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“Victim of Love” (It’s Not Easy Being The Last Child Left In The Nest…)

 

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“No Child Left Behind!”

I’ve had to eat a lot of words as a mother.  In fact, it’s been quite a smorgasbord.

Not another bite for me, thanks. I’m stuffed.

I set myself up for this ironic predicament with a cache of lofty ideas in my youthful days about how children should be raised.  I was quite the expert on child-rearing before I became an actual Child-Rearer.

I did most of my “Field Research” in the early 80s observing my parents raise my brother.

I was married and out of the house at an early age, but ventured home as often as possible for vacations, birthdays and holidays. It was during these occasions that I witnessed appalling child-rearing atrocities that required immediate intervention.

My parents were recklessly and wantonly spoiling my younger brother.

It was anarchy at a level that simply did not exist a few years earlier when my sister and I still lived at home. It was as though my parents had just given up. Absconded. They were hardly recognizable as the same people, much less the same parents…

They weren’t enforcing curfew, he was playing his stereo at a volume that could eventually rupture his eardrums and rather than forcing him to the dinner table to dine with the family like a civilized human being, they simply allowed him to “order a pizza later when he’s hungry!”

And I can’t emphasize enough how much they fawned over him. They gushed all over him the minute he strolled in the door with all their,

How was your day?” and “How did your test go?”

So much undiluted attention you never saw in all your life. They lavished affection on him like he was the Second Coming.  Almost overnight, my brother had become an ONLY CHILD.

It was enough to gag any older sibling and I was quite certain it would ruin the boy.*

Naturally, I attempted in earnest to discuss this with my mother, who laughed it off and remained besotted with my brother until the day she died.

30 some-odd years later my husband and I were sitting in the kitchen having dinner, when our very own beloved Youngest-of-5-Only-Child walked into the room. We perked right up as though The Pope Himself had sauntered in.  We started firing questions at him immediately.

How was your night last night?”
“Did you have fun?”
“Do you have any homework?”

It was our “No Child Left Behind” parenting policy at its finest.  We left no stone unturned. Every aspect of his existence piqued our curiousity.

He reached into the freezer and pulled out a frozen dinner, heated it up and slammed the microwave door off its hinges.

Which dinner did you pick?” asked his dad. “I’m just curious because I picked them out for you myself from the Comfort Foods Section!”

We thought our son deserves a little comfort!” I threw in for good measure (really upping the love-ante.)

The Salisbury Steak,” our son grumbled in response, clearly unimpressed with how much time was invested in the selection of his frozen entrees.

Why are you so burdened by our love for you?” I queried innocently.

(Okay… my query wasn’t all that innocent. I was kind’ve screwing with him. But it was amusing how victimized he seemed by our interest in the minutiae of his life.)

I assured him that when his 4 older siblings were still in-residence they would’ve killed for this level of concierge parenting.

More exasperation – another grunt – and one more eye roll.

“I’ve got two pairs of eyes on me at all times!” He complained wearily.

I guess he does have a point. At one time around here, it was two pair of eyes divided by 5 and now both sets are trained exclusively on him.

Just him.

But he is the recipient of every ounce of our undiluted love and attention as well, so it should be an excellent trade off. Right?

In hindsight, I wish I’d kept my mouth shut years ago about all the things I knew nothing about.  Like being a parent. And all the varying stages of child-rearing.

But that’s okay.  I’ll gladly eat my own words these days – It’s merely comfort food of a different sort…

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My brother “John David” on left with my hubs. (My mom loved him so much she gave him two names.)

*To my knowledge my brother still has his ear drums, abides by curfew and eats dinner every night with his family.  He does, I’m told, still order pizza on a whim.

 

 

“She Loves Me Like A Rock” (Finding Surprising Signs of Strength As You Dismantle Your Childhood)

 

 

 

It’s one of the paramount fears of childhood that we will lose our parents one day.

If you don’t believe me, just watch Bambi again. Heck, watch any of the Disney movies. It’s not just wide-eyed forest creatures wandering aimlessly about the meadow motherless… all of those Disney Princesses’ mothers are conspicuously absent.

Thanks Walt. It’s small wonder we were petrified as children that our mothers would pass away, leaving us to face the world alone.

