It’s a fairly common thing to hear women talk about how much they don’t want to become their mothers. We like to think we’ll be wiser than they are. More fun than they are. We’ll stay youthful for much longer than they did and we’ll have a way better sense of fashion.
Maybe I just got really lucky, but I’m well on my way to becoming my mother and I’m genuinely proud of that.
When I think back to my childhood, I remember my mom as the voice of reason in my house. She was always as patient as she could be, even though she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders too much of the time.
As a child, I never really considered who she was beyond her role as “my mom” but she was a whole person I’d eventually get to know far better as I grew older. She’s in her sixties now and I’m in my forties, and she is counted among my best friends and confidantes. We regularly have weekend sleepovers — the kind that include gossip, snack foods, movies, blankets, cozy pajamas, and plenty of coffee.
The more time I spend with her as an adult, the more I realize how like her I actually am.
Like my mother, I’ve been active in organizations throughout my adult life. These have ranged from our Bagnolese club — a group of Italian ladies whose families hail from Bagnoli del Trigno, Italy (where some of our distant family still resides) — to business, school, and nonprofit organizations. I’ve learned from her that it’s good to be a part of things, to have a cause, and to have the human contact and socialization that comes with it… even when you just don’t feel like going out.
Like my mother, I’ve accepted that while I can’t change the things that happen, I am in control of my reaction and the manner in which I handle them. My mom is the type of person who always takes things as they come, dealing with the shit that hits the fan — one fan blade at a time. That isn’t to say she never has moments when she feels defeated or sad, but she allows herself a moment or three to wallow before she pulls up her big girl panties and moves onward to find a solution.
Like my mother, I’ve accepted loss and found beauty in what remains behind. Those who know what our family has gone through in recent years will occasionally say things like, “I don’t know how you managed it,” or “You’ve had to deal with so much, how did you do it?” I don’t have an answer for that.
I cannot begin to fathom what my mom has experienced — not really. To lose a husband and a child within a few months’ time is not something another person can truly understand unless they’ve gone through it themselves. In that way, I was a spectator of sorts. Yes, I experienced those losses and they hurt deeply but at the end of the day, I recognize that they were very, very different for me.
What I learned from her, though, is how to grieve and how to emerge from that grief without losing myself. To understand that in spite of the seemingly-endless shitstorm that whirled around us, the winds would eventually settle. Life rebuilds from the wreckage from the ground up… in time.
Like my mother, I’ve learned when to say “fuck this shit” and… well, I fucked that shit and the horse it rode in on. Wait. That sounds kinda gross and illegal in most states. But you get my meaning, I hope. Sometimes, you just gotta put your foot down and say “No.” You have to do the things are good for you and let the chips fall where they may, whether that means skipping out on a party or avoiding getting wrangled into something that you don’t want to do. (Like the traveling male strip show we were invited to attend last year… we were both mysteriously sick with the same illness that night.)
My sense of humor grew from hers, although she’d probably tell you that mine is cranked up a little too high sometimes. Many years ago, we planned to get a special cake made for my aunt’s bachelorette party. When none of the local bakeries would do it, my mother and I worked together to build a cake with a giant penis on it.
Yes. I made a giant penis cake. With my mother.
It came out about as well as you’d expect from a couple of amateur bakers who had no clue how to make a penis cake, but that will forever be one of my favorite nights spent with her. Something about placing candy pubes on a set of Sno Balls covered in flesh-colored cake icing just brings a mother and daughter together as nothing else can.
I am most likely walking the same road as my mother, the one that leads to us both becoming an iteration of my grandmother one day. She’s in her nineties and I shit you not, her favorite phrase is “whatever.” She uses that word so often that when I arranged a birthday cake for her birthday dinner a couple of years ago, the cursive icing declared “Happy 90th Whatever!” She looked at the cake, looked at me, smirked ever-so-delicately and said, “Eh, whatever.”
That is my mother’s future, and mine. As a mother myself, I am hopeful that my own daughters will look upon us both and decide that turning into us is not the end of the world.
It’s a gift. Or whatever.