So, Mother's Day is Sunday.
I expect the Long Suffering Husband and children will "surprise" me with another gnome for my withered garden. I'm trying the gardening thing again this year, but the kids are watering the plants in the hopes this will trick my black thumb into not blighting them. And yes, I collect garden gnomes. I still haven't gotten one with laser eyes, but the kids are on the hunt. (I also am open to receiving a rocket-launching gnome - with gnome-sized rockets, of course.)
I've been thinking about my relationship with my mother recently and how it has changed over the years, at least from my perspective. And I wonder if mine and the kids' relationship will go through those same changes.
I remember being very small and thinking my mother was the most beautiful, gentlest woman in the world. She rarely wore makeup, but, on the rare occasions my parents went out, my sister and I used to sit on the counter in the bathroom, and our mother would do her face and ours, too. I remember her telling me to hold my mouth "like this, like you're giving a kiss," as she applied lipstick. I also remember her always singing while doing the housework.
I don't have the gentle temperament or the patience to convince the children I'm some sort of species of mother-angel. I am more liable to curse the housework than to pull a Snow White. But hey, they are pretty much convinced I'm an evil overlord. Does that count?
I remember going to school and realizing we were poor. My mother never stopped moving and doing, and, because of that, our poverty never really touched us. In the spring, she grew vegetables; in the summer, we took up pails and picked blackberries and raspberries; in the fall, she put on leather gloves and bent and stooped her way through our large yard, gathering fallen walnuts. I remember her with her hair up and her face flushed all summer as she canned vegetables and made jellies. I remember her hammering walnuts for hours, until her shoulders had to have ached and her hands were stained brown, to get at the meat so she could freeze it for the winter. I didn't know what a television dinner was; everything was made from scratch.
I didn't just think my mother was a fantastic cook, I knew it. She could make something out of nothing. I thought the old "Stone Soup" fable was written about her, but she always talked about what a cook her mother was, stretching the groceries to feed 12 children. In her eyes, my grandmother was the world's greatest cook. Don't we all think our mother, in particular, switched the meanest fanny around the kitchen?
And I remember becoming a teenager, when being seen within 10 feet of either of my parents was the worst thing that could happen to me. God forbid anyone think I willingly spent time with them. And did we fight? Like cats and dogs. I was dreadfully misunderstood, they were stifling me and all those tired cliches.
The real misunderstanding was mistaking my parents' bone-deep fear that, in my youthful ignorance, I would make a mistake they couldn't fix, for not understanding me. They absolutely understood me - and my capacity for stupidity. When you become a parent, you realize what a complete tool you were as a teenager. And your parents sit back content in the knowledge that, what goes around, comes around.
You become a parent, the baby gets sick for the first time, crying and inconsolable or vomiting like it's trying to impress the Russian judge. Or maybe the child has that thick, croupy cough that sounds like a lung is going to dislodge at any moment.
You're sitting there with your sick child, and, all of a sudden you realize your mother is the smartest person on earth. You have a veritable baby expert only a telephone call away.
And so it changes again. I don't know what future changes are in store for us, but I'm looking forward to them, because every time I see her in a new light, I get to know her a little better. And she's someone worth knowing well.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
(Wallace-Minger is The Weirton Daily Times community editor and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)