But it wasn’t limited to The Wonderful World of Disney. What about all those Shirley Temple movies we were weaned on? Or Little Orphan Annie? Or Oliver? They made it clear that the world is a harsh place for the motherless. It’s an actual wonder that “orphans” get out of bed in the morning.

But we do. Mostly because we have kids of our own. Some of us even have grandkids. Besides, we knew all of our lives that our parents would more than likely pre-decease us. So we were prepared for this eventuality and all that it entailed, right?

Wrong.

Yesterday was the day we converged upon our mother’s home to perform the final clean-out, as we close with the new buyers in a week or so.

I was extremely worried over how my sister would handle this entire undertaking. I didn’t think she would deal with the process very well. After all, she was the “in town” kid that practically lived with Mom – caring for her these last few years.

Here are a few supplies we found essential:

Tissues
U-haul trailer
Ibuprofen
Hefty bags
Boxes, tape, styrofoam  peanuts
Big Girl Panties

We pulled into town a few hours before the moving company. We’d done some preliminary work a few weeks earlier, but I knew we still had a very long day ahead. My sister was waiting out in the front yard for us when we pulled into town. As I unbuckled my seatbelt, I sternly admonished my husband,

“Remember, SENSITIVITY IS KEY TODAY! This is going to be extremely hard for her. No matter how frustrated you get, I want you to be sweet!”

When am I ever not sensitive and sweet?” he queried in utter sincerity.  I didn’t have time for this marital conversation, besides I needed his full cooperation and strength for the mission at hand (in more ways than one.)

We got straight to work. All business. Brisk and efficient. We emptied cupboards and packed boxes.

Meanwhile, the moving men were hard at work moving the big stuff.  As the house emptied out, the walls started to produce an echo.  I thought I could hear the long-ago sounds of my children and my nieces and nephews chasing one another down the hallways when they were toddlers.

Eventually, the men started making progress toward my mother’s bedroom. I blocked their way. They seemed like lovely gentlmen, but I didn’t want them in my mother’s closet. Mom was a fashion icon who adored her clothes. My sister and I  needed to go through her closet ourselves.

Before I knew it, I had dissolved into a puddle on the closet floor. My sister cradled me for awhile. Then she slid Mom’s jade ring on my finger. She pinned a silk rose on her own shirt. She gave me some gloves and took a leopard hat. We each helped ourselves to a shiny sequined evening bag and then buried our faces in our mom’s monogrammed robe.

We boxed up the rest and beckoned the movers in.

A few hours later, I opened a kitchen drawer my mom called her “miscellaneous drawer.” Inside I found a pair of sunglasses, some paper clips, a picture of Mother Theresa, a refrigerator magnet that warned people not to “Mess With Texas” and a rock I had painted in the 7th grade.

You could tell what a creative spirit I’ve obviously been throughout my entire life- because on it I had colorfully painted the words, “Leslie’s Rock.” Purely Inspired. Artistic Genius. Still…I couldn’t believe my mom saved a rock for over 40 years. Had it been in this drawer all this time I wondered.

A friend recently told me to look for the signs that my mom is all around us. So was this my mom telling me to “Be a Rock” or to “Rock On?” Maybe.  But knowing my sassy mom, she was saying... “Can you believe how much I loved you that I kept this hideous rock all these years?”

Or… maybe in the words of Paul Simon, she just loved me like a rock and that’s good enough for me.

“Fox On The Run” (These Days You Can’t Run Or Hide From Picture Of Over-Exposed Middle-Aged Midriff …)

We’ve all been there.

You’re lying on your couch, 1/2 watching the basketball game with your hubby and 1/2 scrolling through Facebook, when you receive a notification that one of your friends has posted a picture of you.

(ding)

You receive a few more notifications that it has gotten a “like” or a “comment” and nervously you start to wonder which photo it is…

(ding)

You’re middle-aged now. So it’s not all fun-and-games in the picture department anymore. These are serious times if you have even a shred of vanity left in you. Facebook has upped the picture game.

(ding)

I remember one time in high school a friend of mine had gotten a roll of film developed from a party and brought it to school. A group of us were standing there by our lockers flipping through the stack of candids when I saw the most goddawful snapshot of myself.

