Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Becoming My Mother

I've been thinking about ways I'm becoming like my mother lately, for one thing because of my automatic response to being asked to bake for any kind of fund-raising effort, which is refusal. When I was a kid, if I asked my mother to make something for me to take for a bake sale, she'd say "I'll give you the money it would cost me for ingredients plus some extra for labor." Now, of course, I repeat this to my own children, who seem to me to be more accepting of it than I ever was.

When Ron wants to get to me, he tells me I'm acting like my mother. While it doesn't earn him points on that marital scorecard that all oldyweds keep in our heads, it does occasionally cut through whatever else I'm thinking and make me stop what I'm doing.

Oscar Wilde said:
"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

Yesterday Lemming said that she was 30 years old before she owned a purse. I thought all mothers had to have a purse; my own has downsized slowly over the years from the diaper bag days. And thinking of a purse, which is kind of a funny, old-fashioned word, I thought of how hard it is to carry things with a purse over your arm, and how hard it is to keep a shoulder strap on your shoulder when you're wearing a scratchy cloth coat, and all those thoughts reminded me of this poem, Second-Hand Coat by Ruth Stone:

I feel
in her pockets; she wore nice cotton gloves,
kept a handkerchief box, washed her undies,
ate at the Holiday Inn, had a basement freezer,
belonged to a bridge club.
I think when I wake in the morning
that I have turned into her.
She hangs in the hall downstairs,
a shadow with pulled threads.
I slip her over my arms, skin of a matron.
Where are you? I say to myself, to the orphaned body,
and her coat says,
Get your purse, have you got your keys?

I like the idea of putting on the mother costume. Well, no, I don't really like it, but it happens. We think our mothers are, to some extent, rigid and respectable, however reckless and individual they may have been in their prime, and then one day we wake up and find that our children have absorbed the stories of our wild and crazy youth until those stories seem quaint to them. Like us.


PAJ said...

My daughter is purse averse. I forced her to buy a clutch last week so that she will have something to put her cell phone in at the Winter Ball this weekend. (Her dress for the evening does not have pockets, which I'm sure she thinks is a design flaw.)
Oscar Wilde's comment is pithy but not accurate. We all become our parents. How could we not?

lemming said...

Actually I was thirty (delicate cough) before getting a purse. er, well, quite a bit older than thirty.

Don't you dare tell me how great it will be to turn forty. Everyone seems to think that this is a comforting observation.