Tag Archives: Listen To Your Mother

My Mother’s Daughter

Long before ever having children, I made myself a solemn promise.

I would NEVER turn into my mother.

I remember developing a mental list of the many things I would do differently when I had children of my own. I would be a modern, enlightened parent. Not the old-fashioned kind of mother I was raised by. I mean, my generation had books telling us “What to Expect…” which explained everything I could possibly need to know.

My mother thought it was kind of silly. “You don’t need a book to be a good mother,” she said. “It’s the most natural thing in the world.”

When I talked about a birth plan, she was bewildered by the concept.

“You go to the hospital,” she said. “They know what to do.”

“But, mom,” I replied. “It’s 1992. Things are different now.”

I thought I heard her mumble something to the effect of “No. Babies still come out the same way,” as she walked off.

I reaffirmed my solemn promise.  “She just doesn’t get it.”

When my firstborn arrived, I developed a false sense of confidence. He was an easy baby. He slept through the night at 6 weeks. He stayed clean all day in his color-coordinated outfits. He was potty trained at 19 MONTHS. I remember one day thinking “This is easy. And so much fun. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about.” My mother must have had a hard time controlling herself back then. My husband and I rolled merrily along with Baby #1 for nearly three years.

One easy child. Two modern, enlightened parents. We had it covered.

The firstborn was inquisitive and curious. He asked a lot of questions. A LOT OF QUESTIONS. Most days I answered them patiently, giving him all the facts. Encouraging him to ask me more questions. But that one day, when his baby brother had kept me up half the night – the day he wanted to know how the clouds stayed up in the sky – my patience was waning.

I had gone through the explanations of tiny drops of water hugging together to make a cloud. That the drops were so light and tiny they didn’t fall to the ground until enough of them had gathered together to turn the clouds gray and then make rain. I thought it was a really good explanation.

But he couldn’t wrap his 3-year old mind around that, and he pushed for a more plausible explanation. After a few exasperating rounds of this, modern enlightened mom gave up.

My mother’s daughter spoke instead.

MAGIC,” she said.

Magic?” he questioned.

“Yep. Magic.”

That was something he could wrap his 3-year old mind around. And the questions stopped. I felt a little guilty for taking the easy way out. But something about the simplicity and effectiveness of that strategy stuck with me.

My mother’s daughter had won her first round.

As time went on, and I had more children, my mother’s daughter spoke more often.

She had entire categories of phrases stored up somewhere in her subconscious. The very ones she swore she’d never utter.

“Because I said so,” came out every now and then, when she was just too tired to explain things.

Because I have eyes in the back of my head,” she would say while driving.

Which was often followed by “Don’t make me pull this car over.”

Some phrases were used when she wanted to avoid explaining something, or when the truth would be over their heads.

She would say “Life isn’t fair,” when one of them was having an existential crisis.

Or “Someday you’ll understand,” when the real explanation just couldn’t be offered.

And some just made no sense at all. Like “Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.” And “If you break your legs doing that don’t come running to me.”

My mother’s daughter had plenty of advice for social situations. “If everyone else jumps off the cliff, are you going to jump to?”      And “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want plastered all over the internet.”

Every time my mother’s daughter rose up in me I realized that with every annoyance I spoke, every facial expression I mimicked, every cliché of hers I took on, I also acquired a little bit of my mother’s grace – and her wisdom.

As I grow older, and the lines in my face deepen, I see more and more of her in the mirror, too. The silver strands I now wear seem to make her big green eyes stand out on my face in a way I never noticed.

June, 2005

At my cousin’s wedding in 2005, a photographer snapped a photo of me and my mother side by side. It was the last photo of the two of us ever taken. When I look at it now, and I see her face on my shoulders, I can’t help but smile.

The transformation is complete. I have become my mother in every way.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

This essay was one of 11 stories read live on-stage at the 2016 Listen To  Your Mother: New Orleans show.

. lisha-at-ltym-2016

CLICK HERE to see my reading, or CLICK HERE  to see the entire LTYM: New Orleans playlist.

 

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The Man


Photo courtesy of Amy Konieczka Photography.

Photo courtesy of Amy Konieczka Photography.

The other day, a man walked into my house.

He was driving my son’s car. He was wearing my son’s clothes. He even called me “Mom.”

But I had never seen this man before.

He bore a vague resemblance to a boy I dropped off at college not long ago. But the boy I remember was smaller. He held his hand out for me to hold when we crossed a street, or stepped onto an escalator. The man towered over me, putting his arm across my shoulders with ease.

The boy had an innocent face and sparkling, curious eyes. The man had a strong jaw, and a confident look. He even had facial hair.

The boy asked me questions when he wanted to learn about new things. The man talked about graduation, and about applying for jobs in California.

The boy didn’t want me to kiss him in front of his friends, and squirmed when I said “I love you.” The man hugged me tightly, and when he did I felt his love.

As I stood there watching the man – and remembering the boy – another image came to me.

The man stood in the west coast sun, with his arm around a different woman. A woman with a softer face and brighter eyes. With a smile that lit up when he entered the room. I recognized the look on the man’s face. It was the same look the little boy had when he got a new toy, or made a good grade. When he was happy.

The man stood close to the woman, so close it appeared they were one. And his hand reached out to a little boy. A boy whose eyes looked very familiar.

At that moment, I understood what my job had been all along.

When he was little I thought my job was to teach him to count and read. To cross the street safely. To say “please” and “thank you.”

I thought my job was make sure he brushed his teeth and did his homework. And wore deodorant.

But it turns out my job was to prepare him for his life without me.

In another place.

With another woman by his side.

As I returned to the moment at hand, a wave of nervousness flooded over me. And the words I’ve been contemplating for two decades came to my mind.

Roots and wings.

I gave the boy roots. That was the easy part. That was teaching him to read and cross the street and to brush his teeth and kiss him mama.

But the wings part, this was hard. But the time had come and I now had to step back and give him room to take flight.

I hope he lands somewhere special, and finds the woman with the bright eyes. I hope he remembers to say “please” and “thank you” and to wear deodorant.

And I hope he remembers his mama loves him. 

On May 3, 2015 I read this essay on the stage at the Manship Theater in Baton Rouge as part of the cast of Listen To Your Mother 2015. It was one of the top ten days of my life. 

You may view the entire LTYM: Baton Rouge 2015 show by clicking here.

To learn more about Listen To Your Mother, visit their website or YouTube channel.