When I Grow Up I Want to Be Like Mama!

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Did you grow up wanting to be like your mom? Not me. Honestly that’s the last thing I wanted to do and worked really hard at it. I remember being one of those ornery daughters. I also remember having one of those daughters. You know what they say about “payback.” It’s all so true. Now I have had a few friends who said, “I’ve always wanted to be just like my mom.” Somehow, I just don’t believe them.

The funny thing is, the older I get, the more I do want to be just like my mama. I’m 60 years old and still feel like a child when it comes to comparing myself with mama. I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to dozens of seniors that have stories much like mine.

One of my neighbors took care of her aging mom until she died at over 100 years old. Charlene was a “modern” woman and took a much different path in life than her mama did. She was a business woman while her mother taught school. But when Charlene retired, she took up the teaching profession. I asked her why she decided to teach. “Cause that’s what my mama did,” she said. “It makes me feel close to her.”

I think one reason why daughters do their best not to compete with their moms is because many of us were born to very dynamic people. In my young mind, I knew I’d never be able to cook as good, sew as well, or even be as pretty as my mama, so why try? So, instead I played softball, loved golfing, and hanging out with my dad. Mama didn’t mind. She was always busy working and cooking and gardening and being creative. She made me tired just watching her. Today at 81 years old, she still can run circles around me!

Karen and Her dad and mom

Karen with her dad and mom

Changing Lives

Somewhere around my mid 30s, my interests began to change. I thought more about my mama’s life and the lives of my grannies. It began to dawn on me how hard their lives had been and yet they endured with dignity, grace and hard work. I’d never had to haul water and then build a fire just to wash clothes like my grannies did. My own mama didn’t have a dryer until I was around 10. I know I hadn’t appreciated enough the conveniences I had. I had spent way too much time having pity parties because some of my friends had lives a little easier than mine.

Then the garden began to call my name. I found a lot of joy in working the dirt and planting a veggie patch. Many times I’d think about my mama and grannies. They all loved to garden. While I was a late comer, I dug in with a passion. It made me feel proud to serve my growing family food that I had tended to. There’s nothing like digging your very own homegrown red potatoes! It also made me feel connected to all the women who came before me. Sometimes I’d take a break from digging, lean on my shovel and try to imagine my grannies in their own veggie patches. I tried to remember all the things that they grew, so I could grow them too!

At one point, I strung up a clothesline. I found it wonderful to be out in the fresh air and hang my troubles on the line. The sunshine always lifts my spirits. It’s also a great way to have the best smelling clothes around! I also learned to sew, bake delicious bread and I love my flock of laying hens.

The Next Generation

When my own daughter was nearing her teen years, I recognized that look in her eyes that my mother must have seen in me. While Tara had never been interested in playing with dolls (indeed she was actually almost as big a tomboy as I was), suddenly she was a Barbie fan. You might have guessed it. I can’t stand Barbie. She wanted her room painted pink! Ugh!

She hated spending time with me out in the garden. She would actually volunteer to clean the whole house if I didn’t make her do some weeding, but I made her learn all the names of the flowers and trees anyway.

Well, the good news is that somewhere around her 30th birthday, that all changed. Even though she lives in town, she has a sweet little veggie garden patch just outside her kitchen. Her flower beds look better than mine by far with colorful blooming plants and pretty shrubs. Her husband was amazed when they went to a nursery for bedding plants and she knew all the names.

She loves to come over when the blackberries get ripe so she and her boys can pick buckets of berries on the land where she grew up. She must have learned something in my kitchen because her cobbler is better than mine.

It’s a mystery to me why and how us women go through these turbulent phases before we’re actually grown. Personally, I find it sad that I spent a lot of time trying to avoid my mom instead of learning great lessons from her. Well, we’re both still alive. I guess I’d better make up for lost time. I know she still has a lot to teach me.

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