Tag Archives: Noelle

Frying Pan Green Tomatoes

We, the sisters, the daughters, try to go to Mom’s every Saturday to help with chores around the house. Jim’s not doing well right now (he’s sick, too. He thinks it’s leftover shingles, we think it’s a likely alien infestation in is body cavity but he thinks we don’t know what we’re talking about. Like we don’t read books and watch movies, or something. Sheesh) so he’s not quite as energetic as he had been.

Most days, we go over, do the chores, Jim makes us lunch, then we sit around and visit for awhile before finishing up and heading home.

Unrelatedish thought: You know, this is the best way to lose someone. That might sound like crap but I cannot begin to express how thankful I am that we get to spend this time with our mom as a family. She said she knows that she is loved and she hopes we know that we are, too. We do. We wouldn’t have had this had she not gone through chemo; it would have been really ugly. The ugly will still come but now we’ll be better prepared because we’ve had this time to buffer, to say the things we want to say, but, most importantly, just to be together and be a dysfunctional, loving family. It’s the end of the party for her but we all get to stand at the door and chit chat for a little while before she leaves and…man, it’s been amazing.

Back to the story: We kept telling the grandkids that it was important for us all to make good memories right now. I don’t think any of us bought into that, I think we were just trying to make this all a little less horrifying for the children. But you know what? We actually have done just that, enjoyed some shining moments.

The first happened early on. Mom hadn’t started chemo yet but she’d had her hair buzzed in order to prep for the hair-falling-out part. Noelle – and let me just take a minute to say that Noelle has hair vanity like you wouldn’t believe – wanted to do something to support Mom so she suggested we all buzz our own heads. We agreed. On the day we had planned to go baldish, our uncle Charlie, Mom’s brother, and aunt Paula came out for a visit. Uncle Charlie did the hair-butchery for us. He has three boys and a girl and he was in charge of keeping those boys buzzed up all summer long for many, many years. In other words, he was old hat at this game. Speaking of hats (and heads), Charlie and Paula brought pink ballcaps for us all to wear afterward, you know, so we wouldn’t burn our fragile skulls since they’d be mostly naked, and all. Thoughtful!

It turned out to be a fun day. Mom hated it, at first. She didn’t want her daughters to look like Marines. Now, though, she references that day and loves the pictures we took.

Before

Before

After

After

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Today was another memory-making day, though totally by accident.

Our chores included tearing the tomato plants out of the greenhouse and inspecting the bodies to find any tomatoes that hadn’t been hit by the cold snap. Most of them had been frostbitten, were holey and wormy, or were too underdeveloped to ripen on the windowsill. We put all those bad tomatoes in a bucket and decided to throw them over the fence for the fun of it. But then Noelle remembered how much she loved fried green tomatoes and how do you fry green tomatoes? IN A FRYING PAN! So Britt ran off to get the fying pan that lives in the sandbox and we started a game of Whack-a-mater. It’s like if you mix cricket (the game, not the bug) and tennis…only with tomatoes and a fying pan.

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It was such a random thing but we all had the best time laughing, getting tomato splatter all over ourselves, and enjoying each other’s company in the late autumn sunshine.

Had Mom and Jim been able to do the tomato-clearance themselves, this never would have happened but because it was our job, we made a delightful memory, one we’ll talk about for years.

These are the beautiful moments that will carry us all through.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day: The Finale of Mother’s Day Posts

“She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.” 
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

 

To all the moms out there, this is your day. I hope you get to enjoy it! You do some really hard work and many of you get little or no appreciation for your efforts so GOOD JOB!

Happy Mother’s Day to you.

 

Happy Mother's Day

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“I’ll give you something to cry about”: A Prelude to Mother’s Day

I think it’s fair to say that my mom and I have enjoyed (more often not-enjoyed) a complicated relationship over the years. This is probably true for the vast majority of mother/daughters, it seems to be how these things work. After all, my mom had a complicated relationship with her mother and I don’t think Noelle or Bedot have had it any easier than I, either. Beyond personal experience, look at all the novels, movies, and psychologists who explore this same topic!

