It has been said that a woman can’t truly understand and appreciate her own mother until she becomes a mother herself. I find so much truth in this saying. However, my own mother continues to reveal surprising little tidbits nearly nine years after I became a mom……reminding me there are still so many surprises to be discovered. One notable revelation occurred this past Christmas. Let me give you a bit of background that led up to the Mom Shock of 2015……
Matt and I had the incredible opportunity to visit Italy nine years ago, just months before having our first child. It was something that had been on our to-do list for several years. In a moment of sheer panic in early 2007, I told him we needed to take this trip before the baby arrived. In my mind, despite the joy and excitement I knew was imminent, I assumed life as we knew it was over. I feared that if I didn’t see Italy as a waddling, round-bellied lady, I’d be unable to see it until I had my AARP card. After much consideration, planning and budgeting, we booked the trip.
Half-smiling, likely due to a delay in my ‘every-half-hour’ feeding schedule, for a photo in Burano.
To say we had a good time would be an understatement. Apparently, my waddle and big belly broke cultural boundaries. Everyone went out of their way to be kind to me. We received a few raised eyebrows from other American tourists who couldn’t believe I would brave an international trip at nearly 30 weeks pregnant. Or that I could eat gelato four times a day.
It was strictly for the calcium.
We visited all the typical tourist sites but the most memorable day was simply getting lost in Venice. Truthfully, you can’t get lost in Venice because it’s a relatively small island. There are also signs on EVERY corner pointing back to San Marco and Rialto, two popular landmarks. Those two facts allow you to simply roam around without being overly concerned about getting lost.
Curious (and hungry) we headed out to see the island with no agenda in particular. We enjoyed the day looking in dozens of different shops that sold a variety of souvenirs. The first shop held the most beautiful, miniature, glass Christmas trees. I had never seen anything quite like them. They were terribly delicate and their branches reminded me of glass toothpicks that held tiny, colorful ornaments. I wanted to buy this specific little tree but was certain there were other shops that might have more remarkable trees. (I’m also hopelessly indecisive.)
Indecisiveness in full swing, we set out again on our goal to get lost. We passed no less than 15 other shops with similar trees but none as precious as the first. We eventually made our way back and purchased the little tree. We hand carried it back to Indiana for fear it would be crushed by baggage handlers. If you have flown (even a little) you know those guys launch bags like it’s an Olympic sport.
Over the next nine years that little tree became one of my favorite, most treasured Christmas decorations. We had to carefully package it in these microscopic Styrofoam beads each year. It held a spot WAY up high once active kids entered the picture.
Which brings us to Christmas 2014.
Picture it….postpartum mom (the baby was six months old but I claim postpartum excuses for at least a year) totally going about her business as she notices her child approaching the shelf with said tree.
Don’t touch that. Don’t climb up there. Don’t even THINK about getting that stool any closer. That is a reeeeaaaallllly special decoration to me. It is to be looked at and NOT to be touched. Capisce? (Because I was channeling my inner Italian)
Some time later a trembling child approached me with what appeared to be glass matchsticks. It took a few seconds for me to fully realize the damage. My tree. MY TREE! My adorable little ‘hand-chosen, hand-carried-across-multiple-countries, hand-packaged-every-year-for-nearly-a-decade-tree’ had been brutalized. Victimized at the hands of my offspring. The very creatures who served as the catalyst for the Italy trip in the first place.
The story goes something like this….. My earlier speech didn’t have the impact I was hoping for (imagine that) and the child apparently DID move the stool closer, DID climb up on the highest shelf and DID take down the glass tree.
To show his younger sister.
Who found it to be a fantastic past-time to break off each limb. Piece. By. Piece.
went ballistic, like crazy town, freaking out, teary insane did not respond well. My mother happened to be present to witness the meltdown. It wasn’t pretty.
Before I proceed, there are a few things you need to know about my mother:
- She is hopelessly optimistic and sees the bright side in most situations. She sees the best in people. She tends to take a junky situation and try to shine it up.
- She had Bell’s Palsy in 2000. (Bell’s Palsy is a condition where the facial nerves get inflamed.In addition to temporary facial paralysis, she had an eye-twitch that has flared up occasionally over the last 16 years. She’s particularly twitchy when stressed.)
