My fingers tap, tap, tap on the laptop resting on my thighs, and as I glance down it is the thing I notice first: my long, thin fingers rest easily on keyboard letters, but the knuckles that punctuate them carry dramatic weight to my otherwise dainty hands. These hands are increasingly familiar to me. They are the hands of my mother. My rings slide easily from front to back, and with room to spare the heavier, more ornate side is often hidden from view. The rings need to be a bit bigger in order to fit over my knuckles. It’s a silly little thing, really, but my mother’s hands tell this same story. I notice my veins, blue and three dimensional on the back of my hand, and I know that my once girl-like hands are growing into the hands of a woman, a mother: my mother.
My mom tells me it was one of my biggest fears as a child, becoming her. So much so that I spent a fifty minute hour with someone once a week for a bit, peeling this fear apart, piecing myself back together again, until I was finally convinced that we are, indeed, very separate individual selves. But it is not with fear that I ease into this, now. No, it is with laughter and a shake of my head, which is crowned with my long, auburn tresses, not her curly brown mane.
It’s the cup of coffee that sat in the microwave, overnight, abandoned and forgotten sometime yesterday afternoon. How many times have I opened the microwave in her kitchen to discover the exact same thing? While I may have simply thought it was her frenetic thoughts, her energy moving from one thing to the next, now I know the simple truth: as a mother, one is too often pulled away from one’s own desires of the moment, cups of coffee included.
And I have learned that I, too, have a “special place” where detritus with a wide array of importance gets tucked, so of course I will know exactly where it is when I need it. Our family still jokes with my mother about the treasure trove this will be when we finally find it! The birth certificates, the twenty dollar bill marked for an occasion. The photograph that she wanted to display, the magazine article she wanted to talk about. But now, I too am learning the hard way. A few weeks ago it was the tickets for my cousin’s graduation ceremony, too important to lose, of course. So I know that I tucked them someplace out of harm’s way, somewhere they wouldn’t get dunked into a trash can. It was a discovery too close for comfort when I finally found them in a basket on a shelf in the kitchen. I’m making a mental note to create an actual “special place” to alleviate further confusion.
In the kitchen, I open the cabinet, readying to prepare dinner. I reach for a recipe to act as a guide. Stashed in a plastic folder, with a zip top that is broken, is my collection of worn recipes. Originally, I was oh-so-very organized in my keeping. Carefully clipped recipes from magazines, housed in sheet protectors, clipped into a three ring binder, divided into categories. Carefully hand written recipes found their home there, too, printed with intention and clarity. Somewhere along the line, the organization depleted, I relied less on exotic new recipes and more on intuition and old favorites. Now it is the well-worn formulas, carelessly scribbled on the back of an envelope, with a currant jam stain on the corner that mark our meals. And this is exactly what my mother would say: though it may not show organization fit for another chef, she knows exactly what she is looking for when she sifts through her almost identical folder. That salmon recipe you were looking for? It’s on a small, 4×6 yellow paper from a hand printed notepad. Each meal tells a story.
There are other ways that I hope I’m growing into my mother, too. I hope that someday I will demonstrate the same keen ear for listening, hearing what is not being said just as much as holding the words that are spoken. She has a socratic way of sharing conversations, leading through insightful questioning, without judgement, but with care. It is from her that I first learned that words matter. And above all, she was, and is, love in all ways.
No, these days I’m not so scared of becoming my mother. This will no longer send me running towards psychiatric counseling, or into a new rebellion of my thirties. I know that there are just as many things that differentiate me from her, that are characteristically mine, or inherently from my other parent. As these hands of mine brush out the Middlest’s hair tonight before bed, I know the way these same hands feel combing their way through my own head. And one day, I wonder, if my own daughter will have rings that spin on her fingers, too.