My mother died of cancer in 1987 when she was 40. I was 16 and memories can be hazy and unreliable. But I have a memory that reminds me of what an understanding person she was:
First day of my kindergarten, a parent accompanied each student. So my mom came to class with me. At the end of the day, they did this thing where we had to all stand in line apart from our parents and do some kind of “end of the day” ritual… get our coats? Clean up our cubby holes? I don’t remember exactly.
But the point was…. “be cool with being apart from your parents.” I guess all the students were itching to go run and be with their parents? So after we had done our whatever it was we had to do, the teacher said “OK, you can go back to your moms!” and lots of the kids ran frantically over and hugged their moms.
But I was embarrassed to do that? So I weirdly WALKED CALMLY OVER to my mother and kinda JUST STOOD next to her in a very businesslike way. I clearly remember this moment — even now 37 years later! — because I knew I was SUPPOSED to hug my mom frantically as many of the others were doing, but I also didn’t want to because I felt that would be silly. I was worried. They may have been other kids acting like this but I remember blushing and being worried that I was doing this moment “wrong.”
I wonder if that made it look like I didn’t like or trust my mother? That wasn’t true; I loved my mother and we got along great. But was it embarrassing for her that her child was in no hurry to go be with her? I think for a more insecure person it might have been. But I also very distinctly remember looking up at her to ask what I should do and her nodding at me that I was good right there, and that made me feel better. I remember the two of us walking home after that (the school was walking distance from our house) and me discussing why I liked my lunch box (Marvel Super Heroes — I was trying to guess at what the powers were of The Fantastic Four just from the drawing).
I think what makes good moms good —- or any good parent good — is the intrinsic understanding they have of their children. Not that that means there won’t be hurt feelings and mistakes and such. But that underneath it is a familiarity with the other person. My mom sensed I was uncomfortable and made me feel like I was okay, all in a blink. She was good at doing that. I think of the million things I have missed about her, that easy understanding may be number one. Then again, not all parents can do that, so I try to be grateful that I had it while I did.
It may be that my mother passed on to all of her kids a combination bemusement and acceptance of eccentric behavior —- our own and others. I like to think that, at any rate.
(I may have told or even tumbled about this one before?)