The other night, I sat watching the Olympics. My legs rested on the coffee table with a blanket draped over them, my arms half crossed and my chin resting in one palm, my hand holding a wadded-up tissue.
Kind of like this, except without the computer:
I turned to my husband to say something and then looked back at the TV. Suddenly, a flash of memory, of hundreds of memories, appeared so clearly in my mind that it was almost like I was inside it: growing up, I had seen my mother make that same gesture–that blanket-draped, chin-cupped, tissue-wadded, TV-viewing gesture–dozens of times.
It’s common to have those moments when you think, “I sound just like my mom.” I’ve had plenty already. But this was the first time I felt like my mom, like I inhabited her body–the her I knew as a child.
I was already sensitive to the I’m-my-mom feeling because of the wadded-tissue thing. I don’t really remember a time my mom wasn’t plagued by allergies, by the need to exit a conversation posthaste to run for a Kleenex. She’s always had a tissue stuffed in her coat pocket. When we go on walks, if it’s too warm for a coat, she stuffs one up her sleeve. She sleeps with one under her pillow.
I never had allergies, so I never had to deal with the suffering of feeling like a little guy with a feather was up inside one nostril, tickling away.
Until recently. Now–you guessed it–I sleep with a tissue under my pillow. I always have Kleenex in my purse or coat pocket. I keep them in the car and various cabinets. I now spend the first fifteen minutes of every day sneezing in the kitchen.
Also, I now say things my mom always said, things like:
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
“Jesus H. Christ.” (A more formal version of the name, for business cards.)
“For Cripes Sake.” (Not sure of the spelling, since I’m not sure what this is.)
“In or out.” (said sternly on summer days when the children exit and enter the house several times per second)
“I can’t keep my eyes open. What time is it? 9:30? Sigh.”
“But you like [insert food]. Just eat it.”
So the other night on the couch was really just the culmination of what I already knew: in many ways, I’m my mom.
How about you? When did you know you were your mother?