when i was 38 i got a package from my sweet momma. of course, it was from poppo too but he was pretty much a follower on this one. i excitedly opened the big box and there was a note inside. it read something like, “surprise! it’s about time…thought you could have one of these now.” curious, i continued to rapidly unwrap. inside this simply wrapped gift (for my momma had to mail it to me across the country and everyone knows that those sticky bows get squished when you mail them) was —- wait for it —- a barbie doll with chandelier earrings in a huge party dress with pastel flowers glued onto it! now, that – blossom beauty barbie – sounds like an unusual gift at 38, but you have to know the back-story…
my momma would not let me have a barbie when i was growing up. ahead of her time, she felt that the barbie-body was somewhat unconscionably derisive for women and the feminist in her was railing against having her own little girl fall prey to that attitude. and so, she never let me get a barbie of my own. instead, she got me the doll penny brite, an adorable, flat-chested, bright-faced, modestly-dressed doll who just looked 1960s happy. a little later i got a skipper doll, who was barbie’s younger sister – clearly she hadn’t inherited the same physical genes barbie had. not being particularly well-endowed myself, in later years, i teased my mom that she had given me nothing to aspire to, but she just pursed her lips and tried not to laugh.
so this was a big deal – getting a barbie from my momma. it’s too perfect that it happened to be one of the tackiest barbies out there. but i received this from her when i had my own little girl and she probably guessed i was about to start buying her some barbies (so as not to be “the only one” in her group of little girlfriends without one, like me, still recovering from non-barbie-ptsd.) momma was quirky that way.
we were driving the other day and had to head into a shop that was on the other side of the street. i said aloud to d that i was going to “go up to the light” so that i didn’t have to cross traffic (in my defense, it would have taken forever to cross.) oh no! words coming out of my mouth directly from momma. she had this thing about crossing traffic. she would give me directions to get places all by making right turns, just to not cross traffic. it didn’t matter how much or how little traffic; she just preferred not to cross it. quirky, eh?
once, my sister told our momma that she had a friend who was struggling financially and had little children to feed. the little boy loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the subject came up that he liked the little containers of jelly you get in diners when you eat out for breakfast. after that, my sweet momma never ever passed up the chance to take those little containers of jelly and wrap them in her napkin to put in her pocketbook (aka purse) so that she could save them for this little boy. even at assisted living, she encouraged everyone at her table (and other tables) to “save your jellies” so she could collect them all. now, it would have been easy/easier to buy small jars of jelly and peanut butter to give to this young woman for her children, but momma was on a quest…jellies it was. quirky.
this morning we laid in bed a little longer with our coffee and talked about momma. two years ago, right about now, the very moment i am writing this, my sweet momma took her last breaths on this earth. i cannot believe it has been two years; i cannot believe it has been only two years. both are true. and i’m betting that you can read, without the words, that i miss her…beyond words.
i’m sure there were times between my growing up and now that i found myself saying something or doing something or having an expression on my face that was identical to my sweet momma’s. i’m sure at some of those times i rolled my eyes thinking “whattheheck?” and trying to push back the momma-isms. i’m betting the girl and the boy find themselves every now and again thinking, saying, doing something that makes them push back at being a little like me. sometimes, we try so hard to escape the genetics, until one day, we realize we are damn proud of some of these traits, some of the quirkiness, some of the same gestures or expressions or….
clearly, i wasn’t ready for the barbie doll until i was 38. maybe i’m not even ready now. penny brite wasn’t so bad after all. i’m grateful my mom stood against the prevailing winds of pop culture, opting for something different. i’m grateful she wanted her family to not have to cross traffic, figuring out, with her very analytical mind, how to get people from point a to point b in a safer way. i’m grateful she collected the little jellies for someone who needed them. and i am grateful for the quirks.