I am not my mother… I am not my mother…

Posted: September 3rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Mom | 1 Comment »

For a while now Kate’s been all hopped up on hearing me tell stories about when I was a little girl. I’ve told her about vacations we took, playing in snowstorms, my sailing lessons, and the day we went to see the dog, Tramp, we ended up adopting. But by far of all the stories I’ve conjured from my past, the one Kate requests the most is the one about when my mother forgot to pick me up from school.

You see, my elementary school was across the street from my house. But my mother would still take me there–help me cross the street in the morning and fetch me at the end of the day because, of course, YOU NEVER CROSS THE STREET WITHOUT HOLDING MOMMY’S HAND. Right?

So, one day my mommy didn’t come to get me. All the other mommy’s and daddy’s came to pick up their kids. (I always include daddies when I tell Kate this story, but really, hell if a single dad performed this duty back then.) So, bereft that my mother had potentially left me and taken off on the Green Tortoise bus to California, or some such, I stood in the corner of the school yard and cried and cried and cried.

(She was likely on the order of four minutes late. But you know, kids and time and all that.)

So here I am crying.

“Then who came, Mommy? Then who came and saw you?”

Then, as I was standing there, a police man pulled up.

“In a police car, Mom?”

Yes, in a police car. And he said, “What’s wrong little girl.” And I told him about how my mother always picks me up from school but today she didn’t come get me. So, the nice police man asked me if I knew where I lived, and if I wanted him to give me a ride home.

“In the POLICE CAR, Mama?”

Yes, in the police car. Of course I felt super cool. So I get into the police car and I’m checking it all out and the police man asked me where I lived. And I pointed to the yellow house right across the street.

“Hahaha [fake laughter], that’s funny, Mama, right?” Kate says, not entirely understanding why it’s funny but knowing it’s supposed to be.

Yes, that is funny, Kate. But the police man didn’t laugh. He just asked me if I thought we should just drive around the block a couple times before he took me home. (No, he didn’t offer to put on the siren. But I took what I could get.)

Anyway, when we get to my house the police man rings the bell and through the window I saw my mother at the kitchen sink. She sees me and the police man, opens her mouth, looks at the clock over the stove, and runs to open the door while she’s drying her hands. She explains with immense embarrassment (as I stand smugly holding the policeman’s hand) that she had totally lost track of time and thank you SO MUCH officer, and of course that will never happen again.

Needless to say, my mother would have to endure several lifetimes before I’d ever let her live that one down. 

Anyway, I’ve managed to pass that old yarn down through a generation. And, like any kid, I could come up with a few other stories of minor maternal slip-ups. None of them truly damaging, neglectful, or malicious, but certainly things that collectively informed some of my “I’ll never do that” attitudes about my own mothering.

Like when my friend Steve told me he and his wife were expecting their first child. Nearly immediately after announcing the news he vowed he’d never do that spit on your thumb and clean your kid’s face move. So, you know, we all have our issues.

For me the “I won’t do thats” are more along the lines of forgotten field trip permission slips. My mother seemed to lack the gene for ever remember getting those in on time, leaving me to hold up more than a few field trips when a teacher flipping through a pile of papers at the front of the bus would mutter in dismay, “Oh wait… We don’t have one for Kristen Bruno. Again.”

Mom also thought nothing of leaving a sink full of dishes when we’d go see my grandmother for a few days. As for me, I can’t go to the bathroom with a dirty dish in the sink.

The other big thing I vowed to never fall prey to was lateness. Four girls, one mother, and one shower–and our collective estrogen level–made it understandably difficult getting out of the house en masse. Late, loud and clumsy arrivals tended to be a Bruno family hallmark. They gave grumpy Father Coffey a legitimate reason to leer over his pulpit, and me a legitimate reason to swear that my own family would assuredly be different some day.

Today, with Grandma Peggy here providing two extra hands, Googled driving directions, and a departure time mapped out that’d give Kate plenty of time to suss out the scene and fluff up her tutu before her first dance class–we set out. Well, I didn’t actually print out the directions, just skimmed them. I did write down the address. But before long it was apparent that I had no idea where I was going.

An exit off the highway dumped me into an unfamiliar neighborhood (stress spike), though I managed to quickly get back on in the other direction (manic upswing), to quickly realize it was the totally wrong highway altogether (flop sweat). I fumbled around in the backseat with one hand trying to wrench my phone out of the diaper bag. I considered calling the dance studio for directions, then Mark (for directions and sympathy), then just trying to figure it out on my own.

The clock ticked away minutes closer and closer to the class’ 9AM start time. I did a lot of muttering under my breath and a couple seemingly safe u-turns, though my mother-in-law  was gripping the side of the car door white-knuckled. She politely kept offering to “do whatever she could to help”–no doubt ending that sentence in her mind with “just get me there alive.”

All the while I lambasted myself over how Kate would miss getting a good start to her new class. Meeting the teacher, hearing the rules, getting oriented with the other kids. Was I remembering all the first classes I got to late? You bet your ass I was.

Did I think about the first bat mitzvah I was invited to? Where my mother drove me to the one synagogue she ever remembered seeing in Providence, where I threw open the doors to an empty temple, then returned to the car–which was of course devoid of the invitation–where we continued to drive around the city asking pedestrians if they knew of any synagogues nearby, until finally, after a teeth-grinding grand tour of no less than five synagogues we found Cheryl’s family and friends pouring out onto the sidewalk at the end of her ceremony? (Don’t worry, I didn’t miss the Blue Jeans Disco Dance at the Marriott after.)

Anyway, as I was driving around hell and gone Oakland with my mother-in-law, and baby, and three-year-old who was asking “Where’s my dance class, Mama?” yes, yes, yes, I was thinking about all that.

Eventually my own Guardian Angel Direction-Dispensing Pedestrian pointed us in the direction of MacArthur Boulevard. And despite a long series of palm-sweating steering wheel squeezing red lights, we slowly made progress in the right direction.

Blah blah blah. We eventually got there ten minutes late. Surprisingly, I hadn’t blown a neck artery, and Peggy hadn’t peed her pants from fear of my driving or my rabid must-get-there-on-time wild-eyed determination.

Peggy pumped money into the meter, holding Paige on one hip, and I grabbed Kate and ran down the sidewalk into the dance studio. When we regrouped after Kate joined the class Peggy kindly made a “we’re a little late but no harm done” remark.

Indeed, it didn’t appear that Kate’s lateness affected her
in any long term psyche-scarring way. Though I guess it’s too soon to
tell. It’ll take a few more times of us skidding in after the bell before she makes her own resolve to never do all the things that I do when she has her own family some day.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “I am not my mother… I am not my mother…”

  1. 1 Nell said at 3:12 pm on September 4th, 2008:

    I have called Phil from the car three times in the last two weeks to beg for Mapquest help…no Garmin here. I think the art of actually reading maps is getting lost- but I was never any good at it anyway! Did Kate love her dance class?

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