Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mother May I?

My mom and me circa 1973
I sort of touched upon this with my first post, but lately I've noticed so many of my female peers giving up huge chunks of their own identities to become what they believe wives and/or mothers should be.  Us mommies are told to live for our children, to adore our husbands, and to have only the most humble needs of our own.  Maybe I'm seeing this so often because I live in the South, and naturally it's more conservative here.  But even in California and New York I find women looking inward less and less, almost to the point that they aren't even aware of what they REALLY want -- for themselves.

Perhaps this is a generational thing, as women in the 60's and 70's were encouraged to express their independence through multi-faceted layers: family, career, art, sex, etc.  Women's possibilities were limitless, and they still are, but today in 2011 it seems as if traditional womens' roles have backtracked a little.  I truly believe that those of us who are wives and/or mothers just need to be shaken up a bit and reminded that we also have to be true to ourselves -- to the inner voices and personalities that are yearning to get out and differentiate us.

This brings me to my own mother, who I haven't even known how to write about yet as our relationship is so big and complex.  Entire BOOKS have been written about mothers and daughters, and it is impossible for me to sum up my relationship with my mom in one succinct blog.  But what I can say is that she is one of the strongest, most independent-thinking women I know, and she never completely gave up her own needs and desires in all the years I have known her.  I may have been a bit traumatized by her strength and volatility at times, but I think ultimately I developed the greatest possible admiration for her, and for her free-thinking ways. 

OK, so to describe my mom, Lynn, she is physically pretty petite, although she doesn't exercise and I'm fairly sure she has never broken a sweat a day in her life (in fact, she may not even have pores).  Her hair, which is naturally brown, is always changing, mutating even.  First, it was dark brown and straight, then it was light brown and curly (during this phase my dad drew a picture of her with whited-out eyes, as she uncannily looked like Little Orphan Annie), then it was medium brown with wings a la Mrs Doubtfire, then it was a blond bob, then a blond pixie.  Now we are back to blond bob -- phew, thank God, I'm exhausted and can't keep up.  She has beautiful light green eyes too, and kind of freckley skin.  She is amazing with money and real estate, and she is truly gifted in these realms.  (Of course, the minute she starts talking about either money OR real estate, I find myself sort of glazing over and staring at her unusual glasses' frames, which are also ever-changing.  Clearly, I did not inherit those parts of her brain.)  She is a fervent animal lover, and she also fiercely loves my father, my brother, and me to the point that she has told me that when someone wrongs us she feels like a steroid-injected bull elephant inside, ready to trample them at a moment's notice.  And, yes, it's happened and it's not pretty.

But here's the most distinctive characteristic of my mom: her voice.  It can be both impossibly shrill and loud at the same time, almost inhuman in quality.  You should hear her call my dad for dinner, "FREEEEENNNNKK!!!  DO YOU WANT DINNER OR NOT??!!!" (The assumed tail-end of this sentence is "YOU BASTARD," which is or is not always spoken, depending on if we have company over.)  And when she used to pick me up in carpool line at my junior high, she would scream across the parking lot, "SSAAAARRRAAAHHH!!!  I'M OVER HEEEERE, KITTYCAT!!!  HOW IS YOUR BLISTER DOING?!?""  If it was possible to actually die of embarassment, I'm pretty sure that I would have during those precious after-school snippets.

I call my mom every day, not just because I love her and miss her, but also because we have the most amazing conversations.  Yes, she can't stop herself from occasionally interrupting (ahem...), but she also is a great listener, and if you ever need anything done, she is on it like milk on Rice Krispies.  Seriously, she'll come over and have my entire house organized in 2 hours.  It's almost scary.  (And yes, another part of her amazingly efficient brain I didn't inherit.)

My mother is an eternal optomist, and I adore that about her.  You can tell her that you lost your job, wrecked your car, and have the stomach flu, but that your annoying hangnail has suddenly healed, and she'll say, "Your hangnail is better?  That's FABULOUS, darling!!!"  And that's my mom.  Always seeing the positive.

To bring it all full circle, my mom always stood up for her beliefs, always made sure she was heard wherever she went, and always let my father know EXACTLY how she felt (I grew up hearing, "Go fuck yourself, Frank" so frequently that it has now actually become a soothing mantra I sometimes say to myself when meditating.).  She didn't care what the other, more reserved parents of our childhood thought of her.  She always refused to fit into anybody's mold, and that's not easy, especially when you grow up in a small town like Ojai.  I have learned so much from her, and I feel as if I can finally apply all of it just now, at this stage in my life, when I am searching for my own path, and not just the path of being a wife and a mother.  The path of finding out who I really am inside and what I really want. 

The bottom line is this: I am really, truly proud to have Lynn Kirk as my mother.  She has helped me grow and succeed more than words can express, and now, looking back, I can recognize her independence and fearlessness and use it to inspire my own unique journey.

So, thank you, Mom, I love you.  And, yes, my blister is just fine.


  1. I hope out kids love us this much and can express it like this one day! You are a great daughter and your mom sounds amazing.

  2. OMG Sarah, you described her so well. She has always scared me as well. I go to daddy as a buffer zone. I know it's not terrible grown up of me, but screaming makes me nervous. Having said that, your mom has been has been the most positive influence in my life, and she has taught me what a strong woman looks like. When I try to describe my step mom to friends it is always difficult. I just say that you really have to meet her to get it. She is like no other person I have ever met!