I have mentioned it many, many times before to my family, friends, coworkers, old schoolmates, people I encounter on the bus, small children, dogs being taken on walks by complete strangers, and flowering trees:
I am actually an 80-year-old woman.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
I am an [age redacted for self-preservation purposes]-year-old woman. I am my mother.
This is proven to me again this morning, while I sit in bed and contemplate the day ahead of me. So far the single most thrilling thing that has happened to me all day was catching sight of the downy woodpecker on the suet feeder outside my bedroom window. I love that woodpecker. Forget that it’s Mother’s Day, nevermind that I was actually on the phone with my mother at that very moment and should have been concentrating on the conversation, BIRDBIRDBIRDBIRDBIRD.
I blame my mother for my birdwatching ways. I blame her for pretty much everything, really. She gave me my first birdfeeder and suet cage a couple of years ago. She taught me how to quilt when I was sixteen. She had me doing cross-stitch samplers when I was six (I don’t think many of them actually ever got finished and more than one of them was garnished with spots of blood – to this day I cannot pin or sew anything without jamming a needle at least once under a fingernail).
To make matters worse, I inherited all of the tendencies toward insanity that my mother tortured me with throughout my childhood.
Don’t sit in the first three rows of the balcony, you’ll fall off!
Why, hello, Mr. Goldfinch, you seem to be quite hungry today.
Make sure you know where all the emergency exits are, you’ll need to get to one when the building catches fire.
The wind is blowing too hard, don’t go over that bridge, the vibrations of the wind will make it collapse!
I spent the first eighteen years of my life rolling my eyes and studiously ignoring her raving. I went away to college, spent a school year blissfully on my own, returned to my parents’ house for the summer, and realized that I wasn’t rolling my eyes anymore. Rather, I was double-checking everything she mentioned. In the nine months I was on my own, I’d completely internalized every single neurosis she’d ever thought to demonstrate.
There is no escape for me. I am my mother.
I get nervous in subway tunnels. I flee from crowded rooms because if some emergency happened I would never make it to the exit. When away from home, I endlessly review what I did before I left – did I unplug everything, what if there’s a spark, who will save my aloe plant if the house burns down?! The one time (and only time, as I will never do that to myself again) I had a mud-wrap spa treatment, I laid on the table for three minutes before realizing that the fire alarm was going to start ringing any moment and I would fall off the table because I was cocooned and thereby I would break my nose and probably a leg and then I’d have to hobble outside in pain and embarrassment and then I’d have a heart attack and die of shame because I would be the girl standing outside naked in a foil sheet and covered in green slime with blood running down my face from my broken nose and and and!! [No, never ever doing that again.]
I am uncomfortable sitting in balconies or high up in steeply built movie theaters. I can’t help but picture myself, in my ineffable grace, tripping and tumbling and falling and breaking my neck or my back upon the metal seats below and I’d go SPLAT everywhere and it would be a mess and my family would be sued for the cleaning bill and then where would we be?!
I have three medium-sized plastic bins filled with stalled quilt projects and two large plastic bins filled with untouched fabric. I crave more. I nearly cut off the tip of a finger with a rotary cutter and my only concern was that I not drip blood onto the fabric I was preparing.
I quiver with guilt when I realize I’ve run out of birdseed. I coo at the birds that come to nibble at my feeders, call them “Mr. House Finch” and “Papa Cardinal” and “Madam English Sparrow” and never fail to follow up a mention of the downy woodpecker with an I love him.
So. I have rambled. My point here is that I am, in actual fact, a photocopy of my mother. If not for the fact that I obtained my father’s questionable sense of humor, I would be an absolute clone. More than once over the last several years, my dad has made it a point to let me know when I’m being Mom-ly: he grunts and sighs and calls me by my mother’s name. I have come to think of it as a (groan-inducing) term of endearment (after all, he married her, so he can put up with me!).
I got my mid-life crisis over with by the time I was 21. I still occasionally regress to being a quixotic and sometimes vapid teenager, but for the most part I equate to a middle-aged Baby Boomer. I am already my mother, so I like to think that I will have nothing to worry about by the time I actually qualify for an existential crisis. Anyway, it’s not so bad. I can think of a lot of other moms it would be far worse to be like. Mine’s crazy but I like her. I’ll keep her. Besides, whom else would I foist the results of my first knitting project on?!
Happy Mother’s Day, lady.
(I hope you still like those heinous those slipper/sock/bootie things. I’ll improve! …Maybe.)
(Also, I promise never again to blog about you before I have coffee. In the future, everything will make much more sense. Scout’s honor.)