“How I See My Mom” painting by L.S.
I wake up happy. I pull back the curtains and let in the sun. I grind up a handful of organic, fair trade, coffee beans, and as I wait for the kettle to boil, I step outside into the warm air. The scent of lilacs hits me as I feed the birds—throwing handfuls of seeds out of my milk pail and humming to myself like a Disney princess.
Then I hear it. A haunting noise. A terrible godforsaken cry—and it is coming from the direction of my teen’s bedroom. My heart pounds. I fling the last of the seeds onto the pile and rush inside yelling: “WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT’S WRONG? ARE YOU ALL RIGHT???”
I arrive in the doorway of her room. My teen is combing out her long brown hair and looking at me with wide blank eyes. Turns out she wasn’t crying at all, she was singing— Coco Rosie, with all the feeling and pathos of a mother elephant watching her baby die in the desert from lack of water.
“Oh! I say, laughing a little in relief. “It sounded…beautiful…haunting…very moving—it certainly moved me.”
“Thanks,” she says, looking at me blankly and waiting for me to leave.
I decide to put in a load of laundry. I think I hear screaming coming once again from my daughter’s bedroom. Over the noise of the washing machine, it sounds like someone is pulling out her fingernails one by one and I fondly imagine that my would -be- diva has resumed her singing.
I go to see if there are any more clothes on her floor that need washing. I find her flung across her bed face down. She is not singing. She is screaming like her appendix has just burst. I wade through the piles of clothes—it looks as though she has emptied all of her dresser drawers onto the floor—and mine too—….—….It takes me five minutes to get to her, but that’s because I’m used to it, and I worry about the paramedics should they prove necessary. “WHAT IS IT? WHAT IS WRONG?” I cry.
“I can’t find my 70s top ANYWHERE!” she wails.
“Oh! Well—can’t you wear something else?” I ask. (Rookie mistake and I know it but the words are out before I can stop them.)
“NO-UH!” she says. “It’s the only thing that goes with these jeans and my hair and my eyeliner!”
Suddenly I get a sharp pang, like the eruption of a duodenal ulcer, as I remember that I just threw that particular item into the washing machine. It is now swishing blithely about with the rest of the dark and brights. “Surely we can find something in this pile….?” I begin.
“There is nothing! It’s all slavery made, Mom! I’m not wearing clothes made by children. You just don’t know what they do to them. It’s horrible! At least vintage doesn’t support slave labour!”
Vintage! I go upstairs to my closet and grab my favourite 1960s blouse. I run downstairs and offer it to her.
Her eyes light up. “But, Mom…are you sure? This is your favourite shirt!”
“My darling,” I tell her, “I would give you my favourite kidney if it would only make you stop screaming and go to school.”
With a cool and dangerous focus, she pulls on the shirt and surveys herself in the mirror from every angle.
Uh oh…I think randomly. I hope it matches her—eyeliner…
She smiles into the mirror.
…and her teeth.
“Thanks, Mom,” she says, giving me a brief hug.
“It’s a match!” I heave a sigh of relief and help her stuff her science project into her knapsack. We are nearly there. The bus will be here in three minutes.
She is now singing 4Nonblondes and I join in—happy, for a brief moment, that the generation gap between us is so huge that it seems to have come around again—in both fashion and music.
Life is good. We are singing together and soon she will be in school….
Suddenly she stops and shouts. “OH MY GOD!”
NO! I scream silently. NO, ‘OH MY GOD’! NOT NOW! NOT WHEN WE ARE SO CLOSE. “What? What is it?” I cry (literally, I begin to cry). Then I pull myself together and say “Tell me what it is and I will fix it.”
“I forgot my headphones and I can not get on the bus without them. The stupid boys scream and say stupid things and it gives me a headache.”
I begin to run. “Where are they?” I shout, heading to her room with the determination of an Olympic inline speed skater.
“They’re in my room somewhere. On the floor—I think.” she says. “Hurry, Mom! I hear the bus!”
My heart is pounding as I dig through the mounds of slavery-made clothing on her floor like a family member in the aftermath of an earthquake, and suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see the headphones wound around my best cashmere sweater.
I grab them and race down the street after her. “Wait! ” I yell, “I found them!”
She turns and looks at me with a horrified expression on her face. I realize, suddenly, that I am still wearing my pajamas—which were probably hand sewn by Indonesian orphans.
“Thanks Mom,” she says doubtfully, grabbing them from me and lining up for the bus.
I wave to my daughter and—to her credit—she waves back (even though I’m pretty sure that my hand sewn by Indonesian orphans pajamas don’t match my eyeliner, my teeth, or my ass.)
I turn back and it isn’t until I reach the lake that I realize I have overshot our house by half a block.
I see Sally sitting on her porch, chain smoking, and drinking her morning coffee. The scent of Kahlua wafts over to me. She has two teens. A boy and a girl. (Her boy was recently suspended for vandalizing school property.) We smile weakly at each other as we think fondly back to the days when our daughters dressed up in funny hats and had tea parties in the same yard. Now they straighten their hair, cry over boys, and text each other from opposite ends of the street.
Liz walks by me. She is the mother of two teen boys. Still, she is always dressed in the latest fashion—her pajamas actually match her shoes. I don’t know how she does it. I smile and nod, but she doesn’t recognize me…poor thing.
I hurry home and throw my pajamas in the wash. I go to my closet. It is empty except for the black suit I wore to my grandmother’s funeral and the blue sequined dress I wore to my sister’s wedding. Neither seems appropriate for today. I look in my dresser drawers and find two thongs. I put them both on. The rest of my slavery-made clothing is lying in a heap on the floor of my daughter’s room.
I catch sight of the drapes hanging in my bedroom window and recall the scene in The Sound of Music where Julie Andrews makes play clothes for the children, and I wish with all my heart that I had taken Home-Ec in high school instead of typing.
Then I remember that I bought the drapes in Little India and they are actually saris! I pull one down off the rod and wrap it around me. I put a red dot on my forehead because I am a married woman—and then I put on several more because I am a muthahuvateen.!#$%&*^!!!
I go outside to finish feeding the birds and pretend I am the fifth non-blonde (who actually is blonde) and I sing, “Hey Hey Hey, I say, Hey Hey HEYHEYHEY I say Hey…..WHAT’S GOING ON??????”