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She will ask me to be home a half an hour before our scheduled mother-daughter bonding time. I’ll arrive an hour early to find her still fast asleep. I’ll wake her 45 minutes before scheduled departure, and she’ll spend 40 of those sparing minutes playing games on her computer, still in her pajamas. I’ll come downstairs at the designated time, ready to go. She still hasn’t fed, groomed, or dressed herself. We leave 15 minutes late. She’s typing on her phone as she’s driving; she doesn’t know the address of our destination. She does not stay in a lane, and I have to offer, as I repeatedly and exasperatingly do every time she drives me, to search and navigate for her. She refuses, and I must sternly request that she not use her phone while driving. I hide my anger about the fact that she does nothing but criticize my driving skills. I bite my tongue when I want to blame her poor example for my own flaws.

It’s days like today when I wish I had anyone else for a mom, when I wonder how things would be different if this ball of insanity wasn’t the one I had to turn to when I’m lost. It’s days like today when I believe that she’s lost too, like she’s using a map for a place that was destroyed years ago.

We arrive at an event for a food shelter in West County, a “politician stop” as she calls it. Her voice booms through the small warehouse, echoing; it is not a call, but a demand for attention. She manages, perplexingly enough, to be both dominating yet congenial in her tone. She excitedly discusses ideas for collaboration with the food bank leaders for a while, and follows by introducing me to an old friend of hers from law school. She greets a gaggle of thin, superficial-looking women, and morphs into some sort of upper-class snobbish character that I don’t recognize nor understand. They take a couple of pictures together. My mother tries desperately to appear as though she fits in, but eyes who’ve seen the vibrant images her life has painted on her can recognize the falsity in her demeanor.

We leave, off to our sewing class. We are, of course, about five minutes late walking in, though fortunately not the last to arrive. The instructor begins lecturing, and my mother cannot help but notice that the thread I’ve been given to use is blue, and my fabric, a bold pattern of reds, oranges and yellows, does not “match”. She looks around the room distractedly for other colors to trade. Just the same as with any other task, she becomes unable to follow the structure or respect the intended use of the space because her current focus is now a life-or-death matter. The class cannot go on until she has found me thread that is going to “match”.

I whispered to her that we can solve the problem later when we actually start sewing, or not at all. The threads were likely to go unseen, we would only sew on the inside of the soon-to-be bag. “Plus, I wouldn’t mind having the color contrast. Blue wouldn’t necessarily look bad with these colors.”

The lecture on sewing terminology continues, but my focus is interrupted every five minutes. She must ask me if I understand what’s going on as if I need her help. As if I’m incapable of comprehension and as if I’m incapable of asking my own questions. I whisper, “Yes mom, I get it.” Later on, to ease her apparent anxiety, I ask her clarifying questions (as if I don’t know that I have a handle on the material being taught).

We ultimately get through the class together with minimal fighting, a feat that couldn’t have been accomplished months ago. I’d had to fine-tuned my patience to meet her dynamite temper. The ride home holds less tension, and the roles finally switch as she listens to me psudo-complain about my friends’ silly shenanigans, and how frustrating and invigorating it is to be in high school, and how I’m still feeling a bit alone sometimes but I’ll find some way to get through this growing up thing.

I wish I could count all of the times I’ve ever been told, “You are your mother.” The words bring about a stinging feeling somewhere in the neurons that process aural information. Rushing forward are all of the pains and frustrations we’ve had with each other. Really, I just hate to think that I could ever be the same. Most of the time I resent her, but sometimes I guess its not so bad to be told you take after a high-school dropout with a graduate degree. I guess its not so bad to hear you’re like a woman who’s always been able to speak her mind -- a mind that is shockingly creative, analytical, thorough, (and usually right). On days like today, when you have someone who reminds you that you’re not so crazy, I guess “You are your mother” sounds more like a compliment to me.

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LindsayB This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm
This had me interested from the very first sentence until the very last one. No wonder it was chosen as editor's choice. Fantastic piece
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