If you’ve been here before, you probably know my mom. If you haven’t and don’t, you can introduce yourself to her by clicking the My Horrible Mother tag at the bottom of this diatribe. So, anyway, you  might have guessed that my mom and I, we share a sassy mouth. We both say things that aren’t politically correct…or any sort of correct, really. I’m pretty sure I learned this trait from her. While being on the receiving end of said mouth definitely hardened my skin to a thickness seen only on citrines and rhinos, it was something of an obstacle while I was growing up, resulting in a lot of miscommunication and injured feelings. Some of the slights were real and intentional but most were merely perceived on my part. Regardless, there were things she’d said to me that were burrs in my blanket for years. Or maybe, it was things she didn’t say.

I always wanted to have one of those nurturing mothers, the ones who listen to your hopes and dreams and find ways to help you achieve them, instead of the “practical” (her term)/”negative” (mine) parent who tells you why your ideas won’t work.

The mom I really wanted.

The mom I really wanted.

The mom I felt I had.

The mom I felt I had.

For instance, I always wanted her to like my drawings but she didn’t. I wanted to take art classes but she nixed that plan. I tried to take one in high school as an elective but because she had final say in the matter, I took drafting. I bore so much resentment toward my  mother because I felt she was blocking my attempts to be the artiste I knew I could be, that I so badly wanted to be.  To make things worse, she encouraged Noelle to take art classes, to draw and paint and do all the things I wanted to do. It’s kind of like how I kept asking for Sea Wees for my birthday and Christmas and never got any; Noelle got them, instead. Noelle, who couldn’t keep her poor little Sea Wees’ hair nice and who lost their pets. It’s also like how Chris got ice cream for breaking my Wonder Woman doll! My early life was full of injustice and misery and I’m surprised I survived. Back to my crushed dream, though: I thought my mom would be proud of my artistic endeavors because before she had me, she went to school for art. After she had me, she dropped out and got a job in a deli and never went back. During her angrier moments, on the days that she was probably wondering how she ended up where she was, so far from where she’d planned to be, she told me I’d ruined her life because I kept her from getting a college degree. Remember that smart mouth I inherited? I always reminded her that I did not get her pregnant, I was just the result of her not being able to keep her legs together.

We were an awesome pair. And by “awesome,” I probably mean “toxic.”

The older I got, the more frequent these types of conversations became and it was hard for us to be in the same room for more than half an hour without sniping at each other. I judged her for every decision she ever made. I held what I felt was her lackluster parenting over her at all times. I was self-righteous and constantly told her what she should have already done and what she should do in the future in order to be a better person, a decent mother, even though I hadn’t done anything with my life at that point so really had no foundation of knowledge. Youth allows for a great deal of arrogance, we all know this. But knowing it and being able to deal with it are two different things and I think when your child is battling you with your own weapons, there’s not a lot to do but give up or fight harder. My mom has never been the giving-up kind of person.

I stayed away from the family for a few years. I was so angry, so tired of everything. I felt like I was the only sane one, the only sensible one, the only one who could keep her shit together and nobody gave me any credit for all my hard, honest, upstanding efforts.

Yup. Pretty much.

Yup. Pretty much.

I would only engage with my parents on holidays and then only if my nieces (I don’t think there were any nephews during this time) were in attendance. This lasted for three years, I think? It was ridiculous. I was so irate about things that didn’t even exist, not outside of my own mind, at any rate. I was self-centered and self-wounded and it made me reject the group of people I felt had caused all my problems.

