Saturday, June 22, 2013
This mother-daughter relationship I'm exploring is, as I've already suggested, a multi-faceted gem. Rita may have posed formidable challenges to me, but when I'm candid with myself, I can't deny that I gave as good as I got.
I'm quite certain that I came into this life with a well seasoned will, complete and intact. And I thank the gods for that.
My mom would often tell me how much she loved dressing me up when I was little. I mean, she loved dressing up, and was one of those ladies who always looked her best before leaving the house. Even at 95 she would want to be properly dressed, made up, hair done, and nails polished before heading to a doctor's appointment … or to just go for a ride to see the lake. I, on the other hand, have always been willing to run out "as is," most often jeans and t-shirt or tank. This not only perplexed her, but frustrated her to occasional anger.
I can't tell you how many times I heard her ask, "Are you wearing that?"
When I was little she would dress me up in adorable fashions of the day. I wore a pretty dress, lacy socks and patent leather mary-janes to my first day of Nursery School. When my mom came to pick me up she asked the teacher how I did that day, and the response was that I did just fine, and that it would be best to dress me more casual for the play that was typical of Nursery School. She would laugh about that, but inevitably return to how much she loved dressing me "like a doll."
She would recall times that she dressed me for some occasion or another and how I would quickly, if not eagle-watched, get dirty and hopelessly wrinkled before said occasion ever had a chance to commence. She would reminisce about my Nono cleaning ink stains out of an outfit after I climbed onto a desk, complete with inkwell, to have a little unguarded fun. There's photos of me somewhere covered in that ink - clothes and body. There's photos of me, too, looking stiff as a statue and more than a little fearful of wrinkling whatever I was wearing.
Every prom I attended in high school involved a hat and gloves. Ugh. It was the '70s, man, and no one wore those things anymore. I'd comply, stand for the photos, and quickly loose the trappings when out of sight. If anyone caught me in photo without them, there'd be hell to pay.
She was a strict disciplinarian, make no mistake, and in my teenage years I learned to navigate her rules with exceptional savvy. My curfews growing up were skewed when compared to my contemporaries. I can still hear my daddy saying, "Oh, Reeter, let her go." He was my champion and after he died, it came down to our two hard heads bashing, time and again. And as a proper nemesis, she generally had the upper hand. Of course, the risk of retribution rarely kept me from challenging her, from staying out past curfew, and I know that many of my teenage choices drove her to the rim of madness.
I lived with my spouse for ten years before we married and this displeased her - greatly. I heard about her displeasure and my transgression(s) frequently. When we married, the marriage was done on the sly, so to speak, with Rita receiving notification after the fact. There was hell to pay, but I was confident then (as I am to this day) that it was more than a fair trade-off to avoid her dictates for a "proper" wedding.
Rita was beside herself when I left the corporate world. She argued with a passion that this was a big mistake. She did her best to instill fear of perceived consequences, and grew increasingly frustrated when her arguments slid off and away from me sans impact.
I know I drove her crazy. Probably more than I will ever imagine.
And to this day … no matter what anyone may dish out … I'll be able take it … and return it with a curve they'll never see coming.
How, in the name of all that is sacred, could I not thank her for her contributions to this particular skill?