The Next Delusion

Seeing Reality and Looking the Other Way

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)
McCormick Through the Ages

McCormick Through the Ages

  • 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.”

Ouch.

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.

Double ouch.

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.

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24 thoughts on “Apologies to My Mother

  • Michelle says:

    awww…this is sweet. I’m sure your mom still appreciates having those childhood reminders.
    Michelle recently posted…Search Term Tuesday Is Something I StoleMy Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      Thank you. Sadly sweet was not at all the vibe as she presented the folder to me. Long-suffering might be the term I would choose.

  • ManicMom says:

    I feel like I spent the first twenty five years of my life being my mom’s biggest adversary, and the next twenty feeling bad about that. My kids can dish it out, but no where near what I could do when I was their age. This really struck a chord.
    ManicMom recently posted…Techno touristsMy Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      And the worst part is that I was so self-righteous about it at the time.

      Thank goodness my daughter is generally pretty kind to me.

  • Your story struck a chord with me as well. I was a very ungrateful child too.
    Madison Woods recently posted…Homestead Journal: Second Terrace Done!My Profile

  • tedstrutz says:

    Dear Lord… I think I wrote this. My mother would have put J. Edgar Hoover to shame for the files she had on everyone in the family. Need a storage container… yep we got them. Loved your post… Susie sent me!
    tedstrutz recently posted…TORMENTED… A VignetteMy Profile

  • Dianne F says:

    Susie sent me from the party. I love this post! You and your mother may be more alike than you realized — while you were dashing upstairs trying to smoke out (or hide from) potential serial killers, she was storing away the baby teeth in the event that DNA samples were needed at some future point.

    And tax returns made me laugh, because I’m sure my husband has every tax return he has ever filed since he was a young adult — probably at least 30 years worth. Ditto for the spices, which has been languishing in his closet for years when I moved in 20 years ago, because he doesn’t cook either, but has the idea that some day he will cook. But I did clear them out…

    • Cassandra says:

      My favorite part about the spices (other than 40 years of McCormick bottles) was that she had four containers of tarragon. Not sure how that happens.

  • Susie Lindau says:

    I think we are honest and unfiltered when we are young. We accept what life deals us as fact and move on. Your mom seems very independent for the day. Maybe she didn’t take it as hard as you would have. Or did she hold them up and say, “See?? You loved Dad more.” 🙂

    I love the honesty of this! Thanks for bringing it to the party! Have fun clicking on links and “mingling” with the guests!
    Susie Lindau recently posted…Use Me and Abuse Me Blog Party! – Music in the Street EditionMy Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      Oh, my mom has spent a lifetime pointing out to me that I always loved my dad better. I just never knew she was keeping proof. 🙂

      Thanks so much for hosting this party! What a wonderful service to other bloggers.

  • Soul Walker says:

    It is amazing the things we learn as we grow older and gain a different perspective. I hope I can have more of these realizations myself and treasure my mother until the end… not just because of the things I put her through… but I do feel a little guilty myself. Oh, and Susie sent me!

    • Cassandra says:

      My mom has been a great resource as an adult. She is incredibly organized and whenever I need to know how to get something done, I call my mom. I am very grateful to have her.

  • Barb Taub says:

    Susie sent me over from her party. I particularly love the mother/daughter dance.

    My youngest daughter (and current coauthor) often reminds me that I should be nicer to her because she’ll be the one picking out my retirement home…

    • Cassandra says:

      Let me just say that my parents have moved into an AMAZING independent living community. Feels more like a cruise ship than a retirement home. It’s the kind of place I want to go if I ever have to. Sadly, I don’t get credit. All my mom’s doing.

  • Rebekah says:

    I liked the honesty of your post. It is part of life to tell out parents what they did wrong and then learn that they are not perfect, rather human, just like us. Your mother probably did the same thing to her mother. Didn’t we all? And then we forgive our parents and apologize. Then we learn to forgive ourselves. It is a cycle. So if your daughter writes things like that, just smile.

  • Susie sent me over. I admire your honesty. Although my mom and I have always had strong ties (absentee father does that sort of thing) I’ve had my own very inconsiderate moments. My sister says that I once called my mom on mother’s day and told her I wouldn’t be coming over to spend time with her (something I’d always done in the past) because she hadn’t been much of a mother lately. Apparently my mom bawled her eyeballs out. I don’t recall ever saying it, but I suspect it may be because pure shame has caused me to black out the entire moment from my memory.
    Kitt Crescendo recently posted…Seduction of SummerMy Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      When we’re young we just have no idea how much our actions impact our parents. There are so many things I said to my mom that I would take back now if I could

  • Bob Skelley says:

    There sounds like there is a lot of love there, Cassandra. You feel for both your mother and father. What we relate and emote when we’re young and how it changes as we age, is part of how we evolve. You’ve turned out to be a pretty good daughter me thinks. Susie (the blog pimp, as someone who visited my site put it) sent me! Cheers!
    Bob Skelley recently posted…Let’s talk about the weatherMy Profile

  • […] different version of this piece was originally published on Cassandra’s blog, The Next Delusion. Reprinted by the author with permission In the Powder Room, a division of Hold My Purse […]

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