Apologies to My Mother
A couple of months ago I helped my parents downsize from a large town home to a small apartment. The smaller size of the new place meant that they had to look long and hard at their belongings and decide what could stay and what must go. One of the upshots of this experience is that I learned my mother is a hoarder. A fact which she had carefully disguised from me all these years.
Among my discoveries:
- 35 years of tax returns neatly boxed and shoved in the attic (with all supporting documentation)
- 19 of those little hygiene packs containing toothpaste, Kleenex, etc. they give you when you are on an overnight airplane flight
- 47 spice jars going back to 1964 (my mom doesn’t cook)
- a plastic box containing all of my baby teeth
- 16 hats (my mom doesn’t wear hats)
- and, horrifyingly, a box of cards I’d made, letters I’d written, and other incriminating artifacts of my childhood
While the above discoveries led to much gentle teasing, firm instruction (“No mom. You’re never going to use those airplane freebies. Time to give them away.”), and surreptitious shredding, it was the last item that most struck me.
I was apparently not a kind child. At least not to my mother. The box of what can loosely be termed “memorabilia” (although I think it was more likely kept as “evidence”) contained numerous examples of my strong affection for my father and my somewhat weaker connection to my mom.
Exhibit A: A card I created for my parents when I was 6 in which I state that my dad is “the best father in the whole world” and my mom “tries really hard” to be a good mother.
Exhibit B: A story I wrote when I was around 10 in which the father is warm and loving and plays games with the little girl and the mom “is really good at cleaning the house.”
Sadly, I did not appear to improve with age. My mother also kept a copy of my college application essay, which she was kind enough to type on my behalf 7 separate times (once for each application back in the dark ages of typewriters and white out). The essay described in vivid terms the anxiety and loneliness of being a latchkey kid (And effectively an only child to boot. I do have two much older half brothers, but they only lived with us over the summer.). It included descriptions of my younger self turning on the television for company, fearfully running upstairs in the empty house, and listening to the radio for accident reports when my parents get home later than expected.
To quote my 17 year old self:
My mother began working when I entered the fourth grade.Coming home to an empty house each day taught me responsibility and independence at a young age. My parents were not home to remind me to empty the dishwasher or to nag me about homework. I also learned to protect myself from strangers and to cope with loneliness.
All I can say is that if my child had written this for her college application essay, I would be too busy sobbing into a dishcloth to transcribe it for her.
So for all of the above – and I am sure a plethora of yet to be discovered atrocities – I offer an apology and my condolences to Mom for putting up with my ungrateful self.