My favorite picture of me and my mom
If you like my stories you can thank my mom. My mom and my dad. They both have always responded the same way when something bad happens. “Well aren’t you going to have a story to tell.” It was never said as a question. It was a fact. From a very young age my parents taught me that even when things don’t go your way, at least you get a story so it’s not all bad. Honestly, some of my best stories are from moments gone wrong. My parents provided that perspective.
She had her own interests. When we were little she did regional theater and she’d pack us up with sleeping bags and My Little Pony (or whatever toy we wanted) and we’d play in the back of the theater or lobby while she rehearsed. Seeing what she was passionate about opened worlds. Schools, teaching, and theaters were all comfortable places. We came with her when she taught summer camp. We’d help her set up her room for the new school year. She might just say she didn’t have a baby sitter. And that may be true, but is enabled us to peer into her life. It made me familiar with roles I might possibly take on in the future.
People meet my mom and they like her. You can’t help it. In the past month multiple people have made a point of telling me how special my mom is. She’s kind, funny, easy-going, a good listener, thoughtful, open to discussion and debate, and, as I mentioned, really good at giving advice. Plus, she loves me no matter what. I’d like to think everyone has this love from a parent. But I’ve seen that’s not the case, and it’s what makes me so grateful. I’m not sure there is anything more important you can do for your kids than that. At least not for this kid. Everybody’s different. Everyone might have a different need from their parent.
Moms I know, including mine, are always hard on themselves. Their “mistakes” seem to haunt them. My mom has always worried about what I’ll tell the therapist (or in the event I ever become a comedian, the audience) about her and our family. We have our funny stories. We’ve had real rough patches. I’m not sure you’d be a real family who is honest with each other if you didn’t. But even her supposed mistakes have only helped me build character and learn what I do or don’t want in life. They’ve given me a story to tell.
She instilled a sense of strength of character from the women I come from by telling me stories of the strengths of her mother and her grandmother. My great-grandma came from Italy as a teenager. Her name was Santa Sparano. My mom would always tell me I was a strong Sparano woman. My Grandma survived polio and learned to walk again. She lived through the depression. In meeting these women and my mom always talking about them, she provided a history, an ancestry for me to build my life on. I could stand on the shoulders of these women who came before and somehow linger in me.
She taught me to always make my own money and open my own jars (that’s part of being a strong Sparano woman). She made me do chores. She took me to the movies and then discussed them. When she comes over she still does my dishes. I never do her dishes. She was a terrible cook when I was growing up, and she was one of those people who cut the mold off the bread and gave it to you. I still can’t eat food that’s even nearing its expiration date. (Is that one of things she thinks I’ll tell the therapist?) She toasted English muffins and covered them in cheese and V-8 and claimed it was a Weight Watchers special. It was special alright. It was actually one of the good meals. Now, that I’m out of the house, she’s a pretty good cook. I think having grown children that don’t make her listen to which sock they put on first in the morning anymore frees up her time to make better food. She looks up gluten-free recipes. She made brains for a Halloween party out of spaghetti. She drove me to drama and field hockey. She watched my games and wrote lyrics to Kenny G songs—a fact I’ve never let her live down. She let me paint my room every few years. She taught me how to paint my own room.
Parenting is hard. Kids can be ungrateful, snotty, challenging, exhausting. At one point or another, I’ve been all of them. My mom always seems to enjoy being a mom and being with me. There is no greater gift you can give someone then to make them feel truly enjoyed by your company. I know I’ll never convince my mom of what a good mother she is and was. She’s a mom so she’ll never fully believe me, and she’ll always have her doubts. But, man, her love sure does boost me up.
When I was little I used to tell her that when I grew up I’d want to marry her. She would retort, “Maggie, when you grow up you won’t want to marry me. And that will be okay.” She was right.
Thank you for still listening.
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