I’m a terrible soccer mom

It has been over a year since my mom died, and after her passing, my brother and I had to clean out her house.  It was horrible, time-consuming work, and we were both saddled with guilt over the truck loads we sent to the landfill or off to various charities.  Surely, we should be more sentimental.  Surely, we should want the dozens of photo albums, her full set of china, her old rosary, but we didn’t.  We both had complete houses, full of all we needed.  We saw how carefully she had kept our high school Lettermans’ jackets, trophies, and ribbons.  In the end, we pitched it all.

This memory was brought to mind lately when I was asked to create a framed memory keepsake for my oldest daughter.  It is a tradition at her high school that the moms each put together a collection of soccer memories and display them at the end-of-the-year banquet.  I can’t help but think this tradition was started by one of those scrap-booking moms with loads of artistic talent and way to much time on her hands.

I told Meg that I planned to compete for worst shadow-box of all time.  In my head I keep fast forwarding forty years and seeing her cleaning out my attic and tossing the shadow box in the dump pile.  And I am OK with that because, frankly, a middle-aged woman who hangs a tribute to high-school soccer in her kitchen is kinda sad.

Still, I have to put together this testament to her years of athleticism, and I am kinda pissy about it.  My current plan is to line the frame with money.  Then, in a year I can mail it to her at college; it will have value, and won’t end up in a landfill.

Meg in the goal, 2006

Meg in the goal, 2006

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my track record is suffering

There have been moments since my oldest child was born that I have felt a bit cocky about my parenting abilities.  You know those events when you simply do or say the exact right thing and walk away feeling like the best mother in the world.  Unfortunately, my track record has suffered lately, as I have made a series of parenting mistakes.  For example, I allowed my four-year-old to walk around with pneumonia for three weeks before taking her to the doctor–not a stellar move on my part.  And last week when my youngest was throwing a tantrum over the fact that our new puppy didn’t want to snuggle with her, I said, “The next time you scream like that you better have a bone sticking out and blood gushing all over the floor.”  Perhaps not the most nurturing of responses.

Last night I went out to dinner with my girlfriends.  My oldest daqughter, Meg, was at soccer practice when I left, and I didn’t see her until I returned home.  When I walked in the door, she asked, “So, what teachers did you meet?”

I looked a bit like this:

deer in the headlights

deer in the headlights

as it dawned on me that while I was chatting, laughing, and eating with my girlfriends, hundreds of mothers and fathers where at the high school parent-teacher night, which I totally and completely forgot about.  The other disturbing information that came out of this exchange is that my son, husband, and youngest daughter all knew I was out to dinner, but no one bothered to pass this key piece of news on to Meg.  Apparently, when I am not home no one in my family talks to each other.

paper trail

photo3 Photo8After my mom died, I hauled three big boxes of paperwork out of her house.  These boxes have been sitting in my garage, waiting for me to sort through them; a task I have been avoiding for almost a year.

I believe my mother was either a lawyer in a previous life or an accused felon because through the paperwork she kept she can prove her whereabouts for virtually every day of her life.  Neatly organized by year, my mother kept every receipt, estimate, manual, and report.  Have you ever purchased something and while throwing away the warranty card wondered who actually fills those cards out?  The answer is: my mother!  If my mother purchased a lawn mower with a five-year warranty, and it broke down after four years and eleven months, she could pull out the manual, the receipt, and the name of the salesman who sold it to her.  By the way, if your name is Joe and you worked at Sears in 1982, I apologize on behalf of my entire family.  According to my mother’s notes, she phoned you three times to complain about a faulty weed whacker

It was hard not to feel sentimental when I began the sorting process.  Ah, there is my mom’s handwriting.  Look, my dad’s high school diploma.  But eventually I took a more practical approach.  Do I really need my parents tax return from 1963? (In case you are curious, they earned a combined $10, 941 that year.  My mom as a bank teller and my dad as a high school history teacher.)  Or how about my brother’s preschool evaluation?  Apparently he was very good a pasting.  I found my vaccination report from 1970, so I can mark worry about Rubella off my list.  I can prove I was baptized, I can prove I was adopted, and I can prove that on September 8, 1987 my parents both had the halibut for dinner at Steamers.  I can also tell you my brother’s SAT scores from 1985, which proves he is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.

It was weird going through the minutia of my parent’s life together, decades of bills, receipts, and contracts.  But in the midst of the mounds of documentation, there were treasures.  A letter from my grandmother to my brother on his ninth birthday declaring him a dream come true, and a note from 1971 in my mom’s handwriting telling a random babysitter that I like tuna fish for lunch, and I do not like the bedroom door closed when I fall asleep.  How about my dad’s college transcripts? I had no idea he failed psychology.  Had I known that thirty years ago, it would have come in handy.

In the end, I shredded ninety-nine percent of the boxes contents.  You simply can’t carry around decades of tax returns and notes on plumbing repairs, and now that it is over, I am glad the boxes are gone.  Still, journeying through my parent’s paper trail was not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

 

happy birthday Mom

Today would have been my mother’s seventy-eight birthday.  I made cupcakes in her honor, and later I plan to eat two or three or four.  I basically plan to eat cupcakes until my stomach hurts worse than my heart.

Delicious cupcakes which I do not plan on sharing.

To pay tribute to my mom, I am going to share a funny family story.  If you knew my mom, think about her today and laugh a little.

The Ceiling Incident:

I never liked the attic.  It was filled with fluffy black insulation, like cotton candy from a horror film, and it smelled like dust and ghost breath.  Rough sheets of plywood had been nailed to the support beams thus creating a narrow walkway that lead back to a larger area where my mom stored boxes of Halloween costumes, old photos, and the giant hunks of wood that were used in the dining room at Thanksgiving to make the table longer.  My brother liked playing up there; the mad scientist lab or bank robber hideout.  But I was uninterested and rarely ventured up, so when my mother instructed me to go get the Christmas tree lights, I was relieved when my dad answered, “I’ll get ‘em.”  But moments later, we heard a loud tearing noise followed by a bellow and several curses.  My dad had slipped from the attic path and his entire left leg was dangling through the ceiling in the center of the dining room.

“Ed,” my mother yelled.  “Are you OK?”

“Fine,” he barked.  “I’m stuck.”  His foot wiggled as he tried to gain leverage.  Not-so-muffled curses followed.

My mom giggled, muted at first, then louder.  Turning to me she said, “Maybe we should leave him there.  We could hang a picture frame around his leg and call it modern art.”  She snorted, unable to stop her laughter until a trickle of blood made its way down my father’s leg.  “Ed,” she ordered.  “If you bleed on my new carpet, so help me. . .”

As my mother snapped useless advice, my father continued to struggle, pumping his leg up and down trying to jerk it free.  Eventually, the drywall opened up, he popped his leg through, and made his way downstairs only slightly injured.

For the next decade, the hole in the dining room ceiling remained patched with silver duct tape.  In my early twenties, while sitting for Easter dinner, I finally asked, “Dad, when are you going to get the hole in the ceiling fixed?”

“It’s healing,” he said.

I was raised Catholic, and for the next few years I jokingly said holiday prayers for the ceiling to heal.  At some point in the early nineties, my mother hired a carpenter.  “He was like Jesus,” she smiled.  “He was a carpenter, and he answered our prayers.”