by Margaret Andrews, Nanny Goats in Panties
I was a freshman in high school when I passed out in class, my head bonking against a desk in the next aisle over. Rather than letting me lay on the floor to let the blood return to my head, my teacher insisted I go to the nurse’s office. And rather than pushing me in a wheelchair, the teacher instructed two girls in my class to walk me over there. It was more of a dragging than an escorting across the campus to the nurse. Later, my mother quoted the nurse, saying the sight of my blood-deprived pale head between two black girls looked like an Oreo cookie.
When the nurse called my mother to tell her what happened, she laughed. Why? Well, first of all, because my losing consciousness wasn’t unusual under the circumstances. And second of all, the circumstances surrounding the event involved falling out of my chair during a film strip of “What to Expect During Your First Gynecological Exam” during that 9 weeks of P.E. where we learn everything about sex that is legally allowed to be taught by the school district.
My mother was a Stay At Home Mom before there was such a thing. I think they called them housewives back then. She belonged to the PTA. She crocheted my clothes (crocheted!) and I have the embarrassing class pictures to prove it.
She was there when I came home from school while Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman blared from the TV. She was there at my volleyball games, track meets, marching parades, and graduation. She was always…just…there. And always on time. Did I take that “there”-ness for granted? Absolutely.
Dinner was always at 6pm sharp. I think she timed it on purpose to prevent turning off Star Trek before it was over. As a result, I’m extremely obsessed about exact time and get pissed anxious if someone else is late. I guess my Mom inadvertantly trained me to have high expectations of people with time. I’ve been spending the rest of my life learning not to get so angry at people who don’t have the frickin’ courtesy to SHOW UP ON TIME, as if MY TIME isn’t as IMPORTANT! GAHHHAAHHH!!! But anyway…
During my childhood, my mother was never a lecturer. She let me (and sometimes, to my frustration, forced me) to make my own decisions, which made me a very independent person, and is undoubtedly aggravating for others around me. She was not one to sit me down and tell me what to do, or manipulate me into doing what she wanted me to do. She led by example and by not forcing my path, I wound up emulating her in more ways than not.
I remember my childhood as full of humor and laughs, but also void of conflict and confrontation. Therefore, I grew up a virtual class clown, but ran away the instant a bully stepped into the light. Well, except for this one time.
There was this girl named Kathy Baretta (isn’t it funny how you remember everyone’s full names from junior high, but you can’t remember that guy Bob Something who works over in Accounting?) who was picking on me. She kept asking me “What are you looking at?”, even when I wasn’t looking at her.
I went home begging for my Mom to save me. She told me that the next time Kathy asked me that daily question in P.E. class (why do most traumatic things always happen in P.E. class? Boy that Stephen King guy really nailed it with the Carrie story) that I should say, “A joke.”
Now, that’s something you’d say in the movies to create drama, or it’s one of those things you fantasize saying after the fact, but if you really did something that stupid, it would lead to trouble and you deserved what you had coming. However, my Mom didn’t dole out the advice very often, so I considered it.
The next day, Kathy waited until I was looking in her general direction when she popped the question: “What are you looking at?” I licked my lips, debating whether or not to say it. “Well?” she demanded.
And then I blurted it out: “A joke.”
There were a few gasps in the crowd. Everyone watched her stalk toward me. “What did you say?”
Now, I can’t remember if I repeated it, or backed down with a meek: “nothing”. But she proceeded to kick my ass and later that day, I told my mother that her “plan” didn’t work.
Other than that one incident, I have no complaints about how she raised me. She was generous, ethical, ever-present, and loving. And look at me, I came out perfect!
Fifteen years ago, on the day before Mother’s Day, I delivered my mother’s eulogy. She was killed by a drunk driver. She was 50. I was 27. Too young for either one of us to go through that sort of thing, if you ask me.
I envy women who still have their mothers to talk to, to ask historical questions, to find out when to expect menopause, to ask, ask and ask some more. There are some things only my mother would understand, accomplishments only my mother would applaud enough. She would have been my biggest fan. She would have read my blog every day and told me it was fabulous. Every time I think of her, a feeling of being robbed usually comes along for the ride.
I still dream about her and sometimes in the dream it’s as though she’s never left. Other times, I’m relieved to see she’s still alive and I think, Wow! That’s great she’s alive, now we can go do stuff!
If she came back to life today, I’d take her to lunch at Buddha’s Belly in Santa Monica, and brag about how well it’s doing, being an investor and all. I’d take her to the beach and show her where I became Queen of The Jungle in a doubles volleyball tournament ten years ago. I’d drive past the Empty Stage on Pico and go on and on about how I’d killed during my stint in improvisational theatre.
Because on Mother’s Day it would been all about me.