Mom and I broke the barricade I’d put up with the most horrible kind of honesty ever. I was over there for some event, maybe Easter, maybe the Fourth of July. Whatever the case, it was a warm day and Mom, tired from preparing everything for the festivities, tired from me sniping at her, tired of being in a house full of people, just tired, went outside to smoke a cigarette. She was sitting on the front step and I followed her. I meant to make some barbed point that would hopefully make her feel awful about one thing or another but…I dunno, something changed. I sat down next to her and didn’t say anything for a little bit. She smoked. I coughed and then I asked her, “You don’t like me, do you? I mean, as a person. You’ve never liked me.” She looked at me and she said, “No. I don’t. You are not the kind of person I like.”

You know what? Even though I knew that would be the answer I’d get, had known for many years, it hurt. I started crying. We sat there some more. She smoked. I sniffled and coughed. She said, “But I love you. You’re my kid.”

Fat lot of good that did me.

So I did what I’ve always done – mouthed-off, then sucked it up and pretended not to care, just shrugged it all off. Whatevs, dude.

There had been many times up to that point that I did not believe my mother loved me. I didn’t think I loved her, either. Sometimes I hated her. But I hated her because I wanted her to be someone she wasn’t, because I wanted things from her she couldn’t give me because that’s not the type of person she was. Maybe that’s why it hurt so much to hear that she didn’t like me, it was one more thing she couldn’t give me. Some of the reasons for her dislike were real, like I was judgmental and arrogant. I was a bitch. Yes, she had to concede that I probably learned that from her but that didn’t make it a likeable trait. Some of her reasons were things she’d made up, like I thought I was better than everyone else because I went off and got a college degree and traveled across the world. I think she took my enthusiasm over the things I had learned as me rubbing my successes in her face whereas I just wanted her to be impressed with all the amazing stuff I was doing because…well, I wanted her to be proud of me and she wasn’t.

So much miscommunication.

I stayed away from home for a long time after that day despite the knowledge that one of the things I had learned early on, something that also came from my mother, was the value of honesty. Honesty was always a big thing in our house. I love to embellish, to make stories bigger and grander but I still understood when I needed to be honest and when people needed to be honest with me. Honesty gets a bad rap because people only want it when it’s nice and pretty, not when it hurts. The thing is, if it’s real, it will probably hurt. Almost always. There are coping mechanisms you can learn to deal with honesty: You learn to take it, let it hurt you, turn into a big baby over it all, then look at it and figure out what to do with it OR you learn to tune it out and rely solely on what you believe OR you learn to change it into something that is pleasant and agreeable OR you learn to twist it into what you want to hear. There are probably other things you can do, too, but I’m not familiar with them, having never employed them, myself.

I tried to learn the first coping mechanism and I think it has done me worlds of good. There’s not a lot that bothers me anymore. Yes, of course I hate criticism but I can tell when it’s meant for real and when it’s meant to hurt. If it’s meant to hurt, I can just ignore it. When it’s meant for real, I can take it apart to see if there’s a misunderstanding on the part of the criticizer or if there’s something in me that needs to be examined or both. This is an excellent skill to have and I have it because my mom did not mince words. School of hard knocks, and all, but come on, it totally makes for a kick-ass character in the long run.

In case you’re wondering how the whole “I don’t like you” thing turned out? After I sat on that for awhile, pitched some hissy fits, looked at the statement and the feelings behind it for a long time, after I broke so many things down because maybe they shouldn’t have been there in the first place and maybe after I realized I needed to be less of a jerk and needed to respond to my mother as a person and not as my mommy, I realized maybe we could get along. I think my mom had a similar response because after I ended my self-imposed exile, we both worked at our relationship in a different way. I tried to stop judging what she’d done in our past (except for those damned rolls! How could she lie about that? SO EVIL!) and tried to interact with her like I would a normal person, not like I would with my mother. She had to do the same thing, I couldn’t be her daughter, I had to be a person. After awhile, we worked something out. It was fragile, at first, and it was difficult. It was hard for both of us to not revert to catfighting and I know we’ve slipped up here and there. But we made the effort we both needed to make and, after a few years, we became friends. Once we were friends, it was a whole lot easier for me to respect her and appreciate her knowledge and abilities. I don’t know that she feels the same about me, but I know that she gets excited when I do big things now, instead of resentful because I’m one-upping everyone in the family. She’s become more nurturing, actually. She’s become my mom and I like being her daughter.

