My mother was not a regular kind of mom. This confused me a lot while I was growing up. Other mothers made cookies, kissed boo-boos. Hung out with the other mothers in summertime. Swapped recipes. Watched soap operas.
My mother didn’t bake anything, much less cookies. She was a terrible cook because she hated it. She was an unenthusiastic housekeeper and the whole “huggy kissy” mothering thing eluded her. She didn’t watch soap operas, loved the Marx Brothers and MGM musicals. She never graduated high school. She read voraciously and constantly. Especially about science and space. She was fascinated by quarks, black holes, and antimatter.
She never kissed a boo-boo; I don’t remember her kissing me at all. She wasn’t that kind of mom.
She had no interest in gossip, recipes, or cute stories about anyone’s kids. She wanted to talk about politics or the space program and which nations were so hopeless they needed a complete redo, from scorched earth up (she had a list). I think if she were still alive, she’d probably add the U.S. to her list.
She enjoyed talking to me — I’m not sure if she talked to anyone else — about being a young woman when FDR became president. How, when the NRA (National Recovery Act) was passed, there was a spontaneous parade in New York that lasted 24 hours. Ticker tape and all.
How the government had surplus crops during the worst years of the depression, and government agents took the extra food, dumped it in vacant lots, then put poison on it so no one could eat it. Even though people were starving. I thought she was just paranoid, but I have since learned that it happened, just the way she said it did.
She didn’t trust government, was sure they were spying on us. Positive that J. Edgar Hoover was out to get us and he had a long list — and we were on it. Turned out, she was on target about most of it.
She was in favor of equal rights for everyone, everywhere. Pro-abortion, in favor of birth control, gay marriage, putting wheat germ in everything (yech,) and holistic medicine before anyone knew what that meant. She wanted all religion out of the schools and government.
She was in favor of the death penalty. She felt there were people who should be taken out and shot. No long terms in prison (too expensive). No years of appeals. One well-placed bullet in the brain and justice would be served.
That was my mom.
She gave me Knut Hamsen to read and a grand piano for my 14th birthday. As well as appropriately anatomical books about sex (she figured I needed accurate information so I could make informed decisions).
She hummed most of the time, sang the rest of the time. She got the words wrong all the time. She read me poetry when I was very small and treated me like an adult. She was a grimly determined atheist and would debunk any hint of religious belief should I be foolish enough to express it. I always felt she had a personal spite on God for failing her and the people she loved.
She was the most cynical person I’ve ever known and it seems I am following in her footsteps.
So here I am. Almost as old as my mother was when she left this earth. I think my mother would like this version of me. I think she always liked me, probably more than I liked myself.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, daughters of mothers, and mothers of mothers. Let’s celebrate being women and being alive. It’s not such a small thing.