What to say about my mother that is suitable to print in a public forum?
She and my father got married when she was the same age as I am. When she became pregnant just a few months later she decided that she had to learn everything about creating the best environment for a baby. And, I mean everything.
Think about it. It is nineteen eighty one. We are talking about a woman who David Bowie could have had arrested for stalking on more than one occasion. A woman who changed into a white pantsuit at her wedding reciption so she could fly across the ceiling of the club on a trapeeze. She and my father were both professional, fulltime bartenders. She was the only-child of lower-middle class parents, one of whom didn’t even finish grade school. She herself had barely found the interest to get through high school.
All of that just makes my mother’s baby initiative – and really my whole childhood – all the more amazing.
She did not take any aspect of her young motherhood for granted – she questioned everything. And, my mother discovered very quickly that just because something was socially accepted, or scholastically average, or even medically recommended, didn’t mean it was beneficial for a baby Peter.
Example #1 – I was not allowed to eat hotdogs or drink soda, and my father’s side of the family was determined to give me both. One one occasion I was convinced to eat half of a hot dog and – predictably – became sick. I have never seen my mother come so close as to devouring someone’s very soul as I did that night. SHE was the mother, and SHE said NO hotdogs, so THERE WOULD BE NO HOTDOGS.
To this day I don’t drink soda.
Example #2 – In first grade one of my classmates got placed into a mentally gifted program because he was smart. My mother pointed out that I was also smart, but got fed some sort of B.S. in reply about how I didn’t carry my numbers when I did addition in long columns. So, she had me tested in a controlled environment. When they checked my test they informed her that I hadn’t answered a tough word problem correctly. She pointed out that I had, but that I had just skipped showing my work because I used multiplication to solve the problem.
Example #3 – When I started visiting orthodontists to consult over my impending braces, one offhandedly told her he would have to pull out several teeth to make things work. I think she physically picked me up out of his chair to leave the office. I wound up without a single tooth pulled and a perfect smile.
Also, my mother never once patronized me just because I was a child – as soon as I was old enough to carry a conversation was expected to do so in all circumstances, and to make change for myself when we played Monopoly. And, so I did. I used to eschew naptime in kindergarten in favor of chatting about current events with the teachers. I watched the nightly news and Johnny Carson almost every night of my childhood.
In my anecdotes my mother is usually painted as comic relief, sometimes as a foil, and often as as a too-patronizing voice of reason. However, She will still devour your soul if you fuck with her, me, or her cat. She still has frighteningly good taste in music (David Bowie included).
And, much to my continual exasperation, she still questions just about everything.