On my very best day, I’m not photogenic, I have freckled skin and seriously unpredictable hair, but this picture took hideous to a whole new level.  So I didn’t say a word. I just patiently waited until my friend passed the stack around, and then unobtrusively slid the offensive photo into my purse, tearing it into a trillion pieces later that afternoon.

Matter handled.

Today is a different day. People say the internet has changed the world. Has it ever.

People are posting pictures of each other online without an ounce of malice because they truly think the picture is adorable.

My sister was the original Offensive Picture Poster. She posted horribly alarming pictures of me for all of mankind to see long before the World Wide Web existed.

On our mother’s refrigerator.

I’d arrive home for the Holidays, arms loaded down with a sweet potato casserole smiling ear-to-ear with Christmas cheer only to confront the most obnoxious photograph I’ve ever seen of myself plastered front and center of the very Gravitational Force of the family homestead.

And I knew full well that every relative we have had already seen it before I had a chance to whip it out from under the magnet, because MY family was always the last to arrive.

(In Sis’ defense it would usually be a pic of the two of us right after I have just given birth and she’s just popped over to the hospital to see the new baby. Naturally, we are both glowing with joy. It’s just that my face is fatigued and swollen with the 20 liters of glucose water they pumped into me, whereby her hair is coiffed and she has on a face full of expensive make-up.)

When my sister got a Facebook account and “friended” me in the 90s I had a very serious talk with her.

I want to PRE-APPROVE EVERY SINGLE PICTURE YOU POST OF ME BEFORE YOU POST IT OR I’LL SUE YOU – OKAY?”

Looking back, it does seem a bit overly-aggressive, but it worked.

Back to last night’s basketball game…

I’m innocently scrolling through Facebook when I notice something odd about a picture taken on Saturday night. Something hazy comes into focus around my mid-section. I was at a costume party, so I immediately think maybe it’s the sash that tied the little fox tail around my waist. But that ribbon was black and this appears flesh-colored.

I bolted off the couch as if I personally was going to help our team rebound the ball.

Where are you going so fast?” inquired the hubby.

To get my glasses and a screen bigger than my iPhone!” I snapped.

Sure enough. Once I enlarged the photograph, I was able to confirm that the reason the hazy matter hovering above my waistline appeared to be flesh-colored is because, unbeknownst to me, my sweater had taken a little ride up my body throughout the course of the evening and by the time this photo was taken, it was indeed exposing around 5″ of 54 year-old fleshy midriff.

I handed my laptop and glasses over to my husband so he could render a more objective opinion.

I kind’ve like it!  It goes with the whole Foxy theme…”

Gag.  He lacks objectivity, as he delusionally believes we’re both still 18.

So now might be a good time to apologize to that high school friend whose 2 cent Fotomat print I swiped back in ’81.

I’m sorry Cheryl I-can’t-remember-your-last-name…

And to my sister.  I guess she can post any picture she pleases on the refrigerator now.

As I probably no longer have grounds to sue.

“Landslide” (Eulogizing The Most Important Person In The World)

I came across this line in a novel recently and it struck me profoundly, like a premonition of sorts…

From the novel “Faithful,” by Alice Hoffman:

“She doesn’t have a mother anymore. There is no one to whom she’s the most important person in the world.”

And, isn’t that really the essence of what a mother truly is? That very person for whom we are the MOST important person in the world.

My mom had a way of making people feel that way.  She truly believed in us and said as much to anyone who’d listen.

Even when  it was  a bit unrealistic.

I remember when my daughter Emilie was 8, she won a local Junior tennis tournament in our neighborhood. When I was sharing this with her overly-exuberant grandmother, I off-handedly remarked,

“Mom, calm down, it’s not like she’s going to Wimbledon!”

“What do you mean she’s not going to Wimbledon?” Grandma asked, entirely incredulous.

“Well – I kind’ve don’t think so,” I responded. What followed was a very long lecture that lasted the rest of the afternoon about not believing in my kids…

Honestly, mom was like that about everything. We often teased her about it. If you played football, she looked into getting a suite at the Super Bowl, if you painted, she framed your art, if you started a business, she tried to invest in it, if you wrote an article, she submitted it to Ellen.

In her eyes, we were all the very best of everything and the most important people in the world.

The truth is – when it came to relationships, love and believing in people- My mother was simply a FORCE.

