Growing up, I'd purposely do the opposite of what Mom suggested. If she said, "Boy Liesl, your natural hair color is so pretty," I'd dye it darker and darker. If Mom said, "You know, Liesl, you so look nice with long hair," I'd cut it short. And then even shorter. I went way too far with the asymmetrical cut in the 80's.
When Mom would mention, "Skirts are so flattering," I'd wear the Guess jeans with pockets up and down each leg. I could fit 9 beers in those jeans. And when Mom said, "Liesl, if you'd wear a bit of a heel, it'll give you a nice, long, slimming leg," I'd put on my coveted hiking boots with the bright red laces.
As the female Felix Unger, she speaks a language that is foreign to me. Recently smiling, she said the words, "Just for fun, why don't you and I wash all the crystal in the dining room." I have no idea what that sentence means.
Although I give her a hard time, Mom has been quite a role model for being organized and keeping a clean house. Every piece of paper brought into her home is filed within a minimum of 90 seconds. She regularly bleaches the cleaning rags. She's on her 17th label maker. The last one died while labeling the light bulb cabinet shelves. It made a fizzing sound and broke into seven pieces just as she was starting on the 30-70-100 watt three-ways.
I didn't inherit that clean gene.
When Mother visited me in San Francisco, she asked where I kept the scissors in my apartment.
Without blinking I said in a tone, like duh, "Under the sofa."
"How can you possibly be my daughter?" she said. "Most people keep a scissors in the kitchen or maybe in an office or laundry room."
"Yup, but I keep mine right under the couch. That way you don't even have to get up."
On the same visit, I accidentally dropped a bag of flour on the carpet.
"No problem," said Mom. "Just get the vacuum. It'll take two minutes to clean up."
"Right...the vacuum cleaner," I said casually.
Panicked, I scoured four closets until I found the damn thing. Out of breath, I plugged the machine into the walI. Like a hawk, Mom watched my every move as if she doubted my vacuuming prowess. I nonchalantly kicked my foot around the sides and corners of the thing with no luck. Then I patted my hands along the handle but nothing happened. I unzipped and then rezipped the bag part. I unplugged and replugged the machine.
About to pull out her hair and transform into Mr. Clean right before my very eyes, Mother Unger exclaimed, "Oh my God! You don't know how to turn on your vacuum cleaner, do you, Liesl Margaret?"
"Yeah, um...well, no. I usually just get out a lint roller."
But at 27 when my boyfriend dumped me while the rest of my friends were tying the knot like a row of dominoes, I called my mom.
When I woke up July 21, 2004 and needed help with my drinking problem, I called my mom.
When I knew my spirit was dying and it was time to file for divorce, I called Mom.
So although I give my mom a tough time for being the clean freak she is, I'm also very grateful. I've come to her with plenty of messes and she's always helped me put the pieces of my life back together. She doesn't shy away from the debris of a storm. She's like a human SOS pad. Trust me, she will view that as a compliment.
It took me almost 40 years, but these days I listen to my mom. My hair is long. I wear heels and a skirt every chance I get. My scissors are stored safely in a kitchen drawer. It's a messy drawer, but it's progress, not perfection, right?
My mom and I look like an odd couple on the surface. She never has a hair out of place. I'm usually covered in dog hair. She plans ahead. I know I am typing this sentence at this very moment. She's 5'2", barely 100 pounds and always has my back. I'm 5'6" and weigh dis-girl-don't-shop-petite-section and lean on her heavily. Yep, an odd couple connected by the most amazing bond there is: unconditional love. Even Goo-Be-Gone can't destroy that shit.**
Not so long ago, when I became a single mother, who'd been out of the workforce for 15 years, I called my mom.
She said, "You have a gift. Keep writing. Follow your dream. Oh, and here are some extra vacuum cleaner bags."
Thank you, Mom. I love you! Happy Mother's Day!
**Mom, sorry I swore in the Mother's Day post. I don't know where I learned such language!