For decades I have been trying to conform to a greater sense of normalcy. Maybe it was because I always felt different as a child. “The one who’s mommy left her,” was the badge I wore and was reminded of often but lovely classmates. I’ve tried to be different at times too, but there are far fewer examples of that in my life. When I’m uncomfortable in a situation or feeling less than, I resort to conforming.
When I turned the corner at forty-five, I realised I no longer cared about conforming. Our children were unimpressed with this as it meant mum was ‘out there’ and not behaving like the other mothers. Funny thing is that the other mothers acted that way with me. Their self-control in family situations is admirable.
I remember being that teenager whose mother had found her voice. Mum lived in Vancouver, and I went to visit her on my own for the first time. I was sixteen. There is an escalator down to the baggage carousel and travellers were on every stair. It was past midnight in Vancouver and about three in the morning in my body. Loved ones wait at the bottom, and we are all stuck waving ridiculously from the escalator because we are carrying so much crap and tired of walking.
My mother greeted me with a great big hug at the bottom of the escalator entirely blocking others from moving around us. My mother is a loud hugger. She is a professional singer, is happiest when she is vocalising, and has total command of her lungs. When she hugs, she has an open-mouth smile and the air just pops out at full volume as she empties her lungs with a squeeze of a boa and the noise of a squeaky door. It is endearing now, but as a teen, I would have rathered the boa.
As we were making a scene only feet from the freedom of a car, she asked, “Are you on birth control?” to which I replied, “Mom, can I get my bag first?”
What proceeded was an onslaught of parenting mistakes every teenage girl fears.
There were flyers on my pillow about the dangers of birth control. I was subjected to offhanded comments like, “I’d be okay with being a grandma already.” With the final assault a trip to my mother’s doctor where she ‘had an appointment’ that looked a lot like my appointment to discuss the dangers of birth control–unless there was something my mother wasn’t telling me.
This was typical of my interactions with my mother. Her parenting always seemed to come in bursts. She didn’t parent over the phone, only in person and I’m pretty sure she kept a diary of hot topics to discuss on our few days together each year. I vowed that day to never spend a lot of time alone with my mother again.
This week, with the support of much more talented teenagers, we took to the streets of Toronto with my busking license. It seems ironic that I am tap dancing and attempting to juggle with my mother bearing witness and keeping her lungs deflated. The one time I invite her to sing in public and let her freak flag fly, and she finds a way to avoid the task. Isn’t that something. At seventy my mother has begun to conform to the norms of society. Next, she will be playing canasta and sipping tea with her pinky up and I won’t recognize her.
Or, maybe, she has just figured out where her normal is. She had to get it out of her system to get to a place where she is comfortable with all of who she is and levelled out at this new, subdued version of herself.
Will that be me? Not bloody likely. I plan to be driving my children crazy to the moment I am gone. I think I have found my usual and it looks a lot like IDGAF.
But I never say never.
Remember that sixteen-year-old vow never to spend alone time with her mother again?
In a first-of-its-kind-and-possibly-last mother/daughter trip this past week, my mum grilled me about my relationship with my husband, why I am stifling our children by insisting they go to university, and how we are managing money. None of these topics endeared her to me if that was her goal, but I suspect she is just trying to make up for lost time. This time I recognised her with her hand around a beer and her full body laugh in the theatre and no tea in sight. Normal restored.
My Turning 50 Like a Boss Pro Tip: You need to be slightly crazy to find out where your normal really is.
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