She was born in 1939 in Mobile, Alabama. Her parents divorced shortly after. She was sent to live with second-cousins in Forest County, Mississippi for reasons that were never quite clear. They were happy to take the little one in for the $12 per month  the arrangement provided.

However, as the story goes, my mom’s maternal grandparents, Grandma and Granddaddy Hunter would go to visit their little granddaughter every single weekend.

One Sunday afternoon after their usual visit, 3 year old Doris chased her grandparents car as they departed down a dirt road. The valiancy of this effort tugged so hard at her grandparents’ heartstrings that they abruptly stopped the car, backed up and sent her after her two little dresses and meager belongings. That very day two empty nesters (well into their 60s) committed to raise their daughter’s daughter as their own child…

They were the most important people in the world…

She met our dad on the day he was kicked out of the local Catholic boys high school and sent to the public school. It was March of his Senior year. There was Doris sitting primly at her mother’s (the school secretary) desk eating her lunch. Our mom always claimed she certainly wasn’t interested in the “stereotypical bad boy” type. In fact, she was even “pinned” to a preacher’s son at the time.

But dad was persistent. He kept asking her to go out and insisting each time that it “wasn’t a date” just a group of people all going to the beach or a parade or out to dinner. But these outings – they were definitely not dates. My dad could really “turn a phrase,” but this is mom’s eulogy and if she were here, she would tell me to stay on point. So I guess the point is that dad fought for and eventually won her heart and they went on to marry in August of 1960.

He worshipped his girl his entire life. My siblings and I were discussing the other day how we never heard him say one negative word against her. Nor would he tolerate such from anyone else. Of course as kids we would occasionally attempt to complain about her for the times she locked us outside on a hot summer’s day forcing us to drink from a garden hose, or if she burnt our grilled cheese and scraped the black into the sink, if she confiscated our car keys when we were teens. He would have none of it. She was perfect. She was his princess.

Although mom was raised humbly and modestly by her grandparents, she stepped into the role of a military officer’s wife quite adeptly. I don’t know if she researched the role or just had a knack for it, but she entertained other officers and General’s wives like she was the original Martha Stewart. I remember as a young girl sitting in the kitchen oohing and ahhhing as she made a topiary Christmas tree out of crudité vegetables long before Martha or Pinterest.  All she really wanted was for dad to be proud of her and he was. The Bible describes the perfect wife in Proverbs 31. It says “And she did him well all the days of her life…”

And she did.

 He was the most important person in the world.

Indeed, Family was our mother’s entire world…

You could tell by the way she single-handedly held us all together during the most frightening days when my dad was deployed to Vietnam. Nothing speaks to gritty resolve like the role of a military wife and mother during wartime.

I particularly remember the month of July in 1969. My mother sent me and my sister outside with a pencil and paper to sketch Colonel Armstrong walking on the moon. I realized many years later that she had simply created a diversion for us.

That same week she turned 30 and let me go with her to Gayfers to buy some wrinkle cream my Aunt Rosie had recommended. I remember at the time thinking that 30 was ancient and perhaps her window had passed. But my mom was determined that her soldier wasn’t going to come home disappointed that he left behind a 29 year-old-girl and returned to find a 30 year-old-woman.

(Just between us – I don’t think it was her 30th birthday milestone that made a woman out of our mom that year.)

A year or so later, while my parents were stationed in Germany, our father had a heart attack that forever altered the course of our lives. I remember the day she received that phone call from the hospital. My mom was 31 and there was a doctor on the other line telling her that her 33 year old husband had suffered a massive coronary. I recall sitting beside her on the bed- she was in shock and kept asking the doctor, “what about my children?”

Even as her own future crumbled around her, her children were the most important people in the world…

She returned to the United States crossing the ocean alone with 3 young children in tow while dad was medically evacuated. She settled us into a new home and new schools. And then she went back to college to acquire some secretarial skills. She gave up her life as a stay-at-home mom and her dream of having another child to ensure our family security in the event our dad never fully recovered.

But that decision to forgo having another child had her literally chomping at the bit a decade or so later to have some grandchildren. She trailed me and my groom around our wedding reception asking just how long we planned to make her wait to get a baby in her arms.

I’ve often said, if there’s another woman out there that relished the role of being a grandmother more than my mom, I want to meet her (and then possibly arrange to be her grandchild).

