Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mama Mia

Mothers come in all flavors and though not all of them have given birth to those they nurture, the common theme is the love they have for their children.  Personally, I don’t have any human children but I defy you to tell my cat Angel that I’m not his mother!   

Recently, a friend packed her daughter’s suitcase with seven complete meals to take on a trip.  None of that instant stuff, mind you, these were full blown meals that included a roast, filet mignon & chops, along with all the side dishes and spices/herbs to complete each meal.  Her daughter was spending the holidays with her brother in the NY area.  For a variety of reasons, my friend and her husband were spending their first Christmas without the kids and this was her way of taking care of them.  When I commented that I guessed she didn’t do carry-on, we both laughed heartily as she told me just how heavy the extra suitcase was and how much it cost to check it.  To me, it was a warm, if a bit eccentric and entertaining, example of how some mothers show their love.    

Eccentric is good.  My own mother was, to put it mildly, a bit of a character.  She did some pretty wild and crazy things and she loved to travel, especially to warm climates.  I promised Pop that I’d keep those stories to a minimum while he was still around so I’ll have to honor that, at least for now.   

As the daughter of our family’s version of Auntie Mame, life could sometimes be a bit challenging, but it was never boring.  Mom taught me how to mix Bloody Marys when I was ten and made sure I was exposed to lots of different cuisines on our frequent Tuesday night dinner outings.  She loved to visit me when I was in college and I really did enjoy shocking people during her visits when I would introduce her at the most inopportune times…like when they were passing the uh, whatever, around the room.  Yes, it was a bit devious on my part but it was generally very amusing!

There were actual times when her maternal side came through.  One favorite example happened at LaGuardia airport.  I had been in NY for a friend’s wedding and I was heading home.  While waiting for my flight, a stranger handed me a picnic basket and smiled.  In fact, as I looked around to see who it was from, I noticed everyone in the area was smiling, unusual for New Yorkers.  Turns out my Mom, who was living in Pennsylvania at the time, had missed me.  Somehow she arranged to have the seat next to me on the flight back to Florida and this was the picnic we were to share.   It was a different time in air travel as most of what she did couldn’t be done these days but it was quite a lovely surprise and a good memory.  

It was these thoughts about mothers that had me looking to start my next book, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts.  Unfortunately, I had picked up the wrong book so I didn't have it to read.  Instead, I decided to look online to see what else was out there about moms.  There was one about pioneer women published by the Church of LDS and at the other extreme, there’s that horrible one about Joan Crawford.  I’m still wary of wire hangers.  Neither book spoke to me.  

Then I came across an NPR site referencing a few books about hell-raising heroines.  That sounded intriguing.  As I read on, I was captivated by a description of a book titled The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux.  The reviewer commented on how Theroux struggled mightily against her own worst impulses in order to gain a higher level of consciousness.  I read a few more reviews and realized that there was a heck of a lot more to this woman that just being a mother and teacher.  

Though I haven’t read it yet, something about this book calls to me.  Is it because I write my own unruly thoughts in a personal journal?  Or, given my mother, am I drawn to the books where the women are more like anti-heroines?  Does it really matter?  I promptly ordered the book.  

Mom may not have brought me up with the white picket fence approach, but for that, I’m grateful.  Life was way more interesting, and when I think of all she did expose me to, I realize she’s partly responsible for my continued interest in learning new ways of approaching life.  

After all, wasn't Auntie Mame all about living life out loud and with gusto? 


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