My after work snack the other day was smoked salmon on thin, golden toasted bread sprinkled with just the right amount of capers and minced red onion. Yesterday, I devoured homemade chicken salad, hand picked from a roasted chicken that would also go on to become a beautifully aromatic soup. All of this was served to me with utensils, a napkin, and a glass of ice water.
By my mommy.
I have regressed about 30 years in the past month. My husband is in Rio, on a fabulous adventure to cover the summer Olympic games. His envious wife was left behind in Atlanta to manage the kids and the house and the start of school and the beginning of ice hockey and the middle of the night job.
As soon as the Olympics came calling for my husband, who was four years removed from TV news and didn’t expect to have this chance again, my mom was at the ready, volunteering to come help me. Let’s face it, the only person who would sign up for this sort of thing, without pay, is our mothers. The day-to-day raising of children is loaded with tedium and drudgery and endless tidying quickly undone by 9 and 11 year olds. Not to mention, she has been-there-done-that with me and my sister.
“I’m checking a bag this time.” She was really staying. For a month.
Have you ever flown on a plane with brain shaking turbulence, certain you were going to crash? And then the pilot comes on and says something like, “You may have noticed it’s a bit of a bumpy ride.” Meanwhile, people on the plane are putting away their rosaries and exchanging glances like, ‘A BIT bumpy? What are they smoking in the cock pit?’
I was worried about hitting air pockets. After all, it had been almost 30 years since I was an under-their-roof daughter.
So the husband flew out and nana flew in.
When you come home every day and your mother is cleaning another part of your house because it “really needs it,” your spine begins to tingle.
When she tells you she’s “really going to work on your childrens’ manners” while she’s here, you feel the beginning of a super twitchy eye spasm.
When she points out you pulled out your tomato plants too early and you had your zucchini plants arranged incorrectly — you hit full blown sulking.
BUT BUT BUT.
I’ve learned that the only people who can really push our buttons are the ones who belong to us, either by birth or by choice.
I guess I want her to see that I’m getting it right.
I’ve got it figured out. It’s all under control. I’m the mom now. The truth is that I don’t have anything figured out and I’ve learned that nothing is under my control. Of course my mother sees this.
So for every ‘did you notice all the crumbs under your couch cushions’ comment, there is folded laundry in my bedroom. Every single day. Swept floors. Made beds. Groomed Children. Homemade meals. Filled refrigerator. Night time runs for dog food. Packed lunches. Carpool — dear God, carpool. She’s doing it all at 70 years old and she’s doing it better than I did before she got here.
When you’ve been adulting for a couple of decades, being mothered again is humbling, but it’s also sort of amazingly wonderful. I softened and fell back into my reclaimed role of child. I fell in love with my mother all over again.
Being a grown up can give you mind numbing amnesia. Being with my mom made me remember — it is such a gift, to be somebody’s kid.
My friends who’ve lost their parents know this. I had forgotten.
My mom has a strength so deep, I imagine it as a well — one of those old fashioned kinds — circular with a low stone wall and a bucket that can be lowered on a rope. That is the bottomless capacity we have for the people we love the most — even when our 70 year old backs are aching from weeding and mulching our child’s yard. Even when we’re not sleeping soundly because we’ve got an extra grandchild in bed with us. Even when we have ungrateful adult children who still sass us.
By mothering and mildly bossing me, my mom reminded me that the crazy job and the bills and the homework and the tutoring and the carpool are all a means to an end — and the end is love.
Love makes the mundane miraculous.
Folded laundry. Lunch waiting on the table. Clean windows. Love made visible.
My husband gets home tomorrow. We cannot wait. But I would not trade this month with the most important woman in my life.
I am grateful. So grateful.
“I made deviled eggs for you!” she yells from the kitchen.
She makes the best deviled eggs.
Thank you, Mom.