The other day Ray grabbed a plastic tumbler from the cupboard and silently handed it to me. I looked inside. It was dirty. Very dirty. Really gross, actually. I’m not sure what dried in there but whatever it was, the dishwasher didn’t make a dent. And I hadn’t noticed when I put it away.
“You know,” Ray smirked, “you have a little bit of your mom in you.”
I hope so.
True, my mother keeps an, um, casual house. Her mascara’s often smudged, her glasses a bit askew. Sometimes part of a shoulder pad (circa 1986) can be seen peeking from under her blouse. Tonight at dinner, she opened her purse and exclaimed (loudly) that her wallet was missing — as crumpled Kleenex tumbled to the ground and errant receipts practically exploded out of her small red leather Coach bag. I looked over at my dad. He looked back at me, completely unaffected. Sure enough, within 10 seconds she’d opened another compartment and screamed, “Got it!”
I inherited all of these traits from her. My car looks like a toy bomb exploded in it. I decide several times a day that I’ve lost my car keys. And that dirty tumbler’s only the beginning of my housekeeping woes.
I just wish I got the good stuff. Because there’s plenty of it. As I mentioned yesterday (and probably many times before that), my mother is a ballerina. She runs a big studio and you only need to go with her to the local mall to see how popular she is in this town. (“Susie! Susie! Susie! the teenage girls cry, chasing her down in the food court for big hugs.) She’s a damn good ballet teacher, too.
She’s an artist. A really good one. Like, you can even tell who she’s trying to draw. My house is filled with portraits of the family and our animals, and she only needs a half day’s notice to whip up a birthday invitation.
And my mother has a great personality. She’s goofy and charming and real. This has served my father well in his career. Not long ago, a friend who’s known him for years on a professional basis called to say, “Oh my god, I just heard your father tell a joke! He DOES have a sense of humor!” My dad’s not humorless so much as silent, so my mother’s spent almost 45 years of marriage filling in the gaps.
She is selfless and loyal and only wants to please everyone. (Sorry, Mom, I made you sound like a dog, there, but it’s true.) She is nice to even the most curmudgeonly members of my father’s family (sadly, her parents both died quite a while ago, and her one brother lives out of town) and she will drop anything to help my sister and me.
She adores her grandchildren and she’s the best Scrabble player I know. What’s not to like?
My mom shines on a regular basis — like the time she rented a Mickey Mouse costume so she could properly present the kids a Hanukkah gift of a trip to Disneyland or all the times she comes to the girls’ classes and teaches the kids the “dancer’s alphabet” or every single birthday my sister and I have ever had (we swear she ruined us for our husbands) — but once a year, she really sparkles.
Once a year, she mounts a full ballet production with the kids from her studio — the kids 8 and up, a group Annabelle will soon join. Yesterday my girls danced with the little kids at 2:30. At 4, my mother presented Coppelia.
I can’t remember the last ballet of hers I missed. Maybe when I was living back east, so it’s been almost 20 years. It broke my heart, but yesterday I had to race away from the recital to another performing arts venue. It was a big day. Sophie’s ballet debut, and my 7th Annual Mothers Who Write reading.
I’ve been co-teaching a writing workshop for moms since Annabelle was three months old. I wasn’t so sure about the idea of excluding non-moms, at first, and some days I’m still not. But what happens in the class — a simple writing workshop, mostly memoir with a bit of poetry — is downright magical. And once a year, our current and former students gather to put on a reading of their work.
This year, there were some scheduling conflicts — my mom’s ballet and my reading were within two hours of each other. I couldn’t stay for the ballet. And my mom couldn’t come to the reading. (I can’t recall the last one she missed, if any.)
This morning, we compared notes on the phone. She was thrilled with her students’ ballet and I was darn happy with my students’ reading. Truth be told, for both of us, yesterday was as important a day as today — even though today we actually got to see each other (we took the girls for mani/pedis and then my dad and Ray joined us at the Desert Botanical Garden to see the Chihuly show).
Driving home last night, thinking about Mother’s Day and my mom’s ballet and my reading, it occured to me that maybe I am a tiny bit like her — in a good way, this time — rushing around making programs and booking auditoriums, collaborating with co-teachers (in my case, my good and talented friend Deborah Sussman Susser), nurturing students and celebrating creativity.
And on my best days as a mom, maybe I’m a little bit like her then, too.
I hope so.