of dismay on her face.

I also have aged no more gracefully than she did, in fact, probably not as well, as even up to the day she died at 90 years of age she kept herself well-groomed and nicely dressed. She wore well-tailored well-made clothes, far nicer clothing than I even own, much less wear. Blue jeans suit me just fine, and I figure no one looks closely at an older lady anyway, so I may as well dress in a way that feels comfortable to me.

We do become our parents in a multitude of ways, some obvious and some not so obvious. I hope I have become my mother in all the ways that count and that make me a better human being. I hope my life reflects and does justice to the memory of an exceptional woman, who lived an ordinary life on the one hand, but a life that positively influenced many, many people, a fact that became obvious when community members paid their respects at her funeral.

It’s too late now to apologize to my mother for my youthful arrogance and disrespect, but I suspect she would forgive me in an instant. In fact I know she already has.


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