OK, Mom

12 May

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The summer after third grade I wrote my first novel.  It was called The Chronicles of the Porcelain Doll and it was a highly inventive story, 49% Chronicles of Narnia, 49% Wizard of Oz.

The 2% original part came in the form of a piece of bacon that served as a compass for my motley crew of animal and doll adventurers.

Mmm bacon.

I spent that hot Vegas summer locked in my room, furiously channeling my genius into spiral notebooks until one day I finally emerged, hands full of pages, and marched to my mother.  “Type this up!” I said in my usual, bossy way, hands on my hips.

She did, and in the end I had a beautiful 80-page book.

“You’re going to be a writer,” my mother said as she handed me my first novel.

“OK, Mom,” I said as I put the book away, never to be looked at again.

My mother always said she knew I would be a writer because what child spends their time hiding away writing novels?  “I know children,” she would say.  “You’re a writer.”

“OK, Mom,” I would say.

When I was 12 years old my family moved to Utah, and soon after I found myself at a church activity.  This particular get-together introduced each 12-year-old girl to the rest of the group via a written statement by their mother.

I remember standing in line with the other pre-teens in our performance fleece and flare pants feeling awkward and cold.  Mainly cold.  I never got used to the Utah cold.

The announcer read my mother’s words about me.  “Jill is a great pianist,” she said.  I blushed a bit.  “She loves to help other people,” I smiled. “And she writes plays and commercials and stories and likes to get other people to perform them.  She has a creative mind.  She’s a writer.”

I rolled my eyes, “OK, Mom.”

When I was 17, I went away to college, just 40 minutes from my hometown.  “I’m going to be a social worker,” I said, teal corduroy backpack on.  “This is my life’s path and destiny.  I couldn’t be more certain of anything on this planet Earth, and also Jewel is my kindred spirit.”

“You can do anything you want to, Jill” my mother said.  “You are endlessly talented.”

“OK, Mom,” I said.

When my mother was 19 she got married.  When I was 19 I started grad school.  I think it was also around this time I began the “If I were my mother, what would I be doing right now?” game.

It’s not a good game, really.  Everyone’s life path is different and too close a comparison to anyone is going to play with your mind, but, of course, as a teenager I didn’t know this or didn’t care about this.

I did know that all of the sudden my mother couldn’t relate to me in the same ways as before.  All of the sudden our life experiences were dramatically different.

At the age my mother had her first child I was single and finishing up grad school.  At the age she had her second child I was heartbroken and working full-time as a social worker.

As I struggled to cope with everything that comes along with being in your early 20s, I felt like my mom quite simply didn’t get me. The loneliness, the fears, the questions that I faced on a daily basis were things she could not relate to.

Sometimes I would cry to her or try to explain a problem I was having and would think, “She doesn’t understand.  At this age she was —.   She never had her heart shattered.  She never made all these tough decisions entirely on her own.  She never, she never, she never.”

When I was 24, I quit my job in London and moved back to my childhood home.  I was not happy to be an adult in my teenage bedroom, but I was quite happy to be done with social work. I spent the next few months working a terrible transcription job and trying to figure out the next step in my life.

After a good while of moping and coping, I emerged from my room, ombre hair in a messy bun, and announced, “I’m switching careers.  I’m moving to Malibu.  I’m getting another degree and no one can stop me!  Also my heart will never go on!

“What are you doing in school?” My mother asked.

“I’m going to be a writer,” I said.

“I’ve always said you were a writer,” she said.

“OK, Mom,” I said.

“OK, OK, OK. You were right.”

Today as I sit in my fluffy bed in LA I can’t help but play the “If I were my mother, what would I be doing right now?” game once again, a game I’m quite skilled at at this point, but also a game I realize means just about nothing.

At my age, my mother had three children.  She owned a home. She had mastered cooking and sewing and cleaning and praying and was well on her way to solving world hunger.

At this very minute I am underemployed and eat McDonald’s more times a week than she has in her entire life.

But I am a writer, just like my mother always knew I was.

I am a writer because of my mother. Because of her love of stories and imagination.  Because of her book collection.  Because of her unending faith in me.

And those differences, those things I thought that made it so we couldn’t relate to each other?

Well, they’re quite silly, really. Quite, spectacularly, ridiculously silly in the grand scheme of things.

I love you, Mother.

Happy Mother’s Day.

You were right.

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13 Responses to “OK, Mom”

  1. Heather Lindquist May 12, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    You are making me cry! I LOVE to read your writing. I hate to say it, but your mom was right :)

  2. Helene May 12, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    mom is always right. ALWAYS. dangit.

  3. Camila May 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    That was beautiful! So well written and very touching!

  4. Helmy March 3, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

    Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awmoese. I love what youvegot here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you stillmanage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. This is really a great blog.

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