Well At Least There Were No Issues With Wire Hangers

The Milwaukee Public Museum was always my favorite with its dark and vaguely ominous Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit and the oddly static but roaring dinos that every city's museum seems to have. With a great downtown and Chicago at our doorstep we did schloads of field trips, the art museum, the Field Museum in Chicago, the symphony, the kids theatre, the kid's science museum. The field trips are some of my fondest school memories.


My mom was a single working parent, and more than a little fly by the seat of her pants. So while most of the kids got kickass paper sack lunches with Capri Suns and multi-layered sandwiches and bags of Doritos, and Little Debbie snack cakes, me? I usually got my mom's leftover t-bone from her client dinner the night before encased in tinfoil shaped like a swan . Really Mom, how is a seven year old supposed to eat steak on the bone in a museum cafeteria with no knife?

Thrown in for good measure was a hard boiled egg with a little plastic baggie filled with salt, and a Tab. Who gives their kids Tab? And salt? No wonder I'm only five foot tall. My kids school hasn't done much so far in the way of field trips and I've been far too lazy a parent to take them anywhere good. Sigh. But at least I make my children proper lunches.

Notice the expression on my face when I realize a 17 year old and 19 year old
are resposible with rearing me. Oh oh!


Though I was grateful when I finally was allowed to buy “hot lunch”, lunches were not the only thing that suffered as a result of having a harried career mom. My mother was only seventeen when she had me, so when I was seven, she was just twenty-four, not exactly the apex of responsibility. Still, she was a creative problem solver.

Many mornings she would sleep through her alarm clock. Rather than bark at me to hurry up she'd say, ok, it's a race, whoever gets dressed first wins! My mom knew only too well my competitive streak and I would yank my pants on in a flurry and string my clear plastic glitter belt through my belt loops missing most of them. No socks, socks took too long to get on, pebbly because they were from like three years ago and way too tight. Brushed teeth? Time waster. I think I may have even inadvertently gone to school with my shirt on inside out more than once. Yet, as a hungry seven year old, my stomach would not let me forget about breakfast. "Breakfast?" She'd say on the days we were minutes away from being both tardy and fired, "not everyone eats breakfast every morning." Seriously Mom, couldn't you have stocked a few lousy Poptarts?

I'm not saying that my mom neglected me, just that she neglected to pick me up from school a few times. There I'd sit on the steps at school, reading my book, waiting for my mom's red Pontiac to pull in the circle drive. Moments like these in part probably explain why I became such an avid reader. As it neared four o'clock, the teachers exited the building, most of them giving me the odd worried look but saying nothing. Occasionally, the young, fresh, helpful new ones would ask, where's your mom honey? "She's on her way," I'd say, knowing even at seven I was going to be able to milk this one awhile.

My mom didn't let me smoke, she just let me pretend to smoke, totally different.

It wasn't always easy being the only child of a single mom trying to make the mortgage and compete in the workforce. As a radio salesperson, she worked long hours and weekends, but the job did have it's perks. Trade was something reps worked out with local businesses, free goods and services for free commercial time. The intent was Joe's restaurant got some commercials and the station reps could take clients to Joe's for lunches on the house. I didn't realize that not everyone's mom could just sign her name to the bill with her business card and leave. These lunches and dinners were meant for clients but especially in the early days of making ends meet, we had many “business” meals together my mother and I. Many of the restaurants were very nice, not exactly normal for a child. It was here that I first developed a taste for very good food. I was hardly sixteen when I was grilling our local butcher on which steaks he was giving me. Don't you have any that are better marbled I'd ask, are these dry aged? Prime?

When I have my finer moments of parenting and fear I've scarred my kids for good, I just look back to my own childhood. Were it not for the missteps, I would not have the sense of humor I do. Most of my favorite funny people have a wry and witty sense of humor breed as an elaborate self-defense mechanism--tragedy begets comedy. Were I to be the perfect mother, I would be denying my children stories to harangue me with later and that in itself is a form of child abuse, no? So in my epic fail moments I sit back and consider that my mistakes will someday be reflected upon by my own kids as they traverse the rocky waters of parenthood.

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9 comments:

thecheekofgod said... June 13, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

My kids are going to need therapy before I'm finished with them . . .

(btw, you win the Word Verification of the day award . . . "moporifi". What a cool word!)

Gwen said... June 13, 2009 at 12:40 PM  

Your mom sounds awesome, imperfectly awesome. I think you're right about our mistakes being the things our kids will remember and (hopefully) laugh about when they grow up. I'm always laughing about the fucked up things in life. Sometimes, I think it's the only thing that keeps me from losing my mind.

Florida Girl In Sydney said... June 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM  

My husband's parents forgot him at school too, youngest of five kids syndrome, etc. But it sounds like your mom did what she could to try and make it all happen.

And to think one day we'll be the subject of our kids blog posts... they'll be all traumatized and emo that we put them on the naughty step and let them play wii while we were on the internet.

A Free Man said... June 14, 2009 at 4:44 PM  

At 24, I was in the midst of a drug induced crisis of my own making. Trying to get out of Seattle and to find a safe place to land. I couldn't take care of myself. So I'm impressed that your mom kept you alive at that age. What's a skipped breakfast now and again?

This post has gotten me thinking that sometimes I try too hard. I mean, I'm not saying I'm going to start neglecting my kids, but my Mom worked hard with us and both my sister and I spent most of our teens, twenties (and in my sister's case thirties) fighting her and fucking about. I guess there's probably some middle ground between neglect and smothering, huh?

Mongoliangirl said... June 15, 2009 at 4:56 AM  

Oy vey, this makes me think of my own 'Smother Mother'. A smart and beautiful, yet unendingly tense woman.
Everything was going to be p.e.r.f.e.c.t...her, my brother and I, my dad, our house, our clothing, even the family dog.
It was awful.
What I would have given to have laughter instead of shame, embarrassment, tension and keeping secrets over normal human foibles.
Oh well...we didn't get wire hangers either. And, once I learned to laugh at myself, I never stopped.

Gypsy said... June 15, 2009 at 7:50 AM  

You make do, right? My mom worked and was very successful, and it meant that I'd have to wait around after school sometimes, and we went to Morrison's cafeteria to eat a couple times a week, and I'd go hang out at her office when she was overloaded and couldn't find someone to watch me. But you know what? She did a damn good job of raising me and building a successful career. Sounds like your mom did, too.

Rassles said... June 15, 2009 at 1:37 PM  

My mom...well, she wanted things to be acceptable and nice. Sometimes I wish I was more rebellious as a child, or that my life was different than all the other suburban white girls, somehow.

But I like who I am now, more or less. So wishing to change that would jut be pointless.

Your childhood sounds fascinating.

Del-V said... June 17, 2009 at 6:32 AM  

Nice work!

Blues said... July 3, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

I just loved this post.

It didn't mirror exactly my childhood but it was pretty close. I remember very few times that my mother actually made dinner. If she did, she ruined the meal by forgetting to salt it or forgetting to not scorch it or whatever. My father made more dinners, but they were normally tuna sandwiches. My kids are gonna get like gourmet meals, mainly because compared to what I grew up on, I eat gourmet meals in my house like every day.

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