Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Two Bettys

Hey, Jack White – I'll see YOU
at the Orange Peel!
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20)

May is a big month for us this year: Bill’s 8th birthday, a “date” trip to Asheville to see Jack White at the Orange Peel (hahahaha... jealous?!), my niece’s high school graduation... My niece Gabriel and her parents live in Maryville TN - about a 6-hour drive from here, and ever since they sent us the date, we’ve been going back and forth about whether to go, what it would entail, and how to also accomplish seeing Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie on opening night, which happens to fall the Friday night before.

Johnny Depp as
Barnabas Collins
We had planned to all go as a family, giving my mom a ride, and stopping over in Asheville on Friday night where she would stay with Bill and Tom and I would enjoy the creeptacular exploits of Barnabas and various other Collinses... but when we learned that the ceremony would be at 10am on Saturday – with a late afternoon party to follow, that plan was sort of squashed. So now we’re thinking about maybe just me and my mom going. My husband, who has a low patience threshold, thinks it will drive me crazy, while I think it could be fascinating. Work, yes, but also fascinating. I think it could be like a zany road movie, only instead of wild guys or rebellious women, it would be us – imagine Nancy Reagan and... I don’t know... Roseanne Barr, maybe, on a road trip. Or to make the analogy more au courant... Sleek Betty Draper and ... this season's Betty Draper. 

and Roseanne Barr.
We're Nancy Reagan...
I know that it may be a frustrating trip... It takes my mom longer to decide what to order in a restaurant than it takes me to cook, eat and clean up dinner... which is weird, because all she ever orders is a house salad. And it takes her longer to get ready to go somewhere than it takes me to ... do almost anything. And rest assured, I am not commenting on the slowness of an elderly woman – she has been like this as long as I can remember. But you know what? I love to read, and I plan  to have Neal Stephenson’s Anathem with me. Planning for frustration is very helpful, although one can’t possibly anticipate every possible frustrating situation... 

Or maybe Betty
Draper from
 last season...
and Betty Draper from
this season.
It might be fun to concoct my own private games to make the trip bearable - like I could  make a drinking game where I take a swig from a convenient hip flask every time she gives me advice about what to wear or what not to eat... or I could make a point of ordering the most greasy disgusting thing on the menu every time we eat and giggle to myself as she watches in horror while I inhale it and wipe my hands on my shirt... 

And I won’t deny that my elegant mom may also be planning ways to deal with my frustrating qualities. Maybe she’s going to take a swig every time I eat something gross or wear something embarrassing or mention God. Or maybe she hates my impatience and how I’m always, in her view, rushing around. This would not surprise me at all. Not that she’s the kind of person who would turn her frustration into a mocking game... I just mean that I am aware that I, also, may prove as difficult a travel companion to her as she may be to me. Maybe more so.  

And as fun as the mocking games might be, I think a much more entertaining way would be to throw myself into the trip, enjoying it for it is. While we are stuck in the car for all those monotonous hours on I-40, I would love to hear stories about her early years. Her mother – my grandmother Martin – was born in 1897, and would often surprise us by coming out with ideas that were shockingly Victorian. In her college photos she looks like a Gibson Girl. I’d love to hear more about growing up with THAT elegant lady. I’d love to know more about my dad, and more about their courtship and marriage. Now that I’m married, I would actually have something to compare it to. And what about world events? What does my mom remember of the Depression or World War II? What was her take on the sixties? What was going through her brain when she first saw hippies? 
Studs Terkel collected
first hand accounts. Maybe I
can get some from my mom.

I think that stuff would all be extremely interesting. After all, I love reading first-hand accounts of other times – like those gathered by Studs Terkel. Of course, it may be that taking care of five children distracted her from current events just the slightest bit. But that would be interesting too - to hear how she managed to raise five children. I mean, raising one child is wearing ME out!

If any of this is coming off as disrespectful to my the woman who gave me birth, I really don’t mean it to be. She’s an awesome lady who has accomplished a great deal... powering through hard circumstances, achieving great feats of life and living. I’m just saying...  it’s probably not going to be easy for an impatient, impetuous, sloppy, young(ish) woman to travel with a deliberate, dainty, hesitant older woman. But if anyone can do it, we can. We both have the delightful pleasure of being middle children, after all. In fact, I’ve occasionally wondered if any discord between us is not due to our differences, but to our similarity! If this is the case, I’m thinking I should be able to empathize and show grace more easily... or would I just get more frustrated when I see qualities I would change in myself? 

Check out commandment number V!
Just thinking about this is giving me kind of a headache, because it makes me think about my future with my child. Right now, he adores us... he says I’m beautiful and the best mom in the world. Sure, sometimes he’s frustrated... like I won’t come look at something RIGHT NOW... or buy him a $300 LEGO set... he’s even already embarrassed when I sing in public. But on the whole, he think’s I’m soooo great. I’m dreading, though, the day when I an a constant source of humiliation to him, too strict, hopelessly unhip, and just plain stupid. How much will I frustrate him? Especially since I am already old! I mean, when he’s 20, I’ll be... oh, it’s just too much to think about...! 

In the Bible, in several places it has to tell young people to respect and take care of the old people - heck it’s one of the big 10, right? Things going well for us in the land depend on honoring our parents. I’m thinking that if it were easy and obvious, the Biblical writers wouldn’t have to go on about it. I mean, if you had a crummy childhood due to some failing of your parents, it’s especially hard to honor them; and if your childhood was quite nice and your parents showed you the love... well, you still may be irritated now and then with them. It’s an odd relationship, after all. They have fed you, cared for you and wiped your bottom, so you have that history, but now you’re an adult and they are required to relate to you in a whole new way. That's got to be hard... Of course it’s easy for me to speculate about it because I have only seen one side. I wonder how it will be to be the parent of the adult child? Maybe I’ll ask my mom on the trip...

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