‘I Really Am My Mother’s Daughter’
Published: May 7, 2009
As a child, I used to cringe when people complimented my mother on a new outfit. Invariably, she would quote the exact mark-down price of the garment, along with details about the bargain basement where she found it.
You see, I deemed it undignified to reveal prices. And I vowed that when I grew up and friends admired my clothing, I would just say “thanks.”
But that’s not how it turned out. The first time someone gave me a really big compliment on a sweater—which had been sharply reduced in a close-out sale—I was delighted to broadcast just how little I had paid.
And in just a matter of seconds, it happened: I began turning into my mother.
I know I’m not alone. I know many women who vowed they would never repeat certain maternal expressions doing just that. Such as saying to children: “If you keep that expression on your face, it will freeze that way.” And: “If the other kids were jumping off a cliff, would you?” And the famous: “If I have to tell you one more time, you’ll be sorry.”
There were other things my mom did that I swore I would never do. For example, I can recall how embarrassed I was when she burst into tears after a salesgirl was rude to her. And I’m sure you can imagine my chagrin, years later, when I was buying a purse and the salesgirl was so incredibly bad-tempered that I found my eyes stinging with tears.
With Mother’s Day approaching, my mother is so much on my mind. If she were alive today, she would be 98 years old, which is very hard to fathom. You see, when I last saw her, she was only 65.
Of course, there are many things my mom did that I delight in doing today. Like her, I enjoy collecting piles of recipes even if I never get around to trying them. Like her, I relish spending hours at the beach with family members, staring at the waves and gabbing. And like her, I cling to my rosary beads when times are really bad.
As the years pass, I am realizing there is no way around it: I really am my mother’s daughter. Which is why on Mother’s Day I do exactly what she used to do: Go to Mass and say the rosary for her and my departed aunts and grandmothers.
Like her, I am startled each year to discover that the list of the faithful departed that I hold in my heart is growing longer. And, like she surely did, I have to face the obvious conclusion: Someday, my name will be on someone else’s list.
At that point, I hope my mother and I will meet again on that vast white shore that I imagine as heaven. She’ll be wearing that same navy blue bathing suit she wore for years, the one with the pleated skirt.
She’ll be looking down the shoreline as if she’s waiting for someone. And I can imagine the expression on her face when she spots me, racing eagerly in her direction.
I know there would be a river of joyful tears and many hugs before we’d get down to the business of talking. Really, it would probably take a thousand years to catch up, but at some point, I suspect she would thank me for all the prayers.
And I would have to thank her as well, because, frankly, if I do make it to heaven, I suspect it will be largely due to her working behind the scenes up there.
After all, I know my mother well enough to suspect that heaven wouldn’t be much fun for her without the people she loves there with her. She was never someone who liked going to the beach alone. And, really, I’m the same way.
Lorraine Murray’s latest book is “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist.” Readers may write the Murrays at firstname.lastname@example.org.