Motherhood Moments: More Than a Strike, She Quit!
"Quit what?" I asked.
"Being a housewife," she said. "I'm done." And she was.
My sister and I were given a tour of the house that started with the washer and dryer, moved to the kitchen (where the stove flame terrified me), went to the hall closet (where mops, buckets and the vacuum cleaner were stored) and ended in our bedrooms where we were given instructions on how to use the new alarm clocks we each had so we could wake ourselves up, pack lunches and get to school on time.
My sister was, and still is, incredibly fast-moving, tidy and efficient. She took on some of the chores and what she didn't do just didn't get done. A postcard taped to one of the kitchen cupboards said, "This house is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy." I'm not sure if an inspector would have agreed on the health of the kitchen (the white floor was black with dirt), but, for the most part, we were happy.
When I wrote a fictionalized version of my mother quitting in my novel "Drinking Closer to Home," critics who were praising the book wrote about the "abusive" mother and described the children as "survivors." I am touched by the response to the book and have no intention of trying to tell anyone who read it that they read it wrong. It's fiction, and, if they saw abuse in there, then so be it.
But, when I think about my mother (other than when I was writing the book), I never think about the fact that she didn't pack my lunch, or pick me up from school, or hem my pants. (A
friend's mother once scowled at my rolled up jeans and said, "Doesn't your mother hem your pants?" "No," I said, as what else was there to say?)
What I think about is how much fun it is to hang out with my mother. When my friends and I came home from school and put on the latest album full-blast in the living room (Rolling Stones, "Some Girls"), my mother danced with us, doing the Funky Chicken and harmonizing with Mick.
As a kid, if I walked into a room and she was standing there, she would pull me toward her, hug me in tightly and kiss the top of my head or my cheeks. If I was ever scared, or couldn't sleep, or had a nightmare, no matter how old I was, I could climb into bed, cozy up and sleep with my mom (and my dad).
I never woke up in their bed, but it was nice to fall asleep there. If any of her children were sad or crying, she would hold and snuggle them until the trauma had passed. When we laughed, she laughed with us -- she laughs at everything, big and loud, the way good friends laugh.
No one I knew as a teenager could talk to their mother the way Josh, Becca and I talked to our mom. We told her about boyfriends, or difficult friendships, or teachers -- she listened carefully, never judged, and only offered advice when asked.
When I tried out new thrift-store fashions in college, or when I wore ridiculously thick eye-liner and colored my brown hair orangey-red, she insisted I looked gorgeous (I have the pictures to prove her wrong!). In short, my mother has never been critical of anything Becca, Josh and I have done. We are brilliant in her eyes, beautiful no matter what, and, as her Vermont relatives always say, "funny as hell."
If a mother is someone who packs your lunch, hems your pants and mops the kitchen floor, then I grew up without a mother. But if a mother is someone who supports you, cherishes you and stands behind you no matter what, then I have one of the best mothers in world.
In the end, it comes down to love. From the time we were children, through today, my brother, sister and I have been given enough love to sustain us all for the next hundred years.
Jessica Anya Blau is the author of newly released "Drinking Closer to Home," which has been called "a raging success" and "unrelentingly sidesplittingly funny." Her first novel, "The Summer of Naked Swim Parties," was picked as a Best Summer Book by "The Today Show," the New York Post and New York Magazine. Jessica lives in Baltimore and teaches at Goucher College. Read her blog on Red Room.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.