I couldn’t take the same paths my mom traveled because that would mean acknowledging her choices and agreeing with them.
I’m thirteen years old, riding in the backseat of my parents’ Chevrolet Celebrity with my sister. We are headed south to Florida with several hours of flat asphalt stretched before us. Luckily, my mom has her trusty bag of treats, doled out at appropriate intervals in order to curb our boredom.
My sister and I are past the age of frequent bickering and intermittent threats from Mom and Dad. “I will pull this car over,” our dad used to warn. And when absolutely necessary, Mom reached her arm over the backseat to slap our skinny legs. We quickly slid over and dodged her palm.
We may be too old for misbehavior, but we are not too old for Mom’s bag of surprises. Every few hours, she gives us something to keep us occupied. Sometimes it’s a snack. Sometimes it’s an activity, like car bingo or my favorite, Mad Libs. We complete one Mad Lib after another, yelling out colors, plural nouns, and verbs that end in “ing.” Mom watches in the rearview mirror, all of us laughing until we reach the Disney World entrance. We arrived at our destination, but our fun had started miles earlier.
I never set out to be like my mother. It was quite the opposite, actually. I refused to major in English, even though a college professor told me I was making a big mistake, “ignoring my calling.” I also tried to avoid teaching. I couldn’t take the same paths my mom traveled because that would mean acknowledging her choices and agreeing with them. I would be admitting that she had good ideas and attempting to emulate them. The horror! My twenty-something self couldn’t let that happen.
Despite my plan, my mom’s preferences gradually snuck into my life. One can of vegetables at a time, until I realized that I was purchasing all the same brands my mom bought. Why? Why did I need Leseur Peas? Weren’t Del Monte peas tasty, too?
I became even more similar to my mom over the years, including adopting an appreciation for proper grammar and great books. Another interest we share is our love for researching and planning vacations.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, my mom requested AAA travel guides through the mail. When they arrived, she spread them across the floor and spent hours mapping out our trips, noting important landmarks and popular restaurants. I neither understood nor appreciated the time and work my mom put into planning our family vacations back then. She may have been enjoying the process, but her primary goal was making sure we had fun.
Perhaps it takes aging or becoming a parent to realize that life is packed with more days of downtime than moments of exhilaration. So, we must be wise enough to sneak in the fun wherever we can. Thankfully, my mom knew that and my childhood was filled with many carefree, fun moments.
Today, my husband, my kids, and I are headed to the mountains to spend a weekend in a log cabin. We’ve been planning this trip for months, even though we will only be there for two full days. We will make gingerbread, take hikes, paint ornaments, and relax in the hot tub. But even as we are headed down the driveway, the fun has already begun. That’s because I have a bag of goodies in the front seat for my two children.
The first thing I give them is gummy candy from their favorite downtown store. They are beyond ecstatic, and I can’t help but look back at their happy faces in the rearview mirror. I watch them organize their candy by color and decide which piece they will try first.
For a brief moment, I see my mother where my reflection should be. And I wonder why it has taken me so long to embrace the ways of a woman with whom I have so much in common and am fortunate to call Mom.