Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Best Kind of Mother's Day

When I was a teenager growing up in Vienna (Virginia, not Austria), my bedroom was directly over our front porch. The porch had an overhang which was directly under my window and I liked to climb out onto the overhang and sit on summer evenings. Sometimes my best friend who lived behind me and spent most of her time at my house and vice versa would sit out there with me. It was a good vantage point for 4th of July fireworks, but it was also a great place to people watch.

We also had a pretty mature tree in the front yard with awesome climbing branches. When my cat would escape, she would inevitably run right for the tree and claw her way up and then my dad would spend two hours cussing and trying to coax her back into the house. I used to climb that tree too and just sit and watch the neighbors coming and going. The tree was better because I could hide behind the leaves and imagine that no one knew I was there. I was "invisible." (Although I suspect my mother knew where to find me.)

I saw a lot from my vantage point in the tree and on the overhang over the porch. One set of neighbors had a messy divorce and one day all of the husband's clothes were all over the front yard. When things went south, I would come home from a date and find the wife in her car watching the house to see what her husband was doing. Sadly, they had a small son at the time. I babysat for them one time and they paid me $8 for New Year's Eve - prime babysitting time for teenage girls and usually fairly lucrative - and never asked me back because I spent the entire night on the phone with a friend and they couldn't get through to check on the child they later traumatized with affairs and divorce and visitation and stalking each other. $8 for New Year's Eve. They were hammered when they got home, but that's no excuse.

I had a kind of idyllic childhood. We moved every 18 months when I was little, as my dad kept getting transferred (not the military - he worked for Honeywell and they kept promoting him), but in 1977 we moved to Vienna and when the company wanted to transfer him to Texas (or somewhere equally unappetizing), he said, "I'm not moving my kids again" and found another job. So, I consider myself a Virginia native and that I grew up in Vienna.

We didn't live near any of our relatives (maybe by choice on my parents' part), so the little nuclear family of Mom, Dad, brother and sister was all there was. I have a lot of memories of growing up, going to high school, dating, spending the summers in long canasta tournaments with my best friend from behind my house, running through the hose, lying out on the back deck in a bikini slathered with baby oil for the best tan.

I remember the traditions my own mother established when we moved to Virginia for holidays, since we didn't have extended family to gather with. Christmas Eve was board games with my parents and brother (the one day a year) and brisket that cooked for 6 hours and came out of the oven falling apart that Mom would put out on a platter with cheeses and those little tiny bread slices and vegetables. Christmas Day would be the big turkey dinner. There was mistletoe in the foyer and a big tree that we would go out and cut down ourselves.

My parents made an effort to give us memories that we would take with us for a lifetime and, even considering the awful state of my memory today, I have fond memories of those teenage years. Later, my brother would rebel and there was lots of yelling and anger and sadness, but that came more after I left for college than while I lived at home and so there are a lot of good memories.

For these, I have my mother to thank.

Justin gave me a Mother's Day card today that says, in part, that I am "the heart of the home." I don't know how true that is about me, but it certainly was true about my own mother and I can only hope that my kids have as many good memories of growing up as I do about my own childhood. My mom truly is the glue that held us all together as a family.

I have done many things differently with my children. Part of it is due to my mental and physical difficulties. My oldest son once wistfully mentioned that we never did anything together as a family. That's not entirely true, but we did do more together when they were little than we do now. As teenagers, they have their own lives and they want their privacy and their freedom and we are trying to balance that with them needing to be a part of the family we have created. I don't know how I've done in the "mom" department, but I know my boys love me and I know they are empathetic, polite, respectful, and downright solicitous of how what they does will affect me. I know they love me. I know they care about me. Even if they don't spend time with me on a day to day basis, if I ask if they want to go out for breakfast or have dinner out at the local Italian restaurant, they are right there. If I say I want to go to a movie for my birthday, they go, even if it's not something they would see if they were choosing what we were seeing.

I started this post talking about how climbing that tree in my front yard as a teenager made me feel "invisible," but in a good way. Sometimes now, I feel invisible in my own house with my kids going so many separate ways and Justin working so much. I wonder if they would notice if I wasn't here and suspect they wouldn't so much until the laundry wasn't getting done and the glasses weren't getting down to the dishwasher. But I also know that when I go away, they are relieved when I come home. And that must mean that I'm not as invisible as I imagine myself to be.

I am blessed with three wonderful boys who care about me. I am blessed with a mother who raised me right. And I am blessed with a husband whose mother did an awesome job raising him.

All I want for Mother's Day is exactly what I have. And that's the best kind of Mother's Day anyone could ask for.


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