This story won’t be chronological.
you look just like her
Everyone used to tell me I looked just like my mother, which would make me so terribly mad. Why would I want to look like her? I looked like me. We were NOT alike.
I don’t know how much we resembled each other in our 30s or in our early 40s. My mom was already sick when she was my age, 43. But putting together some of our class pictures growing up, I can certainly see why my grandma would constantly tell me I looked like my mother. These are all before she plucked her eyebrows to a perfect shape and somehow they stayed that way and she never had to pluck again. This did not happen to me.
I am now quite proud when anyone tells me I look like my mother. And it still happens ever so often.
it used to be embarrassing
My mother was not a quiet woman. She did not keep her mouth shut when she thought there was something wrong. When I was young, this was usually moments of wanting to crawl under the table, pretend I was in a different family, use my mind powers to disappear. I was constantly on edge in public because I knew that at any moment my mother could speak up.
I’m sure there are countless moments of this, however, only some live in my memory. They are the ones that are not necessarily repeatable, or they somehow have relevance now. In fact, I can now look back, and see some of those moments as momentous. Before their time. There are also times that I wasn’t a developed enough person to accept her and what was going on with her body.
She used to say “I’m not a guy” – anytime, anyone would use that term. I still attempt this fight with her in mind, even though it’s hard to get folks to stop using guys to refer to he, she, they. She also refused to be a house’s wife and used the term “domestic engineer”.
A more specific memory was when one of the two local funeral homes put out a calendar for the diocese (a group of churches under one bishop for those of you who didn’t grow up catholic). It pictured different people in the diocese doing work in the community. Well actually, it pictured priests and possibly deacons. My mother was enraged. She let all of us know that there were no women featured. Only men. Were there no women in the diocese doing work in the community? Where were the nuns and other women? There may have been phone calls. There were certainly letters written. They knew that she was not okay with this and wouldn’t let it drop until something was done.
embarrassing for me to admit
I do have to mention a second layer of embarrassment. My embarrassment travels from being embarrassed of my mother, to being embarrassed of how little sympathy, understanding, and any brave love that I could have had for her when growing up. I distinctly remember going from being embarrassed that my dad was so old, to being embarrassed that my mom was sick and all the things that went along with that.
Pretty early on she suffered from double vision, and she would have to lift one of her eyes with her hand to be able to see clearly. She often went out in her pajamas, because she didn’t have the energy to get dressed. She used to constantly chomp on ice, big cups of ice, and it would drive me bonkers. I think it was to distract her from discomfort and pain. This led to her then having a chronic cough, where she would have to spit out phlegm. I wish I could have been more accepting. I’ve seen kids who are not embarrassed of their parents, even when they stand out. I’m glad it can be done. I will just have to know that given more years, I would have developed out of that embarrassment.
I don’t know all the stories of loud Norma speaking up and out. If you have some, please share.