There simply aren’t words to express my mother’s joy and personal pride over each and every one of her grandchildren’s existence. In the earlier years, we often worried that maybe she needed to “pace herself” after the first few were born, because it was a daunting job to keep up with all the love and attention she lavished on our kids.

But honestly, there was no pacing Grandma…

Yet I do believe all 9 grandkids would say she managed to pull it off. She created an opportunity to speak and spend time privately with each one of them in the final few weeks before she passed away.

Her grandchildren were the most important people in the world…

As many of you know, the rapid progression of my mom’s disease collided headlong into her euphoria over her first great-grandchild’s conception and due date. But she never let her own despair overshadow her anticipation of this baby’s birth. In fact, she made it her personal goal to stay alive until he arrived. And she succeeded. I will for the rest of my days remain forever awed, mystified and grateful that my newborn grandson drew his very first breath the day before his Great-grandmother drew her very last.

That baby was the most important person in the world.

Of course I knew my mother had a million friends. Why wouldn’t she? She was colorful. She had panache. She was magnetic, charismatic, charming, a giver and a doer. I heard stories about her friends; I listened to the plans she made around them; I saw pictures of them and occasionally met them if I was in town.

But nothing (literally nothing) prepared me for the sheer number of friends coupled with the outpouring of love and devotion we received from each and every one of you during our mother’s illness.

(As a side note, when a group of Texans decide to shower you with support during a difficult time, you should plan to gain a few pounds, because they’re going to pour some sugar on you. We’ve been eating our grief for weeks now…)

My mother’s friends are, without a doubt, the most important people in the world…

Our mother knew how to do things right… And the right way was the Doris way.  When she wasn’t bragging on us, she was dispensing advice on how to avoid our many and endless foibles.

She told me once, when we were driving around running some errands in Oklahoma, “Now, In Texas, we are required to actually stop at all of those stop signs you just whizzed through!”

She loved to share the “Doris Way.”  She would happily share her recipe for Cheeseburger Macaroni or explain a few hacks for diapering a baby.

The other day I was diapering tiny baby Luke and I made a quick mental note to mention to mom later that I was “really slathering on the Desitin!” (Mom loved the word “slather.” If a product was worth using, it was certainly worth “slathering.”) It took a split second before I realized that I would not be bragging to my mom or impressing her ever again with my generous abuse of diaper ointment.

It kicked me straight in my approval seeking heart to know that she was gone forever.

One of her favorite “Dorisisms” was to tell you to make yourself a note so you don’t forget. I was in charge of bringing the dress she was to be buried in to the funeral home. I did not write myself a note. It’s not like I was actually going to forget.

When we arrived at the funeral home last week, I realized I had indeed remembered to bring the dress, but had left it in my car. If mom had been sitting at that table, she would’ve admonished me to get up “right this minute” and go get it NOW while it was “fresh on my mind.” But I didn’t do that. And again, I didn’t write myself a note.

I’m sure by now you’ve all figured out exactly what I did – yes, I drove that dress all the way back to Oklahoma, where it could do no one any good.

Y’all should’ve heard the sobs pouring out of me as I reached into the backseat of my car to grab my overnight bag, saw the dress hanging there and realized that I had let my own mother down the very day she died. I could just see her shaking her head and saying, “I asked you to do one thing….just one little thing for me when I passed away…what on Earth is the matter with you?”

Mom, honestly I wish I knew what on Earth was the matter with me, but no one can say you didn’t try…

Our mother was endlessly creative, an incredible hostess, a fashion plate and a homemaker extraordinaire. She was a loyal daughter, a devoted wife, an amazing mother, a doting grandmother and a loyal friend.

But most importantly, if we were listening, if we were watching, if we were making notes and taking notes, if we were paying really close attention – we realize she simply loved us.

Hard.

And her legacy will forever be realized as we, each and every one of us, in turn, love those that come after us – making sure they know that THEY’RE the most important people in the world.

“I Guess You’re Just What I Needed” (Everyone Can Use A Little Undiluted Adoration…)

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I’ve always loved being a mother.

My own mother insisted I would, and she was right.

I loved that my babies were mine and I was theirs. I loved how they looked at me with the purity of undiluted adoration.  I loved being the center of their universe.

