I walked by M’s room last night; she didn’t see me. She was lying on her bed, reading, rolled in a bright pink Disney blanket. Jazz played on her radio. I’m more of a hard rock and metal kind of girl, but M, left to her own devices, listens to jazz, blues, and old rock, with a Final Fantasy soundtrack or two mixed in. Piles of Magic School Bus and science readers, mixed with glittery Barbie and princess books were jumbled around her bed and dolls. She wore summer pajamas even though it was snowing. She lost her second tooth and was awaiting the tooth fairy, having danced around yelling, “Now I’ll be six and go to high school!:” It sure feels that way.
I love watching this little girl suddenly become her own person. She loves science, reading, dolls, movies and video games. She loves science fiction and fantasy, and like me, it’s best when it’s just a little edgy. But unlike me, she loves clothes and is a social butterfly. She makes friends in a way that I can only dream of. And the other day int he car, we were discussing what CD to listen to. I suggested one, and she replied, “Nah, that’s kinda lame.” She said it in a tone that I remember from my childhood, talking to my friends at school. Oh, you think that’s bad? Well, my parents listen to country music. Because no matter how much you adore your parents, when you’re with your friends, they’re not cool.
I remember being in about fourth grade and trying to fit in. I agreed that I did whatever my peers did, even though I was nine and didn’t. Watched Pet Cemetery? Of course, and it was so gross. Listened to rap music? Of course, and I pretended I knew who they were talking about. Stayed up until eleven every night? Damn straight. My parents were surprised to get phone calls for me at ten; I blew it off at school. Well yeah, they went to bed. Lame. I have to laugh when I think about what Mina will say about her boring parents in a few years. Us, her boring parents who once got so drunk they laid in the street outside a bar, her father wearing a traffic cone on his head. Her boring parents who lived in other countries and had wild adventures. Her boring dad who, really, is lucky to still be alive after more than a few of them. But she doesn’t know that about us yet.
When I was a preteen, I bought a CD. It had profanity on it, and I remember being afraid my parents would “catch” me listening to it. One day, my mom asked to hear it, and my heart was in my throat. What would she say? She finally asked what was wrong, and I admitted the CD was a bit off color. She burst out laughing. “Come on, hon,” she replied. “I once had an album of John Lennon having sex! I’ve heard it all!” You mean…my mom…was a person, with a life before me? I was found that information both mystifying and liberating. (Likewise, when I was little, I had a babysitter who played records and told me to never, ever tell my parents that she let me hear them. I heard the song as an adult and laughingly told my mother about it–she replied, “I wish you’d told me sooner–I’d have bought it!”)
As I grew older, I learned more about my parents. Their adventures as young adults. More importantly, their willingness to tell me about it, and what they learned. Don’t drive drunk during a tornado, for instance. If you black out drinking, your friends might chain you to a floor lamp. Valuable and funny things, but more importantly, that I could trust them for advice when I came to those thresholds myself. (And, fortunately for me, I never encountered either the tornado nor the lamp) I learned that my geeky love of comic books and horror movies came directly from my mother–must be genetic. I copy all my CDs for her now, the more off color the better.
My mom told me that her own mother said, “One of the things I miss about you being here was listening to you play your Beatles records. I loved those.” My mom always thought my grandma disliked them, since Grandma was the consummate fifties housewife, listening to the most gentle music and watching only G-rated films. At least, when I was around. Who knows what she did when I wasn’t. Sometimes, I wish she had told me. Maybe she had some wild stories hidden there, too. I wonder, had she not been forced into the housewife mold, what she would have become; she was brilliant in so many ways. I wish I knew her better.
I’m sure M and Baby A will think her father and I are boring at first. They’ll make fun of us at school, roll our eyes at our taste in music, complain about our clothes, drag out our yearbooks to show to their friends and laugh. Their daughters will do it to them. But when they’re adults, they’ll realize what I did. Grandma and Mom were amazing people with unbelievable experiences, people I’m proud to be related to. Just a long line of bright, loving and maybe a little crazy women, trying to have fun along the way.