There comes a day when we rip off the band-aid and see our mom as a person separate from her role as our mom. If we're lucky, and I was, we get some of that while growing up. And then again after having our own children. And then last week over FaceTime.
Seeing her this way is like meeting a stranger at a party, listening to her catch up with old friends, and watching as she orders a drink you've never heard of. She's fascinating, engaging, and very, very funny.
Here are some of the many ways I got to meet my mother.
- Mom as Surgical Assistant - When my brother was 16 he got into a bad car accident. The ER where the ambulance took him had only a skeleton crew that night. After a three-hour wait, Mom went back to the room, let the doctors know she was an oral surgery assistant so she could see her son. Mom left me in the waiting room with clear instructions to wait for her and not go back there. Being a dutiful voyeur, I snuck back to find a familiar face scrubbed in. In a matter of seconds, she had two patients as my head became swimmy and I passed out right into a garbage can.
- Mom as Ginger Rogers - Sometime in the early 90s my mom decided to take ballroom dancing. She couldn't talk her then boyfriend into taking the lessons, too so she just went by herself. I remember waving to her from the driveway as she drove off with a nervous smile. Even without a recital, we could tell lessons were going well from the flowers showing up at our door. Dancing dude was smitten with Mom and tried very hard to win her affections away from the boyfriend. Mom stood firm, however, and she (with those elegant long legs) bowed out of dancing lessons gracefully in the end.
- Mom as Animal Rescuer - One time in the 80s while I was roller skating to Debbie Gibson in our basement, Mom was grinding up dried dog food for two orphaned baby birds she found near our house. Without Google, Mom figured out how to nurture these bald and blind critters to health and a wealth of feathers. I'd find her feeding them with a tiny eyedropper, teaching them how to grub for worms, and bathe in the dust. Mom was very thorough. To our surprise, those baby birds took off in flight when it was time to let them go. Eric and I didn't have the heart to tell her they never left our backyard trees. Their great-great-great grandbirdies are probably still populating those trees to this day - oddly intransient birds who hop only from limb to limb of the same tree.
- Mom as Collector - When my mom crushes on something, she falls hard. Then she wants all of them. In the world. Through ebay. Somehow she started on those glass jars that store brandy. What are they called, decanters? She owns maybe 15 of them (thrift finds, I'm guessing) and doesn't even drink liquor, bless her heart. And please don't ask me how many Vera Bradley purses she might have tucked safely in their dust bags. She only has two arms and one daughter but that doesn't stop her from bargain shopping for another one to send to me in case I need to wear it with something ecru.
- Mom as Mrs. Somerhalder. My mom thinks Ian Somerhalder is her boyfriend. She adored the man well before I knew him as an animal activist. She watched him as the vampire bad boy in Vampire Diaries because my mom loves all that creepy stuff. Before that I couldn't call her between 9pm and midnight lest I interrupt her Ghost Hunter marathons. Let's just say she asked for an electromagnetic field detector for Christmas one year. And still uses it.
(Ian is far left for those of you who aren't into vampires.)
- Mom as Facebook Dropout - My dear mother does not get Facebook. She has an account, occasionally uses it properly, then one day calls me in a panic because Ian Somerholder just left her a picture of himself on her wall. Oh Mom. That's your newsfeed. I got the same picture of Ian. He's just using you to get to me, Dear.
My mom does have a point, y'all.
- Mom as Aesthetician - Without fail I spend more time watching my mom pat down her neck or push toward her temples than actually engaging in conversation over FaceTime. Mom, you look great. Listen, I want to talk to you about our summer vacation. Dear God, do I really look like this? Why can you only see the inverted skin on this thing? Does my skin look all inverted to you on that end? Mom. Seriously, I don't even know what that means. You look beautiful as always, I really like your hair. Oh thank you, my hair is about the only thing behaving today...Oh Honey, have you gotten your brows done recently, your eyes look so open! Oh good. A two-way mirror.
- Mom as Diane Keaton - A little over a year ago, a friend of mine told me my mom reminded her of Diane Keaton. Perfect, I told her. I canNOT wait for her to hear this. She's going to love that. Come with me so you can see her reaction, will you? Hey Mom, guess what? What. You know who Jen thinks you look like? Kate Winslet. No. Um, no. Diane KEATON. Ah, yes, I can see that.
- Mom Unplugged- I can't remember the first time I saw my mom play the guitar but I can tell you it never gets old. When I was little, I'd beg her to sing Roger Whittaker's Whiskey in the Jar and Peter, Paul & Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon just so I could hear her voice rise and fall and watch her fingers reach and press strings I still barely understand.
- Mom as Lent Observer - This year my mom gave up meat for lent. She's lost about 12 pounds from her already svelte frame and thus, has been barely able to peel herself off the couch to play with her boxer puppy. Other than that, she says she feels great - ?!?- and that she doubts she'll ever go back to a carnivorous lifestyle...until our last FaceTime session when I caught her gnawing on a hunk of Filipino beefsteak that had been marinading in soy and something else yummy overnight. Thank goodness. I think maybe we'll ease her into a vegan world one week at a time.
- Mom as YouTube Aficionado - Most recently I mentioned to my mom I've been trying to build more muscle. She no sooner heard me say that when I received a few emails in my inbox from her that led me to a YouTuber named Leslie who has excellent workouts for busy moms. I mean, excellent workouts that make you grunt and want to stop at 5 instead of 15. A few videos and one yoga ball later, I've shaved off one inch from the hipular region and can feel ab muscles underneath the layers of loving kindness womb cushion still remaining. Thanks to my mom (and Leslie), I am feeling better about my ability to get back to me. Me as The Old Me. Me as Her Daughter. Me as Stranger Ordering Mysterious Drink.
Cheers to all the mamas out there whether you mother children, fur babies, feathered babies, yourself, or your friends. May we all get to see the real sides of one another shine through more often than our Hallmark versions. It would be such a shame to cover up the good stuff.