Mirror Mirror On The Wall, I Am My Mother After All
Whenever someone sees an old photograph of my mother, they tell me that we could have been twins. There’s a strong similarity in the crinkles that appear at the corner of our hazel eyes when we’re smiling and in the way our top lips curve up, exposing our gums when we laugh. Our voices are similar, too, and I’ve been mistaken for her on the phone more times than I can count. But I always thought that was where our similarities ended. If anything, my older sisters had far more in common with my mother—their refined tastes in music and art, their devotion to God, their love for adventure, and their ability to replicate Mom’s recipe for the perfect Bordelaise sauce.
My mother was grace and sophistication, something I sorely lacked as a clumsy, shy child. To say that I admired her would be an understatement. People loved her outgoing personality, her artistic ability, the strong moral code that she lived by, and her enthusiasm to volunteer for just about every charitable cause on the planet. She had the organizational skills of a seasoned drill sergeant and, at times, made our lives a living hell with her OCD tendencies (especially when we left the house without making our beds). To this day, I still cannot fold a fitted sheet the way she does; I can never get the edges perfectly aligned and flat. My sheets are wadded up in a ball at the back of my closet.
By the time I hit my ornery teen years, the last thing I had wanted to hear was that I was anything like my mother. I didn’t want to live under the pressure of everyone’s expectations to be like her. She was too damn perfect: a woman who kept a spotless house, made home cooked meals for her family every night, and who never cursed or drank more than a glass or two of wine with dinner. Her hair was always neatly coiffed and her clothes freshly pressed. Appointments and social engagements were carefully inked onto her calendar each month, and, at the age of fourteen, this reeked of suburban boredom to me. My mother was a beautiful bird trapped in a gilded cage, and all I wanted was the freedom to fly.
We disagreed on just about everything during my teen years; she didn’t like some of the friends I hung out with, the way I slouched at the dinner table, the messes I left in my room, or my average grades in school and lack of motivation to improve them. The close relationship my sisters shared with my mother was completely foreign to me. They trusted her with their secrets and sought her advice, something I was never comfortable doing. I was a self-absorbed teen, cutting myself off from any possibility of a mother-daughter bond by spending the majority of my time behind a closed bedroom door. My life revolved around Friday night football games at school and spending hours with my girlfriends at the drugstore cosmetic counter. I had no interest in my mother or her social life, and I never took into consideration the sacrifices she made or the love she put into taking care of our family.
I had a lot of growing up to do before I learned to appreciate my mother. Marriage, four children, unemployment, menopause, and the death of several family members are what gave me wisdom and a deep respect for my resilient mother who is now in her eighties. She grew up during the depression era and has endured more than her share of heartache—the death of her spouse and her daughter, her son’s massive stroke eight years ago, a brain tumor, and, most recently, shingles. While many would have crumbled under the stress, my mother persevered, and I’m in awe of her resilience.
It may have taken me awhile to get to this point, but now I can see our similarities. We’re strong women who protect our families and are fiercely loyal to the ones we love. We share a keen sense of humor, an obsession anything chocolate, and we have compassionate hearts. The character traits of my mother that made me cringe as a teen are now the things that I like most about myself—-the strong organizational skills that enable me to juggle family, work, and a social life, the moral compass I try to live by, a willingness to make sacrifices for my children, and a passion for creating beauty through all forms of art.
When people compare me to my mother now, I’m honored. I may not be able to fold a fitted sheet, but at least, I’ve learned how to make a damn good Bordelaise sauce. Thanks, Mom.
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This post was written by Marcia Doyle exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.