My mother had a real knack of embarrassing her children on a regular basis. She is and always has been a real piece of work. I remember when I was in elementary school and it was Parents Day, the day that moms and dads could come into the classroom during the school day. The day is for quiet observation but she can’t help but speak. My mom was wearing her woolen coat that was this shapeless garment in kind of an oatmeal color with a brown pixie collar. It didn’t tie up or have buttons so we wore a brown wide leather belt around it, accenting her pear shape. She looked a little bit like a homeless viking. It was bad enough how she dressed but of course she had to comment on the teachers or the classroom and make up something to say just so she could hear her own voice. I was regularly mortified.

When I was turning 13, we had a birthday party at my house and invited boys for the very first time. Here we were, having our first co-ed party right around the time that girls and boys figure out they are supposed to find each other interesting. I can’t remember for the life of me which boys were there, but I remember my girl posse and we were tight. With all of this newness of the boys’ attendance, we were probably concerned about what we were wearing and the party itself was at my house so I was concerned with what we were serving. In due time, my mother comes down to the lawn where we were seated and cozies herself up in one of the seats and asks us all “So kids, do you all masturbate?” There was silence and shock and I went red from head to toe. Needless to say, we never had a party at our house again when she was home. Never.

She visited me my first year of college in Montreal. I was dating a man named Chris, he was kind of cute, a guy from Toronto and he had an attractive receding hairline kind of like Sting. We were in the early stages of dating and my friend Janet had a little TV watching party at her house to see the last episode of MASH. We were comfy on the carpet together, many of us lying down or seated cross legged. My mother had and still as enormous hips compared to her waist so when she lay down her curves were more pronounced. My mother reclined all the way over on her side, her hand supported her head and began to chat with everyone, while rubbing her waist over her hip repeatedly. Like she was feeling herself up. Like she was enjoying it. Like she was flirting. My mother was young, around 42 and may have been in better shape at that moment, though I always remember her being bigger and dowdier than my friends’ moms. The evening went on and we left. I remember Chris saying goodbye to me, maybe a kiss on the cheek. He called it off later that week, broke up with me. I’m convinced to this day he was repelled by her, by her conversation, and the mere question of whether I might turn out like her was too risky. Getting out when the getting’s good. My mother could cause disruption in my life even while living 400 miles away and in a different country. Jesus Christ, when my father visited, he took me and around 5 friends to the fancy hotel brunches in the buildings where the top floor turned around slowly for the 360 view. And paid for it. That’s a good way for parents to visit.

I moved to CaIifornia when I was 22 and I met my husband when I was 23. We dated briefly and broke up within a few months. When we got back together, I was 25. We got engaged, had a very short engagement and were married in around 8 months time. He met my parents on the weekend that we got married, way too late to bow out or leave me at the altar. I reminded him of this story recently and he claims he was in no matter that he could tell my mom was a loon right from the start. He claims I am nothing like her though I do think I am overtly friendly sometimes and it bothers people. If I got that from my mother, so be it.

2 Responses to Mom

  1. Kay says:

    On this beautiful day in April, I remember my Mother, and so, we all have stories about family – and they change over time. Lucille Scott Davidson fed the Blue Jays; waited for my Father to come home; and played a “mean” game of badminton.

    I think you are just fine, Danielle. You are uniquely YOU, and we are grateful.

  2. Patrice Jones says:

    Oh Danielle! I had to laugh out loud at the masturbation question. I cannot imagine my mother EVER saying it, even the word, ever. On the other hand, my mom was big on chastising my older male friends (not even boyfriends) if they ever brought me home even 15 minutes later than expected. Pretty soon no one wanted to drive me home if it meant having to face Shirley. Also, there were never coed parties at our house. Never even brought up the possibility. I knew it would be impossibly painful.
    Your writing is wonderful, and prompts so many thoughts of my childhood as I read about yours.

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