Daily Foglifter: The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev** (1707-1782) of Shuya, Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. 67 of them survived infancy.
Mother’s Day is this weekend and I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot this week. We couldn’t be more different.
My mom is outspoken and doesn’t take any crap from anybody. I can still hear her arguing on the phone with incompetent insurance agents or in the customer service lines of department stores arguing with sales associates who neglected to honor their sales prices or return policies. I used to slink surreptitiously away, my face burning in embarrassment, hoping against hope she’d let it go. She never did. What’s fair is fair. If you make a promise, you darn well better keep it. If you have a job to do, you better do it right.
When I was twelve I didn’t recognize my mom for what she was–A champion of the little guy. My champion. When my second grade teacher made fun of me in front of the entire class because I still sucked my thumb, I’m sure she wasn’t prepared for the s**t-storm that awaited her when my mother paid her a visit. (s**t-storm is a word my mom would use and really, there’s no other way to say it without losing a certain nuance.) The last snide remark she made about my thumb-sucking was when I picked “The Thumbsucker’s Thumb” as my poem to recite in front of the class. She said, “Oh, well that’s a good poem for you,” placing that special mocking, contemptuous stress on the word “you” that is impossible to depict in written form. It wasn’t nice. I was 8 and understood she was being insulting. Witch.
I’d like to say that I’ve inherited this quality. I haven’t. I can stick up for myself, but only after I’ve taken too much crap for too long, I’ve had a nice, violent, angry cry, and I’ve literally written down what I’m going to say the next time I’m face to face with the bully. My mom is a pit-bull. I’m a chihuahua, tail tucked between the legs, shaking violently, and yipping.
The perfect example of our differences played out recently when I took my son to the doctor. You can read about that, here. She left me a comment:
as per your request I have kept my comments to myself, But right now I am so disappointed in you that I could slap YOU !
That’s right. I’ve actually asked her to not comment on The Blog. I have a very good reason. She actually commented, “I told you so” once. That seriously
hurts my pride undermines my authority, right? I know. It’s petty. BUT, I don’t care what she posts on Facebook. So we took the issue to Facebook, a conversation that prompted my dad to call me on the phone. He was concerned we were mad at each other and actually fighting. It was very sweet.
Of course I wasn’t mad. I can’t get mad at my mom for telling me what she thinks. Good Lord, if I got mad and considered us “in a fight” over that, we would be entrenched in a 30 Years War right now. We have always argued. One of my fondest teenage memories of my mom is her hopping over a laundry basket to chase me up the stairs as I squealed. I had smart-mouthed her one too many times and she’d had enough. She caught me, of course. Honestly, where did I think I was going? Out the front door would’ve been smart. Up the stairs? She totally had me cornered. When she got to me, we started laughing so hard all she could do was lightly slap me on the arm. I never knew she was so nimble. The sight of her leaping the laundry basket still cracks me up. Good times.
While I may not have inherited my mom’s tenacity, I certainly share her
pig-headedness passion. Don’t start an argument with either of us. We’ll nail your sorry butt to the wall. Our opinions are law and we don’t believe in leniency, for each other or anyone else. We actually had a Facebook argument about James Taylor. Yes, the all-important James Taylor issue. I hate him. She loves him. It got pretty heated.
I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve hijacked a friend’s wall to debate politics. My poor cousin made an innocent airport security comment and we were on her like white on rice. She eventually deleted the post. I was so ashamed I made the New Year’s Resolution of “No politics on Facebook.” (I know she’s reading this so let me just say, “I’m so sorry, Steph, and I will never do it again.” And the same goes to you, Kim, if you’re reading this. And anyone else I needlessly and viciously attacked.)
So I am like my mother, to a degree. From my mom I have the love of music, but not her talent. I learned to love John Wayne and Sam Eliot, but not James Taylor. I learned the secret of the best Red Velvet Cake in the universe, but not the knack for making perfect dumplings. She designs and builds houses and I design and build cakes. I am a diluted version of my mom, with one exception.
There is one thing I do out loud that she chose to do in secret. She’s probably not even aware that I know about her secret. I discovered it a long, long time ago. I’m not even sure how old I was at the time, but it had to be after 6th grade since we were in our new log home. I came across some papers covered in my mom’s pretty, elegant handwriting. I knew it was not for my eyes, but it didn’t stop me. I read it, hungrily. I can’t tell you the words. I can’t tell you if it was fact or fiction. All I know, as I knew then, is that my mom is a writer. I’d never felt more in awe of her. Or more proud.
Here I am, at about the same age as my mom when I discovered her hidden talent, taking the small, hesitant steps she chose not to make. I’ve always wanted to write. I made a promise to myself that I would be a writer. Is it scary? Yes. Is it embarrassing? Absolutely. But, you see, I am my mother’s daughter. I made a promise, I darn well better keep it. I have a job to do, and I better do it right. I’m a chihuahua, striving to be a pit bull.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.
Oh, the thumb-sucker’s thumb
May look wrinkled and wet
And withered, and white as the snow,
But the taste of a thumb Is the sweetest taste yet
(As only we thumb-suckers know).