Saturday, March 13, 2010

2009 - The Mother Code

(The post below was originally written 1/4/09)

I've spent the beginning of 2009 cleaning up the leftover mess from the end of 2008. I decided not to take before and after pictures, but just picture what four months of non-stop travel, packing and unpacking suitcases without putting anything away looks like. Add to that various party oufits, work clothes, my Halloween costume and Jane Austen outfit including the huge layered slip all strewn about my bedroom and spilling over into my living/dining room and well, you get the picture. It was quite a mess. Despite appearances I love order and I live to create organization out of chaos. I've finally gotten it all picked up, washed, organized, and put away.

I have way too many clothes but I know if I throw some things out I'll only end up buying a new version of the same old thing. Like my burgundy ribbed turtle neck - some days it's too tight but some days it's not. I haven't worn it this year but I know eventually I'll need it again. Then there are things I hang on to for sentimental reasons.  I don't wear them, but I just can't bring myself to get rid of them, like some of the stuff my mother gave me during Thanksgiving.  Ok, let's face my mother herself.

She and I had had a wonderful Thanksgiving cooking dinner together with her giving me advice on how to make various traditional family recipes, the two of us working in harmony in her cramped little kitchen. The next morning when I awoke she had made a big breakfast. I spent all morning in the bathroom, ate a little of the breakfast, and then dashed off to meet a friend I hadn't seen since high school. It was our best Thanksgiving ever, even she said so.

Hoping for a repeat I cheerfully went back for Christmas but this time things had changed. "Those are the same sheets you slept on" she said as I headed off to bed, "but if you want to change them you can". I froze. (If they're the same, why would I need to change them?)
"You can get the other sheets out of the closet if you want." I started to move towards the closet. "They're clean." (No they're not) I stopped again. If they were clean she would have already put them on the bed. There were no clean sheets. Leveling my gaze at her, I gave her a chance to come clean. (pun intended) "Do I need to change the sheets?", I asked, involuntarily raising my eyebrows. "No" she'd replied with a smirk. It won't make any difference.

Having already dropped breadcrumbs of truth for me to follow, her job was done. I spent a sleepless night itching, tossing and turning. I am allergic to the dander and dead skin cells of other people, dogs, cats, you name it. No matter what anyone says, my sensitive skin always knows the truth.

"I didn't make breakfast" she said the next morning. "If you want anything to eat you can go in the kitchen and cook it yourself. And whatever you want for dinner you're going to have to go to the store and buy it and cook it. I didn't know what you wanted." Translation: This is not going to be the same kind of visit you had over Thanksgiving. Don't expect me to lift a finger. Purposely letting me sleep on dirty sheets and then making me scrounge for breakfast and buy and cook my own meals? Not my idea of a Merry Christmas, plus if I was going to have any patience with her new attitude I would need a better night's rest than the one I'd just had. So I decided to check into a hotel. This made her furious. Apparently for her the only thing worse than having to make me comfortable was knowing I was even more comfortable in a hotel.

The grand finale was the day after Christmas. I went over to make dinner and she was wearing a watch, my watch, one that my uncle had given me for Christmas the day before. When I asked about it she insisted it was hers. But I'd been given other jewelry too and none of it was around.
"Where's my jewelry" I asked.
"I don't know" she said, "this watch is mine, all the jewelry is mine. If you want this watch so bad I'll take it off and give it to you, but he gave it to me."
There was a gleam in her eye that I hadn't seen in a long time, one that I remembered from childhood. It's a flash they make when she's lying.
Her unspoken message hung in the air: You can afford to buy your own jewelry, I'm keeping this.

It was surreal. Here I was standing in a condo I pay for her to live in, cooking her dinner. It was as if the guardian angel was finally meeting the serpent. I could not believe anyone could be so greedy, so ungrateul, so selfish, and so blatant. And then it dawned on me that this was the woman everyone else had been warning me about for years. I was finally "seeing her". The next morning I told her I wanted my watch back and all the rest of my jewelry, pointing out that my nephew had made a video of me receiving it and opening the box. Suddenly she remembered. "Oh yeah, that's right it is yours!!" she said. "I must have been mistaken". I don't think it was the video that scared her as much as the idea of her only grandson finding out. God bless my Grandma for not letting me be raised by that woman!

So which one is she? The woman I saw at Thanksgiving or the one I saw at Christmas? Actually she's the same person. Just before I left after Thanksgiving she'd asked for something she values more than me - and I gave her only what I could spare, and just like a sweater washed in hot water, things had changed. Some days she fits and other days she doesn't but I'm not throwing her out. I am an adult but there are still days when I need a mom - my mom. Not to worry though, I'll keep her where she is and wear her only when she fits.

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