Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Motherhood and Delusions of Grandeur. Or Just Delusions

When I was 17 years old, I had to have an EEG. It’s a procedure designed to specifically measure electrical activity in the brain. As always, my mother was by my side. They glued eight million electrodes to my hair and head. When they were finished, I remember the technician going on the other side of the glass with my mother and a nurse, staring at me, and saying “Ok, now sleep.” Not surprisingly, I found it more than a little difficult to nod off. After awhile, the nurse reappeared with a small cup of what looked like juice but tasted much sweeter. It was orange. It was incredibly Alice in Wonderland-esque. I swear in my mind’s eye it was even served by a rabbit in a top hat with a label on it that said, “drink me.” And drink it I did.

When I woke up, I remembered nothing. I looked particularly fun – like some sort of crazed medusa, the forgotten love child of Gene Shalit and Gene Wilder, if they’d mated, had a baby, stuck it’s finger in a light socket, and tried to give it a home permanent. I literally could not feel my feet. I felt like I was floating, but with heavy ankles. I had glue all over my head, an excessively dry mouth, and a remarkably shallow grip on the present reality. Naturally, the hospital sent me home.
As we walked through the parking garage, I remember I tripped over what seemed like my own ankles. Weird – why were they so heavy? Is this even possible? And then I started to laugh: a loud, shroom-induced, manic kind of laugh. I couldn’t stop myself. They had given me some sort of weird orange-y laughing medicine. I laughed so hard I actually wet my pants a little bit. And then I laughed some more. And there was my poor mother, quickly fumbling for her keys so she could shove her disheveled, gene shalit-esque daughter with glued hair, wet pants, and a snorty laugh into the family Buick as quickly as possible.

It was just past lunch time as we drove home and mom thought it would be a good idea to get something to eat. As we pulled into the deli parking lot, she quickly realized she was too embarrassed to eat lunch with me. Or even order takeout with me. So she left me laughing and talking to myself while she went inside. And when she returned with lunch, she found me just as she had left me, a snorting, gluey-haired hot mess. And then she turned to me and said what I assume most great mothers would say: “You look like an idiot. Shut up and eat your sandwich.”
I stopped laughing – just for a second – and looked up at her. And then I started to laugh again. And this time she did too. And we sat there laughing and snorting together in the deli parking lot with our sandwiches on our lap.

Now I’m sure you are wondering – why the hell is she telling me this?
Because I was thinking about this story as I walked through the pharmacy this morning, all adorned with aisle after aisle of lovely mother’s day cards with pink envelopes and flowers and filled with references to rosy cheeks and tender smiles, the pitter patter of feet and the sweetness and sanctity of motherhood. And not one of them would’ve said what I was feeling about my mother’s love today. It’s the card that doesn’t exist to the mom I can’t give it to. It would have read something like this:

 “Dear Mom, thank you for laughing with me. Even when I totally embarrassed you. Also, thank you for never forgetting the Jewish mom code of honor and remembering that even when your daughter doesn’t even know who or where she is, for g-d’s sake make sure she has something to eat. After all, you don’t want her to starve.”
Because it’s just what we do. We stand by them and love them. We’re embarrassed and proud, fearful and hopeful all at once. We laugh with them and at them. We feed them. We're mothers.

So happy almost mother’s day to her, and to me, and all of you.  And no matter what, don’t forget the sandwich.

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