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 but 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. Hugs yes, kissing no.
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 about being young when FDR became president. How, when the 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 and put poison on it so no one could eat it. Even though people were starving.
I thought she was just paranoid, but recent events have made me change that opinion.
She didn’t trust government, was sure that J. Edgar Hoover was out to get us. He had a long list — and she was sure we were on it. She was in favor of equal rights for everyone, everywhere. Pro-abortion, birth control, gay marriage, putting wheat germ in everything (yuck) and natural medicine when no one seemed to have heard of it. She wanted all religion out of 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 prison sentences and no decades of appeals. One well-placed bullet in the brain to serve justice.
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 small and treated me like an adult as soon as I could talk. She was a grimly determined atheist and would eagerly debunk any hint of religious belief should I be foolish enough to express any. But she made sure my brother had his Bar Mitzvah and never ate pork.
She was the most cynical person I’ve known. I was sure she was wrong, that people were better than that. I expect she would feel vindicated because on some level, this is exactly what she expected. She did not believe in the goodness of humans or believed a god would step in to rescue us. I wanted her to be wrong.
So here I am. Six years older than my mother was when she died. I think my mother would like this version of me. I think she always liked me more than I liked myself. It just took me a long time to “get” her. I just couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t like all the other mothers. Garry had the same problem with his mother. We both watched too many television mothers who were nothing like the ones with whom we lived.
I’m very glad mom’s not here to see this post pandemic world, though I suppose she too lived in a post pandemic world too having been born just 8 years before the Spanish flu hit.
I doubt she be surprised at our current venue. She would definitely tell me, “I told you so,” and wouldn’t stop until I bowed my head in humble obedience. She was assertive.