The Normal Mom

When you have a mom as interesting as mine, there's no way you can let Mother's Day pass without writing a little something about her. Now, when I say interesting, I don't mean she has the world's largest collection of Hummel Figurines, or she's a fugitive, hiding out from the government for blowing up a university lab thought to be working with the Nixon administration. I suppose there a handful of people out that would think those things very cool, but my mom is interesting for the plane and simple fact she's my mom (that, and because I have no idea how she managed to deal with the shenanigans perpitrated by my sisters and I over the years).

My earliest memory of my mother would have been my second Christmas (making me about a year and 9 months). Actually, it would've been Christmas Eve, as I watched her from the living room part of our trailer house making another batches of Holiday cookies. I'm not sure why this particular memory is my first, but I'd like to believe as I watched her I knew I was safe and loved. I'm sure my mom has many other memories of me predating that one, but the one I seem to hear the most often is when we sat together in the basement of the Blooming Valley Methodist Church singing children's songs before Sunday School was to begin. According to her, right in the middle of "Jesus Loves Me" I thrust my finger about two inches from her face revealing an enormous booger of baffling proportions given my tiny nostrils. "Where do I put this, Mom?" I blurted out. I guess I just figured with all the other problems she solved, booger disposal seemed a small matter to resolve.

My mom has a creative gene in her that she has passed to all of her children. It seems she is always vested in one project or another - most of which involved her creating something with her hands. Sewing is the talent she is best known for, having stitched up any number of items ranging from antique doll dresses and all my sister's school clothes, to the occasional Halloween costume and repairs to Army surplus items. She quilts without a machine, and everyone gets a quilt for their wedding or the birth of a grandchild. Beyond this, mom has done ceramics, mosaics, floral arrangements, country crafts, and a host of other things I'm probably not aware of (origami, cup stacking and pipe bombs). I have been lucky enough to receive her talent for painting and drawing, as it's her paintings from before she was married that made me think I could paint too, and just recently I discovered another item passed on to me: a screw-ball sense of humor that shines forth in writing. A few weeks ago, mom and I were talking and she mentioned some papers she had written in college - ones she didn't take that seriously and decided to interject her own slants on the matter. The more she talked the more evident it became that satire runs quietly in her blood. I am grateful for what she's passed on to me and quite happy I didn't inherit the doll dress making gene.

Growing up through high school seems a blur. Like everyone else at that age I was just as self-absorbed in processing my transition into adulthood, which means I probably missed the many times my mom went above and beyond or out of her way to guide me. One memory that sticks out was during some of my big basketball and soccer games - usually state playoffs or championship games. Somehow my mother would manage to sneak in a card or a note telling me how proud she was, and to just relax and enjoy myself. I don't know if I ever told her, but those notes meant allot and even more so for the act itself, not just what was said. For some, having their mother show up to a game is a more than enough to demonstrate their interest in your life, but that extra step of offering written encouragement made me feel pretty special as her son.

Of course there's a backlash effect accompanying her love for me as I performed in the sports arena. No one got to talk trash about my mama. During a soccer game a member of the opposing team alluding to being an acquaintance of my mother's to which I promptly responded by tripping him and them stomping on his neck with my soccer cleat. He was carried off the field and I was given a yellow card. On another occasion I was playing in a pre-season basketball game when I and my opponent dove for a loose ball. As we grappled for control, he commented on mother's reproductive preferences. I merely smiled as I got up off the floor, and then swung my knee into the side of his head knocking him unconscious. Needless to say I spent the next three quarters and the bus ride home alone, accompanied by only my sister who was the team manager. She understood why it's impolite to discuss my mother in the middle of a game. Besides those boys probably didn't get enough mama hugs growing up. I wish them well at whatever gas station they still work.

As an adult I know there was some anxiety on my mother's part as she watched her "Pookie" - her nickname for me which she still calls me today (disclaimer: Pookie is exclusively the property of my mother and anyone referring to me by that name must first obtain the express written permission from her, and even then I won't like it 'cause you aren't my mom) - set off into the big, bad world. Even far away and with my sisters to give her plenty to focus on, my mom was there for me. This was never more true than when I went through my divorce. Seein my hurt, she told me I should come home where she listened to me helping me realize that I didn't need to carry the blame all alone. What's more amazing to me about her (and dad's) support through this is the fact I had shut them out of my life as I had been led to believe they were to blame for the troubles in my marriage. She never held it against me. She hated seeing her son so bruised.

Today she is a wonderful Grandmother to my three boys, as well as four other grandchildren from my sisters. Despite living far away from all them, she still stays involved in their lives. It would be easy for her to get bitter as she sees our cousins, many of whom live near by, carrying around their latest baby. She could lament the fact, compounding the guilt we already feel in not giving Grandma more access to our kids, but she doesn't; and we visit, she delights in each of them.

It's reassuring to know mom loves dad and he loves her back. When I talk to mom she chuckles at dad's quirks, and then gushes about how appreciated she feels. When I talk to dad, he always reminds me how lucky I am to have the mother I do and how lucky he is to have her as a wife. With me and my sisters gone, Mom has taken on some new interests outside of those she once had. It's hard imagining her sitting in a fishing boat and casting a line, but she loves going when the opportunity for her and dad arises.

Along with fishing, has been the joy found in "putting some caps" in a few pesky squirrels and chipmunks reeking havoc in the backyard bird feeder. I didn't realize how into this she was until I spent a Christmas alone with her and dad a few years ago and witnessed her delight in receiving a handgun. "This'll be allot easier to handle than trying to fire that rifle out the kitchen window," she said shifting her grip on the handle and changing up her aiming stances. "Hey, I'm ambidextrous!" as she switched it to her her right hand. It was hilarious enough watching Annie Oakley in action, but the fact that she had just split a bottle of blackberry current wine with dad at 11am with the happy chords of Johnny Cash's Fulsom Prison strumming in the background just made it all the more unbearable to suppress my laughter. They saw it differently as mom saddled up on dad and they started acting like a couple middle-aged hippies still believing in freaky love. It was cute, but I excused myself to make an emergency appointment with the eye doctor.

I suppose, to the average reader, all of this would seem pretty normal, and to a certain extent, I'd agree, but there's nothing wrong with having a "normal" mom. Normal moms make sure you have clean clothes that match when you walk out the door, and ferry you all over the countryside for your little events, as well as disposing of the occasional radioactively enhanced booger. Normal moms think of you before they think of themselves and they tell you how they pray everyday for you. In fact when I think about what it would be like to have a "not normal" mom like say, Hillary Clinton or Britney Spears I actually start to feel bad for those kids because with a normal mom, there's no doubt they love you.

I love you Mom.

Your son,

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