My Mom could be a character in a book, but I swear she’s not in my book! True, my parents do share some traits with my main character’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rose. Both, for example, will spend five dollars in gas and a half hour in driving time to get to Ikea to take advantage of the bargain breakfasts (mmm… lingonberries!)
Although I look – and sound – just like my mother, we’re pretty different on the inside. I can be very social, but I also crave patches of solitude. After college, for example, I strapped on a backpack and wandered around Europe by myself for several months (though I did connect with lots of great folks once there). I like to go to restaurants alone sometimes, and movies, too.
My mother, on the other hand, is the most social person I’ve ever met. Once, on a whim, she called an exchange program and invited a Japanese student to live with us for the summer (she didn’t mention this to anyone else in the family until a few days before we picked up Takka Tanaka at the airport). One Thanksgiving, I opened the front door to see a few hungry Marines standing on our steps (Mom had called a nearby base to suggest that anyone who wasn’t going home for the holiday stop by – a sentiment I appreciate so much now, but which I found vaguely mortifiying as a shy teenager.) If you’re behind my Mom in the grocery store line, you’ll be chatted up -and you may just end up at her dinner table, too.
Some other differences: I adore chocolate, she lives for pie. She tries something new every time she goes to a restaurant; I stick with things I like. Given a choice of where to eat, I’ll pick an organic, vegetarian restaurant, while she secretly covets McDonalds. She likes having the television on as background noise, but it drives me crazy.
We’ve got some things in common, of course: We both love a glass of wine at the end of the day. We both adore children and have three of them apiece (which may also have led to our appreciation of a relaxing glass of wine at the end of the day!) We both tap our thumbs against the steering wheel when we drive, like we’re frustrated suburban drummers.
Some of the things I love about my Mom? You can hear her laugh across a crowded room. She laughs a lot. She finds the beauty in small, everyday things – a changing leaf, a flower turning its face up to the sun – and she always pointed those things out to us when we were kids. She’s not the slightest bit rigid, strict, mean, petty or smug. Last Thanksgiving, she served Indian food and Domino’s pizza for dinner, something that inspired my 10-year-old to write a short story.
When I was a kid, other children liked coming to our house. It was usually messy and chaotic, because we somehow ended up with four dogs, a cat, an iguana that routinely got loose and patrolled the house, a rabbit, guinea pig, about ten billion fish, and assorted other creatures. That was one of the reasons kids liked coming by – but they returned because Mom was interested in them, asked them questions, and always had good snacks.
Here’s one of my favorite stories about my Mom, one she loves to re-tell (which reminds me of another thing I love about my Mom, which I’ve inherited – we both often laugh so hard that we cry): Mom once went on a job interview and found the man questioning her to be very odd. He kept smirking, and coughing, and trying to look at her behind. She finally came home and took off her business suit, only to discover that the panty hose she couldn’t find earlier in the day had gotten tucked into her waistband and were hanging down on the outside of the back of her pants.
I think that guy missed out by not offering her a job. My Mom sure would’ve livened up his office!