Look at us getting along like a good mommy and child! You have NO idea the years and years' worth of work this took. And no, neither of us shoved the other in the water after this shot.

Look at us getting along like a good mommy and child! You have NO idea the years and years’ worth of work this took. And no, neither of us shoved the other in the water after this shot.

So I guess she wasn’t kidding when she said I’d better knock it off or else she’d give me something to cry about…but at least I know she loves me!

 

 

 

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“Mom says…”: A Prelude to Mother’s Day

You know how moms say all those crazy things? If you’re a mom, you know. You’ve said words that should never be together in a sentence or, worse, sentences that used to come out of your own mother’s mouth years ago. My mom had no amazing sayings of her own, all hers were standard fare, but she did follow through on her threats.

She was always a big fan of the “If you don’t knock it off, I am going to pull this car over!”

1980_Ford_Fairmont

This was essentially the car she was going to pull over, only ours was silver. Photo swipered from stationwagon.com

 

And she did. Several times.

Once, Chris was being such a little shit that I think Mom considered murdering him. We were going into town and Chris was acting up, per usual. Mom threatened him with the big Pull Over and he didn’t stop so she pulled the car well off the side of the road, well, Interstate, actually, and once The Ford was safely parked, she flung herself over the seat into the back seat to smack Chris only because he was part monkey, he jumped into the far back of the vehicle and a 3 Stooges skit ensued. Mom and Chris were diving over seats, getting out of the car, running around the car and getting back in via another door, Chris simultaneously shrieking and chortling, Mom making dire threats.  A police car pulled up behind us to see if we were alright and Mom used that to her advantage, telling Chris that he’d been misbehaving so horribly that the police had to show up. I don’t remember what happened afterward – I think Mom explained to the officer that she was trying to kill her son because he was being a horrible monster and I think the cop did the disapproving stare and gave Chris a “Listen, Young Man” lecture through a window and then Chris settled down, but I might have made that ending up, I don’t know. I do know that no one was arrested or murdered and we all made it to town and back in one piece.

She also enjoyed “Don’t make me come over there.”

You know, the first ten times you hear that as a kid, you’re maybe a little concerned. But note: there’s no consequence implied. What’s going to happen if you make her come over there? Nothing. So after twenty more times that threat is spoken, you’re not worried because it’s meaningless noise.
Until something does happen because you know what? My mom liked to mix things up. 30 “Don’t make me come over there”s were general operating procedure but she meant the 31st. She came over there…with a wooden spoon and we all got smacked about the head, shoulders, fleeing butts, whatever. From then on, irritating Mom was a little like playing Russian Roulette; we never knew which “Don’t make me come over there” was real.

Once Noelle got old enough, probably Kindergarten-aged, Mom broke out the “Stop your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” threat. I don’t know that we’d really heard this much before the advent of Noelle; neither Chris nor I were big cry-ers. But Noelle was. By the time I heard that threat, I was eight or nine and logic was beginning to grow in my head. I thought, “She’s already crying about something, even if it’s something stupid. It’s not like she’s just crying on a whim.” Apparently, I was wrong. Mom would go over to Noelle, take away whatever she had, pick her up, carry her to her room, put her in there, and shut the door. That definitely gave Noelle something to cry about.

There was one dire promise Mom never did make good on. When she was totally fed up with us – which was just silly because, honestly, we were adorable little angels all the time – she’d yell, “SO HELP ME, GOD, I AM GOING TO SELL YOU TO THE GYPSIES!” yet she never did. It may have been because there were no gypsies in  Colorado Springs who were willing to buy children. Or, more likely, as she’d explain later, “You children are so bad not even the gypsies would want you.”