Like most parents, there were certainly stages I liked better than others. I loved the baby years, and the toddler years hardly fazed me.  I rather enjoyed the little-kid years too.

And you may have noticed, there were times I barely tolerated the inevitability of teenagers.

But, all in all, there’s been beauty in the journey.

Less than a year ago, I found out my daughter was going to be a mother. I was delighted for her – that she was going to experience this abundant joy. But, it wasn’t long before I put two and two together and realized this meant I was going to be a grandmother.

(And, even more inexplicable – the hunk of burning love I call a husband was going to be a Papa? What?)

When people heard the news, everyone started raving about how utterly amazing it was going to be to become grandparents. As though everyone had eaten at a top-notch restaurant or seen an award-winning Broadway play that we had yet to experience.

While I was enamored with the idea of my daughter becoming a mother, I wondered if there was any way this thing could happen without essentially changing who I am.

Because I identify as “Mom.”

It seems like my babies were in my arms just the other day. Toddling around my coffee table grabbing objects as fast as I could move them higher, finger painting on the window of my car with a packet of McDonalds ketchup, mispronouncing words, asking for help with homework, tying their shoes, making free throws, dressing for prom.

It’s not that I didn’t want grand-babies, it’s just that I wanted my own babies back.

Whenever I expressed this reticence, it was immediately waved off and dismissed with promises of euphoria from friends and family. Everyone insisted that there was NOTHING better than being a grandparent.

If we heard it once, we heard it a million times, “you get to love them, enjoy them, spoil them and then when you’re done – you give them back to their parents!”

I’ve never quite understood why that arrangement is widely considered ideal. I liked ruining my own children and then keeping them for myself.  I’m possessive that way.

Irrespective and independent of all these self-actualized musings, my daughter delivered our first grandchild yesterday – right on time – as promised.

We couldn’t knock each other down fast enough to get into the hospital room after his birth. After all, we knew nothing about the little stranger. We didn’t even know his name. We began the process of making preliminary introductions all around.

Things slowly calmed down as the day proceeded and eventually all the friends, aunts, uncles and grandfathers made their way back to schools, farms and restaurants…to so-called “regular life.” But I stayed a while longer on the couch basking in the limelight of a miracle.

And I held him.

When it was time to go, I did what they say grandparents are supposed to do. I gave him back to his parents. As I gingerly passed him from my arms, I discerned a flicker of something I recognized.  I peered a bit closer…

And there it was – lo and behold – a wave of familiarity.  Every one of my babies accumulated in this one tiny face. And I’m pretty sure I saw my parents too.

And then, essentially changed, I thought, ‘you might be just what I needed.’

 

 

“Reminiscing” (Living Our Lives Through Our Mother’s Lens…)

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The night I was engaged. Who’s happier – Me or Mom?

My mother has always been my Go-to Girl.  My Chief Advisor.  My One-tell. For as long as I can remember, almost everything I’ve ever experienced in my life was viewed and evaluated through the prism of my mother’s perspective.

Everything.

Remember those elastic bracelets people wore years ago that said “WWJD?” (What would Jesus do?) I spent a lifetime wondering “WWMD?” What would Mom do? (Or think or say?)

This might be a good time to admit to my closest friends that every time they told me a secret and I promised to keep it, “cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” I never actually stuck that needle in my eye, even though I always went straight to my mom with their confidence.

Any time anything happened, no matter how minor or mundane, I always began a running narrative in my head telling mom all about it. And that’s assuming I didn’t call and fill her in immediately.

-Whether I bought something on sale (“Remember that blouse we saw in Nordstrom…”)
-Whether I ran into someone (“You’ll never believe who I saw today…”)
-Anything and everything her grandchildren said or did (“Tommy said the cutest thing, we were sitting at the dinner table and…”)

Nothing was too insignificant to mention:
“I ordered the chicken!”
“The hotel was gorgeous!”
“I had the worst headache!”

Our mothers are our very first listeners.

