It’s funny how life typically winds up coming full circle.
As a child, I lived in this imaginary world that stood apart, just a bit to the left of reality. Tea parties with my dolls, often involved large discussions on my future travels. My dolls of course, always agreed with me and were generally supportive. My tea parties were very elaborate events. Every doll was in attendance, dressed in their Sunday best, while my mother would happily serve them little frosted cakes and tea….except for that one doll that scared the living bejesus out of me…that one ate on the top shelf of the closet…with the door closed. Every now and then, my brother’s G.I. Joe’s, would pop in for a light snack…or to blow something up.
During this age of ‘the world is my playground’, my mother, would listen to me chatter on endlessly about my plans. I wanted to do it all. Teacher, Doctor, Botanist, Writer, Marine Biologist, Naturalist, Photographer, Artist, Dentist, Psychologist, Engineer, Astronaut, Director…you name it…I was gonna do it! And my mother, bless this woman, she helped me explore them all. In fifth grade, she signed me up for an Oceanography course at Oberlin College. I discovered that when dissecting Sand Sharks…occasionally…there are babies in there! In eight grade, she signed me up to shadow a phlebotomist….blood is rather fascinating. Throughout my childhood, I was given a seemingly ENDLESS supply of paintbrushes, canvas, paints, calligraphy pens, wood burning tools and more. Microscopes were part of the overall decor, along with books on mythology, history, psychology, biology, anatomy and more. I’m pretty sure I’d read every book in the encyclopedia set, before I was ten. And always, quietly encouraging and never too far away, was my mother. At this stage, my mother was the center of my world, my endless supply of kudos, my anchor on rough seas.
As a teenager, I shifted to that ‘I’m not gonna’, ‘I don’t have to’, ‘I’ll do what I want’, ‘Go get bent’…type of thinking…which is of course normal. It’s how teenagers test the waters, stretch their wings and prepare themselves for the inevitable….life on their own two feet. During this period, I told myself, parents are generally annoying….have no idea what they’re talking about and they were just too ‘ancient’ to understand my way of thinking. Boys took center stage and always there was an undertone of ‘girly’ drama bubbling beneath the surface. My problems were the only problems in the universe and naturally, they were of global scale proportion in my mind, and therefore, I was to be constantly given center stage dammit!
Transitioning from childhood, to teen, then young adult….I’d shifted to the travel phase. (This is well known as the ‘give your parents a nervous breakdown’ stage). I went everywhere…seriously…everywhere! The World Trade Towers, New Orleans, Mexico, Biloxi, Canada, California, Arizona, D.C.,….I traveled by bus mainly and met MANY MANY people on my travels…I spent a good five hours on a bus, chatting with a fellow from Cork, Ireland. I met some fascinating ravers outside a club in New York…every inch of them glowed. I chatted with a guy living in a cardboard box, somewhere in California (hey, did you know, wheat grass makes fabulous dental floss?), and while attempting to get to Brooklyn….I wound up in Queens….oh and hey, did you know…the buildings in New York are so tall….it’s dark on the street at noon??? ~ Note: this is also the phase where I met a Skinhead named Boots, whose bestfriend Kyle said to me “shhhhh…I don’t think he’s noticed I’m black”.
During this phase, my mother assumed I’d probably be rolling home in the back of a coroner’s vehicle. Honestly, even I don’t know how I survived some of my travels. I was always alone, weighed about 100 lbs soaking wet, backpack strapped on and ‘caution’ was a word not readily found in my vocabulary. I had a natural knack for street smarts. I simply knew what NOT to say and my instincts generally kept me out of trouble. And of course, in this stage, I was all the while thinking my future was travel…damn the boring monotony of small towns. Yet, all the while….surrounded by art, culture, the vibrancy of the outside world….predators lurked in the background. Drugs, alcohol, violence and generally less then savory charactors hid in the shadows. And to this day, I know, it was my mothers words that kept me from falling into those nasty pitfalls. I was there as a spectator only. I’d been well versed on the dangers of drugs, alcohol, creepy people and everything in between. And with my mother being a counselor, she had given me the gift of insight. I seemed to instinctively know when it was time to walk away. With my mother, always a phone call away…and this was prior to cell phones being so widely popular, I stood at the top of the Empire State Building and felt like I had the world by the balls!
Always there, ever present, her voice echoed in my head….a beacon saying ‘once you’ve seen what you need to see, it’s time to come home’. Slowly I made my way back and it’s true what they say….life will eventually come full circle.
I wound up marrying and moving just a few minutes away from my mother. As I settled into my adult life, and new milestones that come with age came to pass, my children started reaching their own. On so many occasions, I have seemingly forgotten my own adventures……on those days, when my normally delightful brood, has some sort of meltdown……on those days when I’m utterly convinced that one of my children has completely lost their damned mind…..on days when I’m ripping my hair out, wondering ‘where the hell did this kid get such a hairbrained idea?!?!’….on days when I’ve had it up to here with lego ‘big toe’ injuries and ‘my rooms not messy! It’s a work of art!’….on those days, who do I call? yep….that would be my mother. I may cry or vent. I may dribble on for ages about my stress level and ‘I’ve had it up to here!’…..The whole time, my mother listens intently on the other end. Sometimes, she suggests I take a break and come to lunch. Or maybe I could try this or that. Sometimes, she can clearly hear by the overwhelmed sound of my voice, that it would be better to change the subject entirely.
But what I find strange, what is seemingly perplexing…what really gets me…is never ONCE has she said “That’s What You Get!”