An Interview With My Mom

Hi Mom! A few years ago on my birthday you described some of your memories from the day I was born, in an email, and I don’t think I told you, but I printed it out and carry it around with me in my wallet. Thank you — for the email, and for having me. Also I know I was big, so I especially appreciate that.

You were a fabulous baby — big and lovely, so you could sleep and feed more than smaller ones. Because you came 11 days after the due date, I had wondered whether nature was playing a joke on me, making me the only woman to be permanently pregnant.

Oh my god — I misread that as “feed on the smaller ones”!

Speaking of food, what would you want me to make for you if we were having dinner together tonight? I guess because I don’t cook much, I’m curious what you’d like me to know.

My mother sauteed soft-shelled crabs for her birthday and mine, serving them on toast. Another treat was shad roe, floured, cooked quickly in butter, and topped with crossed pieces of bacon, also on toast. (They spatter if the egg sacks rupture, so you want to avoid that.) So rich but so delicious! Both dishes require lemon slices. Asparagus or fiddle-head ferns would taste great with either.

Do you remember the time I made a lemon meringue pie, which you used to love, and dropped it as I took off the pastry ring, burning my hand? You cried (age 3?), and I felt like it, too. But I scooped it onto a plate and we all enjoyed it anyway. Funny memory — crying over spilt pie.

I don’t! But I’m glad we had it.

What would you tell your 30-year-old self? (Hypothetically, because if you could, everything would be different, etc. etc.)

I’d tell her she didn’t have to be so careful of other people’s feelings. I felt like everyone’s caretaker at times. Being polite pays off, but I could have paid more attention to my own feelings instead of others’. Put another way, I’d have done well to value myself and my well-being as much as I valued other people and theirs.

I think I feared that others would leave me or not like/love me if I didn’t fulfill their wishes. I didn’t consider whether they valued me or whether I should value their wishes if they didn’t value mine. Here I have in mind my parents and your dad, to various degrees, but others, too. Of course they all had their good points.

I also wish I’d told my 30-year-old self to wear sunscreen on the backs of her hands!

Do you think we have similarities that I haven’t yet recognized? I hope to be more like you in ways that I am not yet.

I’m touched by this idea; you seem to be doing great as you are.

I’m sure you’ll be a devoted mother and love motherhood as I do. For the first time — and in print! — I’ll admit that I look forward to being a grandmother if you want to have children. I’ll help!

I worry at times that you handle many tough things on your own, many because you have needed to, but perhaps some because you’re in the habit and think you should. I’m not really thinking about plain independence, because that’s important to have and exercise. I took on a certain amount by myself, I think because my dad conveyed the message that I should be independent — to a fault, proving it — because he was. Being divorced made me somewhat more independent, in good, freeing ways along with the “do-everything-because-you-have-to” kind. It also created friendships with other moms with daughters, which was great. Sometimes I worry that you think you need to be very tough about being independent, not letting me help. (Maybe I can’t, but I’d like to listen more.) Interdependence is probably healthier. (I read about these things; I’m not so great at it myself!)

Mom! Thank you.

Did anyone give you tips, advice, or stories about parenting? Was any of it memorably good / bad?

I remember once telling someone that your messy room upset me. She had three older daughters and said that if you weren’t drinking, doing drugs, in jail, or pregnant, things were good. That gave me perspective. I think I stopped complaining about the clothes on the floor. Someone else said making your lunch everyday instead of encouraging you to do it was fine; she may have said I could spoil you and you’d feel loved. Maybe I inferred that idea. I don’t think you made any lunches; do you?

No! I’m sorry about that.

Don’t be; I got to take care of you that way.

Also, thank you for reading The Hairpin — it’s always made me so happy when you reference stories on here in emails. Maybe I’m getting a little sappy.

I’ve learned a lot — ways to think about things, to express them (“Worst. Title. Ever.”). I learn about music I’d never know of. Lana Del Rey? Many others. What’s with qream/qreem/whatever it is? Also tiny houses, open threads, the great readers — so supportive of one another, so funny — the thoughtful advice, etc., etc.

I taught my mom about Qream.

What’s a horrible date you went on when you were younger?

So many. One with a guy who asked me at dinner, “Are you good at forgiveness?” I should have known not to go to the Scandinavian folk dance with him, but I did pretty well. He was . . . forgettable. What a terrible line for a first date. I’m suppressing other awful dates. There were great ones, too. 🙂

Oh jeez. Beware the Scandinavian folk dance?!

What’s something you’ve done that I don’t know about?

My parents, especially my dad, wanted me to become a doctor. I took pre-med courses with my English major but decided against it after having several dreams I interpreted as meaning that I’d missed my life. They involved having a child (you? myself? my life?) when I hadn’t known I was pregnant. Surprise! My dad stopped talking to me for a few months after I decided against following my parents’ career paths.

Maybe you knew that.

Taking LSD? On Topango Canyon in LA? Going to Disneyland stoned and imagining crawling out on a ledge of Space Mountain when I had a flash of fear? I told a boyfriend who wanted to smoke dope that I didn’t want to be busted by my six-year-old, so he didn’t smoke. More? I’m not telling . . .

Omg! Okay much more on this later. Anything you want to ask me?

Thanks — I need some time. How I can support you better, get you to exercise and de-stress more?

I love you, too, more than you may know until you have a child. I’m pretty sure you know it’s a lot, though.

I do. And I love you, too. A lot. Thank you for this.

Photo via Flickr/aoisakana