Archived Story

Oh, great, now I’m turning into my mother

Published 4:00pm Saturday, May 11, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

Every day, in a hundred different ways, I’m becoming like my mom. Years ago I would have said, “Oh No! I’m turning into my mother!” but time has been kind to me and given me a little perspective and the tiniest bit of wisdom, enough that now I can say, “Thank God, I’m turning into my mother.”

Even though I can’t see her often, my mom is always with me. It used to be when I missed her I’d look at my left hand. They are identical. I noticed this years ago sitting on the sofa one night before going back to Minnesota holding her palm to mine. Index and middle fingers slant ever so slightly to the left, the buckled flesh on our ring fingers rests lazily over our wedding bands, and our nails grow in the same stubborn slope. When I stare at my left hand I feel her with me. I am her and she is me. We are the same.

Now when I miss her, which is every moment of every day, I look in the mirror. We don’t resemble each other. She is all summer and spring with her blue eyes and blond hair and I wear the darkness of autumn and winter. But when I stand there sizing up this new version of me, I see Mom sitting on the edge of my bed telling me that anything is possible if I can imagine it, and I hear her voice guiding everything I do.

When I catch myself saying, “patience, patience,” to a 10-month-old, I wonder what helpful magic Mom thought she’d reveal as she repeated that incantation over and over as I was growing up. And which was more futile, when she said it to the toddler me or the teenage me?

When I’m saying nightly prayers with the girls, I hear myself toss off the part about, “If I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take,” in a casual aside just like Mom did for me because she knew that bit, important as it was, could leave a kid with some unsettling thoughts when the lights went out.

When I’m exhausted and my back hurts I mourn a late-blooming empathy for Mom who, at the end of the day, would sit with her chin in her hand “resting her eyes.” I wish I’d realized that while my dad was out working to get us a lot of what we wanted, Mom was tired from making sure we had everything we needed.

I haven’t been able to share the experience of mothering two baby girls with my mom because distance and circumstance separate us. I send pictures and videos. We talk on the phone when we can, but it’s not the same. There are so many things I want to ask her, so many small injustices I want to apologize for, but mostly so many things for which I’d like to thank her.

Today I’d like to ask her why the girls refuse food I put on their plates but an hour later happily eat the rejected scraps they find on the kitchen floor. I want to ask her if she thinks my kitchen floor is clean enough because it looks like the girls will be taking a lot of meals there.

Today I’d like to apologize for running into the dining room and yelling, “Up your nose with a rubber hose!” when I was 6 years old.

You see, I heard it on television, and I was overwhelmed by the possibilities of hurling insults and rhyming at the same time. I didn’t mean to say it to you. I just wanted to say it. Clearly, it was a remark that should have been directed at one of my sisters. I’m sorry, Mom.

I’d also like to apologize for the ages 15 through 17.

Today I’d like to thank her for always being funny and fun, for making me feel wanted, important, and safe. Thanks for reading to me. Thanks for making home a place I always wanted to go back to. Thanks for setting up the record player in my room and listening to me play the same songs all day long. Thanks for showing me how to do this very important job.

If I can give Gertie and Clara half the mothering you gave me, they’ll be the luckiest daughters in the world.

 

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.