Other People’s Mothers

Posted: August 19th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Miss Kate, Mom | 2 Comments »

When I was a kid I was always wishing that one or another of my friend’s mothers was my mom. It’s terrible to admit, but I’m sure other kids did it too.

Sleeping over at a friend’s house one night, her mom brought hot chocolate chip cookies to us where were watching a R-rated movie on cable–a movie she knew we were watching and was totally cool with. On the couch next to Leigh’s cute older brother I sat in a state of bliss, marveling at just how good she had it.

In high school another friend’s mom used to wake up early to make us lunches to bring to the beach. “Now Kristen, honey,” she’d say. “I know you don’t like mayo so there’s none on your sandwich, and I put the sliced tomatoes in a separate baggy so they wouldn’t get the bread soggy.” For real she would do this. I mean, that woman provided exceptional service. Of course my friend rolled her eyes through it all, but I was ready to have adoption papers drafted.

Now that I’m a mother myself, the thought that Kate or Paige would ever want to trade me in or upgrade me is loathsome. And the fact that my mother’s no longer around for me to take for granted is even worse.

At some point after my mother died I remember going through a sort of panicked phase of feeling like I needed to identify the person who’d act as her Second Runner Up. I wondered whether Mark’s mom would suddenly transform from mother-in-law to Mom for me. I mean, she was there being Mark’s mom already, so I thought I could just sort of slip in on that action. I considered whether any of my mother’s old friends from Rhode Island–or even one of my sisters–would step up and start being my new mother. I even wondered whether my dad would demonstrably start filling the role of both parents. Absurd as it is to admit, I think I expected him to start calling me twice as much to pick up the slack in my parental phone time.

Thinking back I’m not sure exactly what I was looking for this stand-in Mama to do. Maybe just shower me with attention? Be the person who after a conversation where I complained of having a scratchy throat thought to call me the next day to check on how I was feeling? Though, truth be told, I’m not even sure my own mother did that.

As it turned out, no one person presented themselves to me in whatever contrived way my mind envisioned it might happen. And I see now that it would have been absurd for that to have happened anyway. First off, anyone with any emotional sense would not have wanted to step on my mother’s proverbial toes. It was more respectful to honor her unreplicatable place in my life. But anyone’s attempts to up their maternal juju toward me would likley have come off as artificial anyway. Granted, I may well have lapped it up, but it would’ve been a rebound relationship borne out of my neediness. And we all know those are short-lived. At least they tend to be.

Once the shock that my mother was gone for good started to wear off–or once I became more accustomed to it–I realized I just had to butch up. I’d been trying to sidestep the whole dismal thing by finding a suitable maternal understudy. And for me, it just didn’t work that way. At least not in the form of one person. 

This weekend I got a great dose of Mama glory from my friend Mike’s mother, Marilyn. When I first met her ten years ago I remember thinking I needed to get myself to LA as often as possible. I wanted to sit at her feet–she the regal matriarch and me the adoring wanna-be daughter–and soak in all her sassy, brilliant, loving, opinionated, intelligent Mamaness.

In fact, years flew by without seeing her again. My plan to stalk her never came to fruition. And yet reconnecting with her this weekend was all I needed to re-set my eager ‘when-can-I-visit-you-next?’ agenda. What makes Marilyn especially addictive is, as you find yourself joking, laughing, and linking arms with her and her three sons–wanting nothing more than to be an insider in their scene–she’s so down-to-earth, letting you into her home and what she’s doing in the easiest most natural way, that you realize part of her feel-good brilliance is her ability to make you feel exactly what you want–like you’re part of her family, like you’re one of them. How can you not want more more more of that?

And today, I crashed my friend Lisa’s weekly visit-with-kids to her parent’s house. Her mom hadn’t met Paige yet, and with my weird scheduling luck with seemingly all of Lisa’s parties, it’d been ages since she’d seen Kate. I can use that as the excuse for the visit, but really I knew I was positioning myself for a hearty dose of Mama-ness. Instead of wallowing in my jealousness that Lisa has fabulous–and local–parents, it seems more productive to just get in on the action. Even when I know I’m engineering myself into the setting, it’s still nice to get a hit of it.

As I’m sitting in the back yard there today, seeing Lisa’s dad pull Kate through the grass on a wagon as she sips milk like a toddler Cleopatra, then watching Lisa’s mom make Play-Doh turtles and pancakes, happily letting Kate mix up the colors and admiring her advanced verbal skills–I realized that my special stealth skill for tapping into other’s people’s mothers isn’t lost on Kate.

Today Kate and Paige were entertained, fed, and admired by two devoted world-class grandparents, if only for the day. Before conking out on the car ride home, Kate sleepily requested that I “call those grandparents to make another play date” soon. For her sake and mine, I certainly will.


2 Comments on “Other People’s Mothers”

  1. 1 Mary said at 10:02 am on August 28th, 2008:

    This is beautiful Kristen- I need to hear all about your mom.

  2. 2 Lisa said at 1:29 pm on August 28th, 2008:

    Kristen, after you left last week my parents couldn’t stop gushing about you & your beautiful girls. Jackson & Audrey would love to share their grandparent time with you, Paige and Kate anytime!

    Plus, Jackson couldn’t stop talking about Kristen’s cookies. We got back to our house and the first thing he asked was if we could make cookies for Kristen. You name the date and we’ll all do it again soon. xoxo

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