“So tell me something you remember about me from your childhood.” My mom asked casually. “Anything.”
Oh no. I smelled a trap. This was definite trouble. I struggled to come up with something. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but my memories of childhood are basically a dead zone. I don’t remember spending much time with her at all, and my father was a mix of random play and me stepping over his drunk body. I do remember them fighting. Hmm. I don’t think that’s what she’s looking for.
“I knew it.” She concluded from my hesitation. “I was a terrible mom.”
Okay, so I probably could have had a better childhood, but at this point, who remembers? Oh man, the pressure. Think! Think!
“Tell me something you remember.” I countered, stalling for time.
That stopped her. “Oh, okay.” Pause. Then, a giggle. “I can’t remember anything.”
Disbelief. “You can’t remember anything from my childhood?”
More giggling. “Where was I?” she asks. Like I should know?
I don’t know if it’s funny, but we are both amused. “That’s a good question, mom.”
“You were so precocious. You just raised your cute little self.”
“Apparently.” Well, it was the 70’s.
We giggled some more about it and then moved on to lighter subjects, like how full she was from her over-sized dish of vegetables or how cute my boys are.
It’s good that we can laugh about the past and move on. Our relationship has evolved so much since the times I don’t remember, or my brain chooses to forget. I’ve grown and she’s grown as well. Emotionally, at least. There was a time when she wouldn’t even think to ask such a question. Not because she didn’t care, but whether it was her youth, immaturity or overwhelming circumstance, she just didn’t think of it.
I still remember a couple of years ago when I was telling her about a friend of my son’s whose parents were divorcing, which coincidentally was around the age my parents divorced. She said, “Wow, that must have been really hard for you.” I was shocked. It was the first time she had directly acknowledged my feelings about that time. Okay, so it was almost 30 years later, but still, I was touched by her, albeit belated, concern.
Physically, she’s gorgeous, strong and energetic, but tiny, topping out at about 5’1, and I’m giving her that inch because I love her and I know she’s just arched her back and is standing up a little straighter reading this. I can hear her bemoaning her stature all the way from her house. “Oh, why am so short?” 65 years and she hasn’t come to grips with her height. She is eternally cute.
It has taken years to come to this point, but our relationship steadily improved around the time I got married and markedly improved after my first child was born. I honestly didn’t expect all that much given our history, but she completely surprised me. Devoted, loving, generous. She dotes on each of my boys. They are such a joy to her and she is so attentive and wonderful, that I can’t imagine that she wasn’t always this way.
Later, my phone rang again.
I answer, “Hi mom.”
“Hi, I was just wondering if you thought of anything.”
“Uh no, mom. I haven’t been thinking about it.”
“Of course. Me neither…” She switches to her favorite subjects. “Hey, did I tell you how good the boys were the other night? And Julius did the funniest thing…”
I don’t know what happened back then. I can’t remember what I did five minutes ago. What I do know is that today, right now, she is the absolute best mom possible. I wouldn’t change a bit of her.
She, of course, has a list of things she’d change. But that’s another story.