Saturday, November 12, 2005

My mother, my self

One of the Blogging 4 Books themes this month is to write about "going home again." This is my entry (my very first one!) about how "home" is in you whether you realize it or not.

"Sit straight," my mom used to say to me at dinner time. I’d have perched myself on a kitchen chair, one leg tucked comfortably under me as I sat at the table. It drove my mom nuts when I didn’t sit squarely facing the table. Apparently good manners required that I sit squarely, with both feet on the floor. But I just wasn’t comfortable, and eventually, without thinking, I’d slide around into another position that broke the rules and provoked another rebuke from my mother.

I hadn’t thought about this in years, until I heard myself say to my wiggly daughter Caroline at dinner one night, "Turn around and sit straight!" Caroline stopped squirming, but I froze more quickly at the shock of hearing myself: I’d sounded just like my mother.

It’s disconcerting, how motherhood calls up such an odd mix of feelings sometimes. There are moments when I’m in full mother mode, helping Caroline with homework or playing a card game or picking up clothes from her bedroom floor, and I have a sudden flash to an intense childhood memory of my mother doing those things with me. I remember the amazement I felt at how easy it was for me to remember where the three of clubs was hidden among the cards in a game of "Concentration"; now, I watch as Caroline’s hand goes unerringly to the right card when I’ve not been able to keep a single card in my head beyond the next turn. I remember how my mom muttered and gently scolded me about leaving my wet towel on the bathroom floor after my bath. Now, I mutter and scold and realize how tired my mom must have been as she picked up after me.

And all those things I swore to myself that I’d never say to MY children when I grew up? Yep, I’m saying them...more regularly than I’d like to admit. When we moved into a rental house with a new paint job over which our new landlords had made a big fuss, I found myself chiding Caroline over and over again to not run her hands along the walls each time she went down the hallway. I couldn’t keep the words from escaping my mouth, even as I remembered the feel of smooth wallboard under my fingers as I skipped to my bedroom.

The moments where I unexpectedly find myself being my mother aren’t all discipline-related ones. Whenever Caroline is sick, I find myself doing and saying the comforting things my mom did for me. A damp washcloth, folded a special way, as a compress for a fevered forehead, a crisp clean pillowcase to make getting to sleep easier, even the stories I tell and the songs I sing come straight from my mom, through my heart, to my daughter.

So, yes, it’s disconcerting to find myself becoming my mom as I mother my daughter. But it makes me happy, too.

6 comments:

mary m. said...

Great entry, Diane!

I, too, have always bugged KC to sit up straight, especially while eating. Until one day she pointed out that the reason I always end up with food stains on my shirt is because I'm sitting up too straight, and if I just bent over my plate a little, I would go through less shirts.

Just wait until Caroline gets a little older...she'll give you a run for your money...

Deb R said...

Lovely entry, Diane.

LoieJ said...

My shock of personal recognition/going back to childhood was when I yelled "Can't you understand English?" at my dog. That was my father's rather untolerant voice coming out of me.

Scrapmaker said...

I have also had that experience..opened my mouth and heard my mother's voice come out. The comforting things, too, were repeated for my own children. Your story is well told. Jen

Tracy said...

Very nice B4B entry.

Hilari said...

Thanks for the link to B4B! I just posted my own entry: http://makeme.typepad.com/make_me/2005/11/home_on_opposit.html