The Mother Lode

© Alexkhrom | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Alexkhrom | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

While she snipped away at my curls, the hairdresser’s caffeinated swirl of invectives about what a terrible mother she had filled me with sympathy. I know there are horrible mothers out there–Mommy Dearest is one of my favorite horror movies–and clearly this girl had been deeply, deeply screwed up somewhere. I just hoped she wouldn’t take it out on me with her scissors.

Still, I smiled as I tried to picture my face with a mullet, knowing my own mom would tell me how beautiful I looked, no matter how much of a “don’t” my “do” turned out to be.

Good mothers are like that. They say just the right thing to make you feel better. My mom is great at that.

When it comes to mothers, I was lucky: I hit the mother lode. Every time someone complains about their awful mother, I say a silent prayer for mine. I don’t always say it out loud, but I know I’m really lucky to have her.

I may be grown up and perfectly capable of using the microwave, but I still whine for her homemade soup when I’m sick–and usually get it within minutes. Whenever I’m feeling down she seems to magically know when to call or stop by, usually bearing a brand new pair of shoes that “hurt her feet.”

Before I become a mom she used to always tell me, “You’ll never know how much I love you until you have children of your own.” Now I know just what she means.

It didn’t matter whether she was proud of me –for getting good grades or being a good sport when I lost a hard fought tennis match–or let down–cringing while I honed my sarcastic wit at the dinner table or rolled my eyes at my annoying little sister–I always knew how much my mother loved me because she never stopped telling me.

She still tells me, almost every single day, and sometimes more often than that. And she shows me too, by always being there for me in a million different ways.

So here I am, once again, writing a column about her and trying to be funny without making her mad. It’s harder than it seems. My mom can be unintentionally hilarious, but doesn’t like to be teased about it. Not one single bit.

Plus, the last thing I want to do is publicly embarrass the one person who knows more about me than I know about myself. I can’t hide anything from her. I swear, the harder I try the better her memory gets. It must be all of that Ginkgo biloba and green tea.

“Why don’t you write that?” says my husband.

“That’ll make her mad,” says my son, who’s smart enough to know that moms–and especially grandmas–are people you really don’t want to tick off.

“But the thing about your mom is that it’s okay to make her mad because you always know she loves you,” I explain.

My son’s face lights up. Uh oh…

“But that doesn’t mean you should try to make me mad,” I warn him.

Then I ruffle his hair and tell him that I love him. He says, “I know that mom. You only tell me that like, a million times a day.”

I just smile, and look into his eyes that are so much like my mother’s.

You’ll appreciate it someday, kid.

And by the way, mom, I do.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 9, 2008.