I Am My Mother

It’s official. I’ve turned into my mother. Something I swore at the age of 16 would never happen. There were several good reasons I could never act like her, but the most important one was that I am a Sagittarian and she’s a Virgo. Anyone who knows even a little about astrology understands the importance of that single fact in securing the impossibility of my ever turning into my mother.

There are also examples.

In 1987 or 88, the song It Takes Two by Rob Base was released. Simply hearing the first thumping beats of this song would raise my heart rate and make me gyrate. My mother and I would be riding along calmly in the car, that song would come on, and I would scream… “THAT’S MY JAM!” and crank up the volume. She would purse her lips, frown at me, and say, “Oh my Lord! Are you deaf, Child? Why does the volume have to be that loud for you to hear your song?” And she’d turn the volume so low I could only hear whispers of my jam. If I was lucky, I got to keep listening to the song, but on some days, it was WLOQ, the local jazz station, that she switched to. She always played her music so low you really didn’t hear the smooth jazz until you were stopped at a light.

I’d never be like that.

In 1984, I started high school. I was involved in a lot of sports and clubs and activities and was invited to different social events. Sometimes, there would be activities on Friday and Saturday nights. When I would ask my mother to go to the events on both nights, she’d always complain and say I’d just gone out the night or weekend before. Hm. What does going out on Friday have to do with going out on Saturday if you don’t have anything to do on Saturday? Why does the fact that I went out last weekend have any bearing on my desire to go out this weekend if I’m an A-student, good kid and all my chores are done?

I’d never be like that.

But the one that really got me. And I think I have a witness on this one from my younger brother and a few cousins that stayed with us from time to time. The clincher was… if I was ever caught sitting still watching television or talking on the phone or looking in the kitchen cabinet for something to eat, my mother would search, hunt, scavenge for something for me to do. It’s almost as if my mere presence of relaxation annoyed her and she was determined to alter my status. She’d walk in from the garage and see me flipping through a magazine at the kitchen table and start looking around. “Althea get up and put these things away,” she’d say, gesturing to boxes of food on the counter. Or, “Althea, put these dishes away,” as she would open the dishwasher to see clean dishes resting on the racks. “Althea, why is your room so messy? Make your bed and put these clothes away.”

I’d never be like that.

Or would I?

“I refuse to be like Mom,” I say silently when I catch myself about to do it. But most times (and I hate to admit it), I can’t help myself. Something about those boys sitting in front of the big screen playing Call of Duty – Black Ops when there’s folded clothes to be put away, and dirty dishes on the counter, and an overflowing trashcan…

“Un Unh! Turn it off. I know ya’ll aren’t in here playing that game when this place looks a hot mess.”

I see the knowing looks pass between them. I hear the sigh that little one hasn’t learned how to stifle yet. And, yes, he got more work because he sighed out loud. And yes, I also did that thing my parents used to do if we acted ungrateful. I went through the full list of how grateful they should be to have me as a parent.

“I know you didn’t just roll your eyes. Look around. You have a nice house to live in, clean clothes and dinner on the stove. I take you where you want to go and let your friends come over and play. You have every video game known to man in here. I wish you would sigh again!”

Not only have I turned into my mother, I’ve gone beyond where she was. I admit it. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. Perspective changes as we get older. Perspective changes as we have children. Perspective changes as our children get older.

I am not completely like Mom – I let the kids play their music loud with me in the car (except for that one song by Soldier Boy, Hey You There – what a stupid song); and I let them go to as many social activities as they want as long as they do well in school, do their chores and have good manners at all times.

And today, when my son was leaning on the door of the kitchen pantry, looking for something to snack on, I stopped myself from glancing around to find something for him to do. I resisted the strong, strong, strong urge to tell him to do the dishes, take out the recycling and get started on his homework.

I allowed him to eat, text and sing a song before I asked him to do all that.

One Response to “I Am My Mother”

  1. Kwame Som-Pimpong Says:

    This is hilarious. I might need to do an evaluation of my characteristics that resemble my parents’.

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