Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bates vs Rockwell

I was talking to a friend the other day about how she doesn't feel especially loved or respected by her family on those 'special' days. I think I kind of got on her case, and insisted that if she wanted special attention or gifts, then she needed to do herself and her family a favor and tell them, 'Hey, my birthday is next week. I would really like a new dictionary. If you don't have time to pick one up, I'll do it myself." I actually got a little ramped up and out of the moment as I was transported back to holidays with my mother.

I only remember my dad getting my mother a gift one time. I think it was a set of china. Mother got upset (and not quietly), because he had charged it, and she would have to pay the bill when it came in, thus, in effect, buying it herself. (Apparently he hadn't gotten the memo about selling his pocket watch to buy her combs for her hair.)

Sadly, nothing would have made her happy. No matter what event was coming up, if I asked her what she would like, her answer was always, 'Just your love.' Sounds sweet, right? Yeah, I'm sure that's what she thought too. But it was difficult! And then whatever you ended up getting her wasn't quite right, but goodness knows you didn't want to risk actually just offering her a sackful of love! Once, after I was grown, we were driving by a dress shop that she liked, and in their window was a display of mannequins in raincoats with lots of umbrellas strewn about. Something caught her eye, and she requested that I go by again and park so she could look. There was one umbrella that she especially liked, and the next time I was by the store, I bought it and put it away for her birthday, thinking that I had this one in the bag. On her birthday, when she opened the package, you'd have thought I'd sold the family cow for a bunch of magic beans! I got a lecture for being a frivolous spendthrift, and told that she would never tell me of anything she liked in the future. Ouch.

Of course, to be fair, it really wasn't her fault that she wasn't at her best on holidays. She was so exhausted from roasting a turkey AND a ham, and making seventeen side dishes and six desserts, all from scratch, and baking homemade rolls and bread, that any martyr...oops...mother...would be a little cranky when the Norman Rockwell holiday was hanging just a little askew. I especially liked how she blamed it on my dad...'If I didn't have to worry about your dad being so upset when the little kids get rambunctious, I wouldn't be so on edge!'

Carey's work schedule has always been so out of sync with the rest of the world, that he, the kids, and I have more often than not celebrated any birthday, anniversary, or holiday on a day other than the actual day. Maybe that's why it just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. Or maybe I just recall those awful days of yore, and vow, 'Never again!' I would rather sit at a table with my loved ones laughing over a plate of Spaghettios, than at a quarrelsome stress-filled feast!


  1. I think it was the last year I spent with Grandma.

    I went back for her 80th? birthday, with Mom. We came in late that night, on a little rickety plane, which I loved.
    Aunt Pat picked us up from the airport.

    Upon being delivered to Grandma's, I sat in Papa's room, on the bed, suitcase strewn and just soaking in being there. How I loved her house. The little margerine tubs made into turtles that Aunt Kathy made. The wooden door from the parlor into Aunt Kathy's bedroom. The huge pink bathroom. (My bathroom tub and sink are that same color of pink.) The tall, elegant armoire standing proudly on that royal red carpet.
    The cramped den with the multi-colored afghans on everything and piles newspapers.

    I got out one of my bags of peanut butter eggs out - you know the ones? Reeses makes them, and they're in a yellow parkage, shaped like a flat egg, filled with peanut butter?

    Grandma and Mom sat there with me, and Grandma grabbed one of the large chocolate eggs.

    "Mmmmmm." she said. "Mmmmmm!" her eyes got all glowy.
    She grabbed another one.

    A little while later it was time to get settled in.
    As I was making my bed, turning it down for the night, and clearing it off, I found a pile of plastic wrappers stuffed under a pillow by where Grandma was sitting - she had eaten about fifteen of those peanut butter easter eggs.
    In about fifteen minutes.

    You might try giving her some of those next time you see her.


  2. I know you don't have to post these so I'll say what I like and I'm not hurt if you don't, but I recall you stating in the past that this post ruffled some feathers before I realized I could read the comments. Grandma and Papa were who they were, the good and the bad. I can look back now and see things I didn't as a kid but I was blessed to experience with them who they were. They were your parents and they are your memories. And I love recounting them regardless the words may say.

    I recall my sophomore English teacher, Mr Fleming. Remains my favorite teacher I ever had. He was more about the journey, about the student, than the grammar and the grade. I recall one writing assigment, don't recall what the assignement was, but that I wrote about Grandma. I wrote about when Papa passed away and how stoic she was, how strong. I recall with my grade he wrote a comment that I wasn't just describing my grandmother but I was describing myself. And I was and I'm proud. I know that there was more to her than I realized at the time but she makes me even more proud now and I will always be proud to be her granddaughter and your daughter.



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