I did not have an affectionate or interactive mom in the least, but children manage to take what they can from the experience of being raised by a female adult, and I did get some great influences from her including a love of history and art, and a gentle grace as a hostess.
My stories of my mom read more like a Pat Conroy novel, in fact, I swear "Prince of Tides" was a rip off my family experience.
My mother had some very strange quirky thoughts and old wive's tales that made life fun around the Day household.
She didn't let me play a wind instrument because she believed the lack of oxygen might render me mentally retarded. She also believed tickling someone caused them to permanently studder.
If anything was wrong with the car, we should check the water in the radiator.
She grew up in the Depression era and so in our mansion she burned all the household trash in the many fireplaces. One time, I came home from school to smell smoke and went into the living room where the fireplace front was completely black and mom's eyebrows had been burned off. She had thrown in an aerosol can by accident.
She also hated ironing. We had a refrigerator box in the hall closet and at the bottom of it was our baby clothes and the clothes on top were recent ones. She would keep things in the ironing basket until she got sick of seeing them and tossed them into the box to make them go away and would buy us new clothes. One time, she decided to teach me to iron.
While I stood over the ironing board working away at the huge pile, she sipped coffee, smoked a cigarette and told me in her soft West Virginia dialect. "You know, I had an aunt with scleraderma. It's a disease where you turn to stone. She was just ironing one day and froze in place." She sighed and puffed on the cigarette and looked at me ironing, "I wonder if that's inherited?"
I put the iron down and never did want to iron again.
Mom was missing a lot of necessary parts to be an effective mother or role model, but she did manage to me a lot of my logical tendencies because I had to dispute her strange logic all the time. And, she gave me endless memories of her odd beliefs and tendencies and developed my sense of humor because of it.
She passed away in 1998 and we knew it was coming for a long time since she was a 4-pack a day smoker, but I was finally able to forgive her for not giving me the loving nurturing I needed and I came to appreciate where she came from and what she overcame. Some people are in survival mode instead of thriving mode. Mom was one of them.
Happy Mother's Day, mom. You were an interesting role model.