13, But Who's Counting?
By Mindi Rudan
Heading back-to-school always started the great bangs debate. “I couldn’t have bangs, growing up,” I moaned to my mother for what seemed like the 99th time.
“All my friends had bangs and you — I really enunciated the you part — wouldn’t let me. Cher had bangs, everyone wanted to look like Cher, but YOU wouldn’t let me have bangs and I really, really wanted them.”
“Holy Christmas trees,” said Mom, “it’s the freakin’ bangs thing again?”
“You have a widow’s peak,” (she enunciated that part equally well), for what also seemed like the 99th time we had had this discussion. “Widow’s peaks were special, glamorous even, if you had the fa-cockkta bangs, they would have covered it. And everyone your age had bangs then, so you would’ve looked ordinary, besides.”
At this juncture, in the middle of this near scripted game of verbal ping-pong, Mom looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Min, here’s the deal. The statute of limitations on mommy bashing has come…AND GONE! That ship left the dock a long time ago. You turned out pretty terrific in my book. What I did, I did. What I didn’t do, I just didn’t do. Get over it. If there’s anything else you’d like to complain about from your childhood, write a letter to the Mommy Complaint Department…or bite me. Now let’s go to lunch.”
And just like that, we giggled and out the door we went.
I also remember another time we were having this wicked argument; funny, but for the life of me I can’t remember what we were so heated about, just that we had been going at each other like wildcats. Her point of view, then mine. Voices raised, tempers flaring. Dad looking at us like we were nuts as he waived his newspaper in mock disgust.
I had just walked out of the room reeling from the last barb she aced over the net when I came up with a pearl of my own. Knowing this was game, set and match, I hurled myself back into their bedroom and delivered my own lob, and with dramatic flair of a pointed forefinger added: “IF I DEE SAY SUE MYSELF” for good measure.
If I dee say sue myself????? Huh??
I meant, if I do say SO, myself. Even my father put down the paper and started to laugh, and he was a tough audience. My mother at this point—as mad as she was at me—WAS HOWLING. The deep, RAH-HA-HA laughter that often shook our house. And to add insult to injury, she was shoving her forefinger in the air MOCKING ME, as she repeated the “dee say sue” part….
I was—mortified—for a minute. Holy crap, my shining moment. My chance at a sarcastic, match-winning lob and I choke, sending the ball crashing into the net…IF I DEE SAY SUE…?????
Now, I’m convulsimg, too. We laughed and laughed for hours. And for years afterwards, could not for the life of us remember the argument that had started it, but everyone in the family constantly ended mock tirades with a pointed finger and the “if I dee say sue myself” ending.
Mom and I had a hard time even staying mad at each other for more than an hour. We’d try, but one or the other would come up with some lame reason to call or make nice. She was a great mom, she had a temper (apples don’t fall far from the tree) but she never, ever held a grudge.
I remembered this story on July 11th, the day AFTER the new Life/Lifestyle Magazine deadline (sorry guys) when I sat down to pen this. The 13th anniversary of her passing. Sitting on the pink (yes, pink) granite bench Hank and I had built for my parents’ gravesite, I was laughing AND crying. Anyone who has lost someone they so miss understands the joy of recalling happy times at the deeply painful time when staring at a marker of their life in the ground.
July 11th signaled that unreal milestone for me as I wiped waterproof (!!!) mascara from my cheek. I see that date on the calendar every year, and every year am over-whelmed when emotions I keep safely bottled surface. I do wake up happy almost every day of my life—except mom’s birthday, Mother’s Day and July 11.
They say time heals all wounds, but it’s not true. Time allows you to go forward, to go on, but it doesn’t heal, it simply assuages like anesthetic. And the anesthetic is wonderful. The amazing friends, the family, our animals, my garden, my new Dior sunglasses! All provide sweet, intoxicating anesthesia. But these three days no matter how many lunches I go to with the friends I love, no matter how intense the project I’m working on is, how many “kissies” from my babies, or how overly bling bling the sunglasses are—the drug wears off, and even mainlining the good life I am so grateful for, just doesn’t assuage the loss I still feel.
I miss HER.
I miss that embarrassing RAH, HA HA belly laugh.
I miss the “bite me.” I miss her being my best friend and steadfast cheerleader. I miss her mom-wisdom and sarcastic goofiness. I miss the verbal ping-pong. Hearing her voice on the answering machine, “Hi Min, this is your muth-a.” I miss the feeling of being so deeply loved by her, that I felt that I could leap tall buildings in a single bound.
With whatever warts I have—and there are some pretty prickly places on this mountain Momma—I knew I was so completely and totally loved by her, that it made so much of what is still scary, unsettling or uncertain about life, somehow, easier to navigate. Hindsight is indeed piercingly 20/20, and my retro vision is stealth. She was the absolute best—and that I do say so myself.