It was January of last year and I had just moved into a new apartment. Buried under the emotional weight of purging through and unpacking all of my boxes, I was perfectly content with the state of how things were looking when my mother arrived for a visit. There was still a lot of progress to be made but I was actually really proud of how my place looked and couldn’t wait to show her my mad decorating skills.
We sat and chatted for awhile about how everything was going and I described all the things I still needed to do to make my new apartment feel like “home.” There was a light fixture that needed to be replaced. The hot water wasn’t working in the kitchen sink. The landscaping on the grounds was less than desirable. But, I would get to it all…at some point.
“Do you have gloves?”…my mother asked casually, trying to hide her agenda.
“Mom,” I groaned. “I don’t feel like doing that right now.” I was probably rolling my eyes.
“Come on,” she said with a cheery disposition. “It’ll make you feel so much better when we’re all done.”
We spent the remainder of the day raking, pruning bushes, and generally tidying up the forgotten state of my backyard. I dragged my feet every step of the way. My back killed me by the end of the day and I found myself wishing we had just gone to a movie or done something fun together instead.
I have since thought back about this story and realized that my mother has always done this. She comes into my home and rearranges things or makes me work on my “to do” list. It’s the most annoying thing ever and it drives me absolutely insane. On her weekend visits, I will wake up to find her in the kitchen having reorganized my cabinets or moved a lamp to another place in the room. One time, she even redecorated my fireplace mantel because she didn’t like the way I had done it. When I asked her what the heck she thought she was doing, she shrugged as if to say, “It just wasn’t working for me.”
When she comes for her visits I have started mentally prepping myself to accept the fact that my mom will probably rearrange my entire apartment. She’ll move pillows and blankets to better suit her personal aesthetic and I’ll sit there and let her do it, knowing I will just move them back the way they were when she goes.
But that’s not the most annoying part. The most annoying part is that, when she goes I realize she was right. The lamp actually looks better at the other corner of the room and the fireplace mantel feels more symmetrical now. Every time I enter my apartment I admire how much better my plants and flowers look after our hard days work in the yard and I remember her words…I do feel better now that that’s all done. Because my mom has an annoying habit of leaving everything better than the way it was before she touched it. Because my mom has an annoying habit of pushing me to be better. Because my mom makes everything better.
Last week I had the worst migraine of my entire life. It hit me like a truck and, after lying in agony for several hours, I grew desperate for anything that would help my head feel relief from the overwhelming sensation of my brain swelling out of my skull. So I decided to forget the fact that I’m a grown ass woman and called my mom for help.
The phone rang. “Hi honey!”
Prior to this I thought I had my shit under control but hearing the sound of my mom’s familiar voice made my eyes swell up with tears of relief. She would know what to do.
She sat on the phone with me for an hour and a half while we waited for my medicine to kick in. I began to sob from the pain and asked her just to talk to me to keep me from thinking about how much my head hurt. Lying there in the dark with a cold washcloth over my eyes, I let the sound of her voice sooth me. Time went on and I began to feel the tension lifting from my forehead. I was starting to feel better.
“Thanks mom.” I said with sincere gratitude. “I just didn’t know what to do.”
It felt as though she had gotten me through the storm.
“I’ll always be here for you honey.” There was a pause. “Even when I go.”
There was another thoughtful pause. “Except I promise I won’t come back as a ghost and scare you or visit you when you’re naked.”
We both erupted in laughter at how dark her sense of humor is and said goodnight. There, in the silence of the lightless room, I felt a wave of sadness rest upon my heart at the thought of a world without her.
Even when she goes, I will long for the days she would push me to do the things I didn’t want to do. I will appreciate the way she helped me to recognize strengths in myself that only she could see…and even the way she forced me to deal with the weaknesses I didn’t want to see.
When she goes I hope I will be able to bring her light to my own child’s life, the way she has brought it to mine. I will laugh at the way my stubborn nature has always resisted her help, forgetting that her help was always her biggest gift to me.
But most of all, when she goes I will miss the way her loving presence made everything around her better than the way it started.
But, until she goes, I will still find it completely annoying when she questions my furniture placement or forces me into involuntary household chores. Even if she’s right.