- She doesn’t harshly discipline her grandchildren. She will correct them and keep them from harm, she will engage them in right/wrong conversations but she does not take it upon herself to raise her voice or punish them.
So, you’ve got a slightly unhinged mom (me) blubbering over her victimized glass Christmas tree. I’m not certain if I was more upset that my little decoration was now trashed or that my three year old was bold enough to methodically break off the pieces branch by branch. I’ll confess I was a bit concerned for her baby brother’s safety.
(For those of you shaking your heads at me for a perceived lack of decent parenting, I want you to know I was appreciative that no one was hurt in the climbing of the shelf or maiming of my treasured tree. However, after I realized all skin was intact, the crying began. One more point of clarification… I’m good for one solid, highly emotional crying fit about every six months…..broken tree or not. The combined holidays, broken tree, postpartum state was a bit like the perfect storm.)
At this point, my mother (keep in mind the previously shared facts) ushered the kids upstairs. She didn’t reappear for quite some time. I didn’t know what had been said but I did know the kids were much quieter after her little chat. I eventually calmed down, regained composure, remembered it was just a decoration, etc. Life moved on.
Days later my mom shared the full experience and we all got a good laugh. Apparently, she laid the law down to my children, telling them their defiance and disobedience had resulted in something getting damaged and could’ve resulted in some serious bodily harm. She was really into her speech, confident her words were making an impact, when my oldest daughter tried to interrupt her. My mom wasn’t having any of the the intended interruptions and kept. on. preaching.
Finally, my daughter stopped her mid sentence and said, “Mimi, do you know when you get angry…… your face…… does this….this thing…..and……and……and your eye gets all …….scrunched up?”
Mimi was apparently not as amused with the Bell’s Palsy after-effect observation as her granddaughter. She continued her lecture when my daughter interrupted yet again (It’s apparent we’ve got a lot of work to do around here with our kids) to say, “Yeah, Mimi…..it’s doing it…….it’s doing it……..it’s twitching…..RIGHT NOW!”
We’re still working on keeping certain personal observations, such as twitchy eyes, to ourselves. It’s a work in progress.
Flash forward to Christmas of 2015. I opened my last gift and it was a precious little glass tree. I recognized it as my mom’s own tree which she was now graciously passing down to me. It was such a sweet gesture and I appreciated the sentiment. I thought she was clearly trying to replace my own tree. However, the icing on the cake was when she pulled me aside and said, “This gift has double meaning. I want you to have another glass tree BUT, more importantly, may this tree forever remind you of the day I wanted to freak out on your kids but did not.”
Apparently, my optimistic, silver lining mother was ready to implode while dealing with my kiddos. Being the awesome Mimi she is, she kept her composure and did her best to let them know she was not impressed with their behavior in a loving way. On the inside she was ready to erupt.
For me, this confession was a defining moment. As a mother, I get frustrated with some of my kids’ antics. As a grandmother, my mom is quick to let me know they are perfectly normal or it’s just a phase or they sure are cute. These are encouraging, wonderful words and truthfully what I need to hear 99.9% of the time. But there is the .1% when I need her to agree with me that it’s very possible my kids have signed a pact to ruin my sanity. That their sole intent is to make me crazy loco coo-coo before the youngest is potty trained. I need her to admit that if she was in my shoes she might pack her bags and grab the nearest Greyhound headed…..well….anywhere.
While not those specific words, I got pretty close on Christmas morning! Mimi always sides with the little ones. But not this time! Not after the Great Tree Trimming of 2015! She was my mom before she was a Mimi and she is on my side this time. She had seen the effects of my three rather ‘spirited’ children in full force and she sided with ME. It was a Christmas gift to remember. And the after effects carried me through to this Mothers Day! Another piece of the puzzle revealed. It was insight into my sweet momma…..my sweet momma who just may lay the smack down with a mad eye twitch if you’re not careful.
My precious mother, in the midst of her Bell’s Palsy, complete with ‘Pirate Pam’ eye patch. She may kill me for this………
Mom, thank you for loving all of us…despite meltdowns and tantrums and a fixation on your eye-twitch.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! We all love you!