Who's Your Mommy?
I sit here on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in October, my favorite time of year, stuck inside because I've had a cold all week. OK, I'm also a homebody, I can't lie. I do feel puny, though, and while I can't speak for anyone else, when I'm sick all I really want is my mommy to come take care of me. She doesn't have to entertain me; I just need to know she's there. Maybe make me some Campbell's chicken noodle soup or, my personal favorite, Campbell's bean with bacon soup cooked in light cream instead of water. (Trust me, try it and you'll never go back.)
I don't think it matters how old we get. When things go wrong in our lives, whether it's a common cold, a broken heart, or just a run-of-the-mill hangover, nothing will do but Mommy. For example, every single person I've talked to agrees that the scent of Vicks Vap-o-Rub takes them right back to childhood when their mother rubbed their chest with this magical ointment in the middle of the night when they were sick.
Now, let's be clear. I am not sitting here wishing my mother would come over and rub my 55-year-old chest with Vick's just because I'm sick. That's creepy. At this point in my life, in all our lives probably, it's more psychological. Mothers represent comfort, safety, and unconditional love. We spend so much of our youth wanting to grow up and be independent from our parents, only to find out that it isn't all it's cracked up to be and spend the rest of our lives wishing we could go back.
My mother isn't just any mother, though. She's goofy and ditzy, and I sometimes I could swear there's circus music playing in her head. She's also a fierce Mama Bear, as she likes to refer to herself, and do not, I repeat, do NOT make her mad. There were two times in my life she slapped me across the face, and I remember them vividly (and I deserved it both times). She is my worst critic and my biggest fan. I can always count on her to tell me which costume(s) made me look "frumpy", even if looking frumpy was the desired effect.
She is from a generation where no self-respecting woman left the house without being totally put together, whereas I am one mild disappointment away from going to Wal-Mart in my pajama pants. She can go from zero to "I will take you out right here in the middle of the country club" without one hair being out of place.
I don't think any daughter really appreciates her mother until the moment she gives birth to her own child. From then on, your mother becomes your hero, because you finally understand what she has gone through to get you to where you are. And even when you're all grown up, you're still her baby, she still worries about you, and she's there at the drop of a hat when you say, "I need you". Now that my own daughter (and son, for that matter) are grown, I know what it means to still want to feel needed by them.
I remember getting into trouble in the 8th grade with my history teacher, Mr. Ward. He was an extremely intimidating man, and probably still is. I won't go into the back story, because we'd be here til the Rapture, but I missed turning in a paper because of a personal issue, and he wouldn't let me turn it in late. Well, my petite, five foot three, blonde mother marched herself right up to the classroom with me and told me to go in and tell him she wanted to talk to him. He refused, stating he was in the middle of class. She said, "I don't care", and he went into the hall. I got to turn my paper in.
When I had my first child and was dealing with raging post-partum depression, she was there every morning to help, and when she walked in and I burst into tears because I had had a moment during the night when my crying newborn wouldn't breast feed and I had a fleeting thought of walking to the nursery window, opening it up, and tossing him out (HORRIFIED that I had even had that thought), she immediately said, "Oh, honey. So did I." Whether she said it just to make me feel better, I don't know. But it worked, because I didn't feel like such a monster.
It wasn't until ten years ago, though, that I realized the true depth of her unlimited devotion. It was my 17-year-old son who had to call my parents and tell them that I had just tried to kill myself by taking a bottle full of Phenergan. I didn't know any of this until later, but she sobbed the entire way to the hospital, praying out loud which, as far as I knew, was not something she had ever done before. I was in a deep sleep before any of my family arrived, so when I woke up at 4 in the morning, I was fully prepared to be incensed at the fact that my family hadn't even been there. But they had. My mother had sat by my stretcher, which had by then been moved into the hall because the ED was full, so completely undone that the staff was constantly asking her if SHE was okay.
Four days later, when it came time to be discharged home, she was right there with me in the social worker's office when they told me they didn't think I should go back there because she and the psychiatrist felt I was being emotionally abused. She made all the arrangements for me to stay at my brother's house with a focus and precision that put Samantha and Miranda to absolute shame (IYKYK). She came over every day, drove me to doctor's appointments, drove me out of town to job interviews, and got me moved and set up in Greenville when I got a job in the cardiac ICU.
I wish I could say that was the last time she had to deal with my emotional breakdowns, suicide attempts, and general dumb-fuckery, but that would be a lie. I've been hospitalized twice since then, and she was always there. The most recent breakdown occurred a couple of months ago when I was overworked, overextended, burnt out, discouraged, and exhausted. I had to tell my mother that I had stood at the kitchen counter testing out what it would be like to cut my wrist, knowing that each time this gets harder and harder for her as she and my father get older.
As I left my job (yet again), she bought me groceries, took me to lunch, and provided all the support and encouragement I needed to finally find a job that wouldn't take so much out of me. The other day, I told her how excited I was that I was actually getting a paid half day off at my new job, simply because that's what they do every month that there isn't a major holiday. She said, "Yay!", then proceeded to tell me that if I ever get the urge to quit this job I should go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and slap myself across the face. Twice if necessary. If that didn't work, she said, "Bang your head against the wall until the feeling passes. You should remember how to do this from when you were a child." Excessive? Maybe. But certainly not wrong. In reality it was her version of tough love - a humorous way of letting me know that I need to break myself of the habit of working myself into the ground until I have nothing left to give. And she's absolutely right.
If you are lucky enough to have a Mama Bear in your life, then you are lucky enough. If you don't.... well, you can't have mine. She's MY mommy.