Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Awkward Mom vs. Ambition

Got your pity ready, Readers? You might want to.

Sometimes I really wish I was a 1950s housewife. I only spend like .01% of my wishing time on this particular wish, by the way...most of the time I wish for hover boards or for Mark Wahlberg to show up with a box of chocolates. I wish this one not because I would be a good 50s housewife. I would be the worst 50s housewife on record. I would be that one that all the other ones, in their pearls and gloves, would gossip about; shaking their adorable hats, perched just so on their perfectly done hair, and saying, "Bless her heart, but the child is useless." No idea why in my head all 50s housewives are southern, but there it is. No, the reason I wish I was a 50s housewife is that Valium would be a lot easier to get. No, I tease. Sorta. But the real reason is that no one would be asking me when I am going back to work.

Strangers ask me this. Friends ask me this. Family asks me this. But if I am being honest, the loudest voice asking me this is the one that resides in my head. The one that also shames me when I miss church, scolds when I lose my temper, and heaves a shuddering sigh when I balance the checkbook. It is usually my mother's voice (the checkbook sigh is always my dad), but it is nothing that she has ever said in real life. No, my brain just figured out that I give her voice a ton of weight, so when molding my self-doubt, it just appropriated her voice accordingly. Much as the advertising world has convinced us that Morgan Freeman thinks Visa is saving the world and if you use it, you will too. (Oh, and admire these Penguins, while you are at it.) Sadly, my mother has never received any royalty checks for the use of her voice, only strangely passive-aggressive phone calls from her daughter on the Sundays we all slept in. Needless to say, the voice is pretty powerful, and lately, it wants to know my 5 year plan.

Here is the real problem, Readers: My family tree, while full of awkward leaves and jam-packed with branches dripping faux pas like oh so many acorns, is also full of amazingly ambitious woman. The men aren't bad, but it is the women who stare at me from their perches, willing me to be more. My paternal Grandma was a musician, a teacher, and, if my father is to be believed, a feisty fashion plate who knew her way around some stunning flapper-ware. She built airplanes during World War II, and then got a Master's degree in Special Education, while raising 4 children (one a set of identical twins). She had a wit that would not quit, and, I imagine, would never resort to puns or cheap rhymes. The dress she wore to my parents' wedding hangs in my closet, and it definitely outshines my wedding dress, which lives next to it. My maternal Grandma is a dietitian, still drives cross-country by herself (at 88), skied well into her 60s, raised 7 children (one a set of identical twins), and wore a cape to my wedding. A cape, Readers. And she totally pulled it off! Early in her marriage, she and my grandfather set off across the country on move 2 or 3, with child 1 and 2, and her cheerful stories of sterilizing bottles at rest stops curls my hair. This summer, at my brother's Special Olympic swim meet, I watched her climb to the top of the bleachers for a better view, her sunglasses on her head, a hot dog in one hand, and a camera in the other. Basically, both women were college-educated firebrands who I doubt ever sat down for more than 10 minutes a day.

Speaking of not sitting down, wanna meet my aunts, Readers? Of course you do! My godmother was roofing a house just last summer, and she is taking a plumbing class next. This is in addition to raising 6 children and running a farm. My Dad's sister just got back from Russia, before that it was Santa Fe, before that it was China, before that I totally lose track. And that is just 2 of them. My aunts are business women, bankers, teachers, librarians, amazing, and mothers of even more twins. (I know, Readers, I know. With every pregnancy, I worry that my time has come.) My aunts are poets, politicians, and pragmatists; usually all at once. If the grass ever attempted to grow under their feet, I am sure they would simply put it in its place with a firm look. And the next generation is more amazing still. (Myself excepted, of course.) My cousins are doctors (of the people and animal varieties), scientists, artists, paralegals, social workers, mothers, and teachers. Let me just tell you about the teachers, Readers. (Sorry for that one, spirit of Paternal Grandma!) Heading into daily battle with the pre-teen mind is about the scariest thing that a person can do, and they do it effortlessly, breezily even, with a grace that belies their status as awkward relatives. Seriously, sometimes I think that the Baba Yaga snatched me from some deeply awkward family, tripped getting back into her giant mortar, and accidentally dropped me into my current family. It would explain somethings. (Look her up, Readers. That's no broom she's riding.)

