'Like Mother, Like Daughter'

May 12, 1991|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK

As this Mother's Day approached, I found myself thinking about that old saying: "Like mother, like daughter." And more and more, I came to realize it could have been coined for my mother and me.

The reason isn't that we look alike. It's because of our recent birthdays.

In March my mother gave a surprise luncheon for my 40th birthday. Little did she realize how genuinely surprised I was.

That's because she had no way of knowing that a few weeks later I was giving an almost identical surprise party for her milestone birthday (which I will discreetly refrain from identifying).

Not only did we both, unknowingly, order similar menus -- chicken entree, chocolate birthday cake -- we sent out the same type of invitations, invited the same number of guests, fussed over artistically designed place card and even gave each other earrings as gifts.

But the greatest similarity was our shared motivation for these parties.

In February, my father died after a long illness. His death came six weeks before he and my mother would have celebrated their 48th anniversary. Although he was seriously ill for more than a year, his absence left my mother and me bereft.

Independently, we both realized we needed something to look forward to, something hopeful to plan, something my father would have gotten a kick out of (even though he was rarely good at keeping surprises).

So we snuck around behind each other's backs making guest lists, consulting friends -- in many cases, the same friends -- and basically attempting to cheer ourselves up by planning something fun for the other.

And after all of the candles were out, the cake eaten and the presents unwrapped, there was no doubt that the cheeriest and most fun aspect was the coincidence of our intentions.

In retrospect, I realize that although I haven't lived at home -- or even in the same city as my mother -- for almost 20 years, I !B shouldn't have been surprised to find out that we think alike.

My mother may be more of a perfectionist than I am, more fashionable, more artistic and a much better cook. We hardly ever like the same books. But deep down, we value the same things; we look at the world the same way.

Ours is a make-the-most-out-of-life, appreciate-the-little-things philosophy. And it's just the type of coping mechanism we need to get through this period following my father's death.

A few days ago, I told my husband that as time goes by I suspect my mother and I will grow even more alike. He said, "You could do a lot worse."

I agree. After all, I've often told my mother, "When I grow up, I want to be you." Her stock reply is: "Just grow up!" I think both of our wishes are coming true.

J. Wynn Rousuck is The Sun's drama critic.

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