celebrating the everyday exquisite and the unanticipated updrafts that keep me aloft.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Mamma Mia, I'm My Mamma
I knew my mom really loved me the year that I made the Plaster-of-Paris pin at school. Mr. Callahan had mixed up an extra-runny batch of plaster. The idea was to pour a thin stream out on wax paper until it spread into a circle that would harden so that we could etch a Mother’s Day greeting on the surface. My classmates poured out lovely, symmetrical discs of pristine white. Mine turned out looking more like an amoeba. I vowed to redeem myself by decorating it with stunning artistry.
My attempt at a smiley face turned out as oddly-shaped as the amoeba and the word “Smile” somehow did not end up centered. The letters slanted up from left to right, each a little larger than the last. I half-heartedly painted it blue and glued a safety pin to the back hoping to transform it from a plaster protozoan into an accessory–legit jewelry. Even at that tender age I recognized the truth: I had created something heinously ugly. My awkward offering embarrassed me, but for lack of any other gift, I handed it to my mom on Mother’s Day morning. She ooohed and aaaahed over it appropriately and told me that she loved it. Parental perjury. I didn’t believe her until she emerged from her room an hour later, all dressed for church and sporting that monstrosity of a pin proudly on her polyester dress. “I chose a blue dress to match the pin,” she told me with a smile. And she wore it to church, by golly, and kept it on all day. I wasn’t sure whether I was pleased or mortified, but I knew that mom loved me.
I have never forgotten that she wore the pin. Stuff like that sticks—unwritten lessons on giving love and receiving gifts and wearing parenthood in public without apology. So yes, I wore the orange and green macaroni necklace my son made in Kindergarten to church, and even heard myself ooohing and aaaahing before saying, “I love it” like a play-back of my own mom forty years ago. The tissue paper “stained glass” salad-dressing bottle is still my favorite vase and the popsicle stick ornaments will be on my Christmas tree every year until I die. They remind me to relish the sweetness of unshapely grace and to embrace every expression of love—even the ones that look like amoebas.
What unspoken parenting lessons did you absorb when you were growing up? Do you find yourself doing and saying the things that your mother did?
This post originally appeared at The Peanut Gallery Speaks