29-Mother-hides-her-face-in-shame-after-putting-her-children-up-for-sale-Chicago-1948

If she could have, this would have been me, Noelle, Chris, and Bedot. Sadly, no one would have made an offer. Read more here: http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/hammond/sold-off-siblings-shown-in-old-photo-tell-their-stories/article_1c095598-89f4-584b-891b-7ef48a1e2082.html

I guess this is what being a mom is all about: Making ridiculous threats, luring your children into a false sense of security, then pouncing! Apparently, it teaches manners or responsibility or twitchiness or something. Actually, not true. You know what we did learn, aside from self-preservation? A sense of humor because we figured out that if we made Mom laugh while we were still on the verge of being in trouble, we could get away with pretty much anything. There was no threat that could withstand the force of funniness and that is why we are all comedic geniuses today.

I wonder if moms still do this – promises of retribution – or if this is something of the past…like Monchichis and  Walkmans? If this is no longer a thing, you kids have no idea how easy y’all got it these days.

 

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“I hate mommy”: A prelude to Mother’s Day

I’ve written, a time or two, about my horrible mother and the awful things she did to us (like lying about bread and telling us the bug museum was boring) Seriously, our childhoods were so miserable, so Annie-like, that Chris, in a fit of anger at being sent to his room for punishment, scrawled “I hate mommy” in mad black crayon of newly-learned letters on the back of his dresser. Mom discovered this act of rebellion years later when we were moving to a new house and she thought it was funny. She told all her friends and they all laughed because they were probably also heartless, evil people.

I recently had the opportunity to play Mom, which is like playing dress-up only with more responsibility, for a week. Noelle’s husband took her to Las Vegas for her birthday and I stayed in their house with their children and their diabetic cat and made sure no one died. Because, really, if you boil it down to the very basics, a parent’s job is to make sure no one dies. I totally rocked that job but in doing so, I had to reminisce on my own early life, had to remember the lessons doled out by my own awful parent in order to pass along wisdom and essential knowledge (such as: if you don’t do your homework, you can’t go outside and play with your friends)

All that thinking led to a shocking realization: while my mother was obviously abusive and mean, she sort of did a really good job at raising her kids. It took me this long to see that not only did we NOT die while in her care, but we can also do a ton of things that many of our peers don’t do. We’re a tough little pack of white-trash, redneck hooligans who can garden, preserve food, pluck chickens, cook food, balance a checkbook, budget a household, mend broken animals, whip out witty/scathing one-liners like we have hundreds to spare, overuse our vast imaginations, completely ignore trends and fashions and look good doing it, read, laugh at ourselves (and everyone else), and stand up for ourselves. We can do these things because we’ve been doing them since we were the ages Noelle’s kids are now. Back then, we also had to make our own lunches, clean the dinner dishes, wash and fold our own clothing, buy our own toiletries, entertain ourselves and a bunch of other crap that was supposed to teach us responsibility and self-reliance, though I don’t think that’s why we did those things. I think it was because Mom got tired of doing stuff for four rotten urchins and told us to learn to take care of ourselves. And we did. And we can. Because our mother taught us how.

Also – we are all very classy because we are apples who have fallen way too close to the tree.

Classy lady - Mom

Classy mother is classy.

Classy lady - Daughter 1

This is our mom’s classy daughter on her wedding day. Seriously.

Classy lady - Daughter 2

This is our mom’s other classy daughter who is probably going to kill me when she sees I posted this. But, hey, it’s on Facebook so it already belongs to The Internet, right?

Classy lady - Daughter 3

Also placed here without permission…and no, she’s obviously nowhere near as classy as the rest of us but, then, this one doesn’t ham it up as often as perhaps other family members, ergo, there are fewer classy pictures of her.

 

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