This is a magnet that hangs on my refrigerator, given to me by my mother many years ago when I was a late-twenties mom to one child. At the time, I didn’t much agree with the sentiment, as I had spent most of my young life proclaiming I was nothing like my mother. My mother was an extroverted, loud, fast-walking, fast-talking, sharp dressing, super domesticated, in-her-kids-business, social butterfly who couldn’t leave the house without running into ten people she knew. I may have inherited her brown eyes and small stature but in all other matters I was just like my dad – an introverted, jeans wearing, newspaper reading coupon clipper who would rather be home with a good book than out a party. Hmm…dad, we don’t sound so great on paper, do we?! Anyway….fast forward to 2015 where I am now a mid-forties mom of three and well, let’s just say things might have changed a teensy bit.
My mom recently had a bunch of old VHS home movies transferred to DVD and on my parents last visit here, we all sat around watching them. There is a scene in one of the videos that I can’t get out of my head. The year was 1986, I was sixteen, and it was Easter. My family and several extended family members were all sitting around our dining room table, a great Italian feast spread out before us, prepared of course, by my mother. My mom was videotaping the scene, with our gigantic camera perched on her shoulder. The camera pans to me and my usually sullen 16-year-old face.
“So Janene,” my mom says, “are you going to make a dinner like this for your family some day?”
“NE-VER”, was my instant and completely snotty reply.
“You’re never going to cook for your family? If you cook the dinner, I’ll come and do all the dishes.”
“Yeah, well, that will NEVER happen. I will NEVER cook. UGH.”
Classic teenage eye roll and….end scene.
What’s funny about watching myself on that video is that I do remember that person, that teenage me. But I remember her more like an old friend I haven’t seen for a long time than I remember actually being her. It’s an odd disconnect – that teenage me and the mid-forties me. But one thing has become crystal clear lately…despite my lifelong attempts to rebel against my mother, I guess there ain’t no fighting genetics. Which leads me to some…
WARNING SIGNS I AM MORPHING INTO MY MOTHER
*** I am Betty Freaking Crocker
I don’t mean for that to come off in a braggy way. Actually, screw it, if that’s the way it comes off, fine. I am a good cook and an even better baker. (I suck at cleaning and laundry, lest you think I’m some sort of egomaniac). That dinner I swore I’d never make for my family? I make one every damn night. Some good ones, too…pasta with homemade sauce, salads with croutons I cut and bake myself. And speaking of baking…well, it’s one of my favorite things to do in the world. I own 6 mini muffin trays for God’s sake. Coffee cake, lemon bars, donut muffins, apple pecan crisp, coconut cookies, toffee crackers…the list goes on. The 16-year-old girl in that video would be MORTIFIED if she could see me now.
*** I suddenly seem to know a LOT of people
With regard to my mom being extroverted and social I could go on and on but will say only this….I don’t think she has ever been on an airplane without extracting the life story and contact information of the person in the seat next to her. I was always the person hoping there would be nobody IN the seat next to me. But about two years ago, we moved to a small island on Puget Sound. Away from all our family and friends, it would be pretty easy to live an isolated life here in these woods. But I’ve got three kids and kids need friends. And I knew that would be easier if I made an effort to meet people. So I talked to my neighbors, I joined a book club, I volunteered at school, I chatted up moms at the park. And I met a bunch of great people that I am lucky to call my friends. Four months ago I got a job working as a substitute teacher and para educator at five schools in our district. Working at a different school and with different staff members nearly every day, my social network expanded quickly and now it’s a rare day when I can get through my grocery shopping without running into multiple people I know. Which I used to find SUPER annoying when I went anywhere with my mom. Now I am the annoying mom whose cart is blocking your way down the aisle as I obliviously chat away.
*** I butt into my kids’ lives
Growing up, my mother was everywhere. She was in my classroom, on every single field trip, at the PTA meetings, she taught my religious education classes in our basement….there was no escaping her. She was there even when she wasn’t there – like in the school cafeteria with her lovey dovey notes in my lunchbox. And if she felt one of her children was being wronged in some way…look out. When I came home in third grade one day with a heavy backpack she promptly weighed me, then weighed the backpack and then armed with her stats, read the school the riot act for “expecting such a small child to carry so many books!” Now it’s me who’s volunteering in the classroom, attending the field trips (why DON’T buses have seat belts?) and sticking notes in lunches. But I’ve one upped you, mom. Now I WORK at the schools and I’ve subbed for two out of my three kids. The third child has banned me from subbing any of her classes at the high school for fear of dying of embarrassment. Her loss, though, cause I’m a sub that brings candy.
*** My calendar is full
My mom’s calendar is legendary. I used to stare at it and marvel (and eye roll) about the amount of stuff she had going on. Every square was filled each month with various appointments, social engagements, etc. No day was blank! I would shake my head and swear, “I will NEVER have a calendar like that. I will NEVER be that busy. I will have ALL blank days!” Yeah, not so much. One husband, three kids and one dog later, the little squares on my calendar are full of the same crap that was on my mom’s. A blank day is a rare treat. And like my mom, even though it is 2015 and most people use Google or an iPhone to keep their schedules, we both still run our lives writing on paper calendars in those little squares old school style.
*** I (gulp) play BUNCO
Yes, folks…this last one pretty much sealed the deal. When I was growing up on Long Island in the 70’s, it was Mahjong my mother played. One night each month she would gather with all her friends and play this game with the crazy looking tiles. I couldn’t wait for the month my mother hosted because it meant our kitchen would be filled with yummy snacks and treats which I would sneak as she prepared for the ladies’ arrival. It was all very mysterious to my seven-year-old self. We moved to California in the mid-80’s and Bunco was the new fad. Of course my socialite mom wasted no time in finding a group to play with. I scoffed at this simplistic game with seemingly no purpose, other than socializing. And who would want to do THAT? Cue the eye roll. So a couple of months ago, when a friend of mine asked me to be a sub in her monthly Bunco game my first thought was “Bunco? Wait. Am I old enough to play Bunco? I’m only 44!” But then came the promise of snacks and I thought, “What the hell? My 70’s self finally gets to go to the party!” And so I went. And found that Bunco is kind of like speed dating. There are three tables with 4 people each that you rotate through during the night. Each game there are different people at your table and each game you have a different partner. And so you get to know all 12 people. And you eat yummy food. And you talk about your jobs. And you talk about your kids. And it’s totally fun. And then came the moment when I was sitting there and that damn magnet flashed in my head and I realized the truth…”Oh, Shit, I really DID turn into my mother.”
And then I realized what a great thing that may be.
So Happy Mother’s Day, mom. And now that I have an eye-rolling teenager daughter of my own who refuses to learn how to cook ANYTHING, feel free to laugh away. Karma is a bitch.
Your mini-muffin baking, reluctantly social, Bunco playing daughter
P.S. Just so you know, this blog is my gift to you. And don’t think I cheaped out either, because this shit takes way longer to write than you would think. So it cost a lot in time, but saved me money. Because in some ways, I am still EXACTLY like my father.