And I was blessed to tell mine so many wonderful things like, “We’re engaged!” “I’m pregnant!” “We bought a house!” “I’m published!” and a few not-so-good things, the most awful was, “He said you’ve got Leukemia” and a few months later, “They said there’s nothing left they can do…”

Like all matriarchs, my Mama loves our family lore:

Remember the time Dad parked the Winnebago on the beach at Padre Island and the tide came in while we were asleep? We woke up the next morning to the serene sounds of waves lapping tires and realized we were surrounded by ocean…”

“Remember traveling back to the U.S. from the Army base in Germany, after Dad had his heart attack and we couldn’t get a taxi to make our connection in Philadelphia? (No one seemed excited to transport an Army Wife traveling alone with her 3 “Brats.”) As you tossed our luggage on top of an unsuspecting cab, you shouted at us kids to jump in, leaving the cabbie no choice but to take us!”

“What about the time I threw a paper airplane in class which my teacher intercepted, unfolded and wrote a note on – requesting your signature?  You took my plane, unfolded it again, inserted it in your IBM Selectric and proceeded to type your own note informing the teacher how proud you were that I was preparing for a career in Aeronautical Engineering!”

My mom is a sassy one, but she had it a little bit wrong that time. The paper airplane episode didn’t indicate that I was destined to become an Aeronautical Engineer, just that I was destined to be a mischief-maker who acted up, talked too much and would stop at nothing to make people laugh.

I did, however, follow in her footsteps to become a sassy mother.

These days my mother and I have entered a new phase of talking, listening, laughing and crying. Her tiny body is indeed spent from the fight, yet still she yearns for a few more significant insignificant days to give her children her undivided attention.

And we will fill this time with tales of hilarity, courage and that inexplicable powerful force called motherlove. The wonderful and the trivial, peppered here and there with a story about someone else’s drama or something fabulous we bought on sale.

It is, after all, what Mom would do.

“Bringing Sexy Back!” (How To Know If That’s A Loud Cliche You’re Hearing)

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Circa 1982

We’ve all heard of the dreaded “Mid-life Crisis.” Many of us have wondered if it’s coming our way. Some of us have even seen signs.

A few of us might’ve witnessed the phenomenon second-hand, when our own parents grappled with their versions in the 70s and 80s. That’s when a bottle of Grecian Formula showed up on Dad’s side of the vanity. Or maybe our mothers splurged on a pair of “Candies.”

When WE were teens, we considered everyone over the age 40 “ancient,” but our parents sure didn’t see it that way. They were too busy blaring their Commodores  8-track and sucking down Geritol.

Nowadays we find ourselves scanning the horizon for even a tell-tale whiff of a mid-life cliche – in ourselves or, even worse, in our spouse. As a result, every purchase we make is under high-level scrutiny.

But, how does one actually KNOW for sure if a purchase is “classic mid-life crisis,” or if it’s simply an item we genuinely needed or legit always wanted? What if there really is no hidden-agenda or deep rooted psychological meaning? How can one tell?

I believe the best thing we can ever give our spouse is the benefit of the doubt, so I refuse to overthink my hubby’s recent purchase of a motorcycle.

Sometimes Candies are just shoes…so it’s entirely possible that a motorcycle is just a vehicle.

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After all, when I met my husband, he was 18 and rode a motorcycle. It was a silver Kawasaki that my parents forbade me to ever ride on. I obeyed them for a quick minute before I clambered on the back. But in my defense, he did have two helmets and I didn’t want to come across high-maintenance, stuck-up or persnickety.

What halcyon days those were. We had tons of fun and made endless memories…all up until the day the day that bike was stolen.

Which might be the only time I’ve seen the man cry in 35 years.

By and by, we bought a car, recited our vows, installed some car seats and literally got down the road to raising a family. We never looked back. At least I thought we didn’t, until the other day, when he found the exact same bike and bought it.

I don’t know why I was so surprised when he called me outside to take a look.  He told me he was going to buy another one someday. I guess he and that bike had unfinished business.

When I sighed and rolled my eyes, he said, “What??? You used to love my bike!”

“I did…when we were teenagers!”

But now we are adults, mere weeks away from becoming actual grandparents.

I’m bringing sexy back,” he quipped.

To further reassure me, he yelled over the insane loudness of the engine, “DON’T WORRY, I’M NOT GOING TO RIDE IT!”

Apparently, he’s just going to park it in the garage and rev the engine from time to time.  Which would be such a relief if I believed him.  (And I would believe him if I reserved clunking around in loud dangerous shoes for our house only.)

What I believe is that our grand-baby’s gonna hear sexy coming from a mile away…