She wanted a friend, but she needed a Mom

True Tales From Everyday Living

May 13, 2007|By Carolyn Peirce | Carolyn Peirce,Sun Reporter

When I think about Mom, I think about fifth-grade humiliation. She never let me wear makeup or shave my legs, and I was the only girl in a dorky dress on picture day. She made me sit with my little brother on the school bus, and if I said something like "Shut up" or "This sucks," I got a mouthful of soap.

When I got my first "F" on a timed math quiz, she made me sit at the kitchen table and count macaroni.

Some girls were best friends with their moms. They went shopping at the mall and talked about boys. I used to think that's what a cool mom was supposed to do -- shop and gossip. My mom took me clothes shopping at Marshalls and we talked about homework or books.

Sometimes, it might have been easier if she was like those other moms. I wanted her to act like the 13-year-old that I was. I wanted her to let me grow up. I wanted her to be a cool mom.

When I left for college, Mom came with me. I was dying to be on my own, but Mom was there to ease me into it.

My hands shook with excitement as I unlocked the dorm room door. I pictured a cozy scene from the pages of a Pier 1 catalog, but when I swung open the door, my heart sank. The room was cold and sterile. Blue paint couldn't hide cinder-block walls. Thick white pipes circled the ceiling. "Don't worry; it'll be OK," was all Mom could say.

We set out to make my dorm room a home. The boxes were full of my stuff, but when everything was in its place, Mom was everywhere. She was in the warm glow of lamps, replacing the fluorescent overhead light. She was in the plush carpet covering cold hospitallike tile. She was in the fluffy comforter on my tiny bed. She was everywhere, but soon she was gone.

I took the elevator down to the lobby with her, the lump in my throat jumping higher. Suddenly, being on my own didn't look so good. Seeing her leave was frightening. Not "man jumps out of bushes" scary, but the kind where you finally get the independence you wanted, but now that you have it, you just want to give it back.

She hugged me as long as she could, then took a plane home. It took her leaving for me to realize I need her.

Now when I think about Mom, I think about the bedspread she sewed for me to take to college. It was blue and yellow with buttons along the top. I didn't wash it for months, not because it wasn't dirty, but because I was scared it wouldn't smell like her anymore.

I think about the boxes of homemade mint brownies she would send when I got homesick. They were wrapped in foil and packaged in Tupperware to survive the trip from Georgia to Maryland. I rationed them out over weeks.

I think about the first crummy boyfriend who broke my heart, and how Mom tried to put it back together. I woke her up in the middle of the night and for the first time, we talked about boys. Over hundreds of miles and a spotty cell phone connection, I could feel her hugging me.

I think about buying my car. Mom and I test-drove a used car, which was too loud on the highway. "Could it be the tires?" she asked the salesman with a naivete in her voice, I'd never heard before. Mom is smart, really smart. Why was she acting dumb?

He agreed to put all new tires on the car at no cost. When he walked away, Mom cracked a smile. "And that's how it's done," she said.

I think about last winter when I told her, after four years of studying journalism, that I wanted to be a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. She refused to support me. We had a huge fight about my future. It was a fight we had out of love for each other, and it's one I'll never forget.

I guess life is just a collection of these moments. The good, the bad and the bad that turns out good.

I'm transitioning into my so-called "adult" life, and now that I'm on my own, I want to tell Mom thanks. Thanks for not letting me wear makeup or shave my legs in fifth grade. Those are chores for women, not girls, and most days I wish I didn't have to do them.

Thanks for putting me in a dress. When I look at those pictures they are timeless. I see a fifth-grade girl, not a teenager in a rush to grow up.

I want to say thanks for making me look out for my little brother. Now that I see him a couple of times a year, I wish I could be there to protect him even though doesn't need it anymore.

Thanks for keeping my mouth clean in more ways than one. Well, maybe the soap was unnecessary, but I learned my lesson.

And thanks for making me count macaroni. I'm about to graduate from college without a single "F" on my report card.

Everything she did, she did out of love, to guide me toward becoming my own person. I didn't see her for what she was all those years ago, and now I fear I'll never measure up to her.

She isn't what I wanted in a mom, she's only better. All those bumps in our relationship have made us what we are today -- friends. So, here's to you, Mom. You're not just a cool mom -- you're a good mom.

carolyn.peirce@baltsun.com

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