For example, it would explain how my mother's only daughter could be me instead of, say, President of the United States. Long-time Readers are good friends with my mother and know all about her abundance and antics. I don't really know where to start here, the woman is kinda the definition of fabulous. Like this: she met my father at a Halloween party; he wasn't wearing a costume (duh), but she was dressed as one of the 10 Bridesmaids from Matthew 25:1-13. She delights in telling us that she was one of the "foolish" ones with no oil. She wears this scarf sometimes, a riotous explosion of colors, but if you look close enough, you will see that it is like a million very tiny pictures of a friend of hers. The friend who made it is the one whom she watches Sunset Boulevard with, their hands on their mouths eventually failing to stifle their giggles as Gloria Swanson inches toward her close-up. These are the people she hangs out with and occasionally goes to the track with. She says she just likes the horses. And she does like horses. No, strike that; she loves horses with all the passion of a 12-year-old girl.

My mother thinks the Exorcist is hilarious but is deathly afraid of tornadoes. She can cook, she reads about 5 books at a time, and she is never late. She has a Nativity set the size of a small town (like a real small town), complete with some dude selling wine, St. Francis, and about 16 people I am fairly sure were not even in Nazareth that winter. She also allows the children to add any action figures who might feel like adoring Jesus in-between games. Her reverent irreverence instilled a deep faith in me that exists to this day, and I doubt I would have any faith at all if it wasn't for her cheerful and chaotic Christianity. She greeted my brother's diagnoses of autism with a shrug because why would that change a thing about her love and his ability to have a wonderful life. She greets pretty much every new situation as a potential adventure and every new person as a new friend.

My mother went back to school when I was in grade school. She would study at 3 in the morning because there was simply no other time to do it. I can still see her; reading at the dining room table, the windows pitch black and the lamp glow making her look angelic and very very young. Then, she'd chase me back to bed, and she'd lose her angelicness completely. She got her Master's degree when I was 15 years old, and I do not think that I have ever seen her sit still for more than 10 minutes. Ever.

This is what I am dealing with, Readers. This is the legacy of the Awkward women; they may be awkward but they are ambitious and artful in amazing ways. Imagine my distress when bringing my gift to this feast of gifts. The table is laid with every achievement and talent imaginable, spilling forth in jewel-tones of blinding beauty. And here comes me, holding a little box. Crooked, saggy, probably leaking something. I lay it on a corner of the table where it lurks and slowly turns gray in the presence of so much color. A funny little box. A little box of funny.

Awkward Mom has informed me that if you are related to her, you are not allowed to respond to this and refute anything she has said. You are all fabulous, and if you attempt to convince our Readers that you are not, she will make every Thanksgiving from now until the end of time quite uncomfortable. Love ya!

Super Baby, I would tell you no pressure, but I think we both know that is a lie.


  1. I hear ya on the 50s housewife. Except in my case, the problem would be getting my hair to stay in any style whatsoever for more than 10 minutes, regardless of how many gallons of product I put in it. Oh, and yes, being utterly hopeless at keeping house and cooking. ;)

    But it would be fantastic to not have people ask me, "Do you work?" It's getting harder and harder to remain polite as I reply, "Yes, I work. I work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no breaks and no holidays. I work harder than I ever have in my entire life, and - get this - I don't get paid."

    In all fairness, though, I love it more than I ever thought I would, more than anything else I've ever done. So that evens things out considerably. :)

    Oh, and don't try to hide it - you are every bit as awesome as each and every one of your female relatives. We aren't buying the "switched at birth" story!!!

    1. I hear you on hair, house, and food word that starts with H.

      My relatives echo your opinion on my awesomeness which makes me wonder if you aren't somehow related to me and in an awesome amazing branch of your own! :)