Christine Schoenwald

Christine Schoenwald
Location
Glendale, California, United States
Birthday
September 29

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Salon.com
MAY 9, 2012 9:14AM

My Mother's Way

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My mother hates Mother’s Day. It is the one holiday where I’m completely off the hook; the one day when having a cranky, eccentric parent really pays off. I won’t be sending my mother any Mother’s Day cards or flowers. I will not be be expressing my love or gratitude to her for giving me life, in these ways and at this particular time. Saying “Happy Mother’s Day” will only anger her. She doesn’t believe in celebrating Mother’s Day and I reap the rewards!

Barbara (her Christian name and the name I call her when I’m being obnoxious) considers Mother’s Day a “manufactured holiday” and thereby to acknowledge it in any way would be pandering to the greeting card and flower industries. I don’t understand the logic either-all I know is that I don’t have to rush to the post office nor do I have pay for the purchase of any posies either.

I think that it is  nice to have a day of appreciation, a day where we can openly express our love for one of the most important people in our lives. I’m not a mother and I get no day of appreciation. There isn’t a Daughter Day or a Friend Day or a Person Who is Especially Nice to Cats Day…yet.

The real question is does my mother fear that she hasn’t been a good mother and doesn’t deserve any parenting accolades? Perhaps she thinks I don’t love her as she isn’t the easiest person to love. But I do love my mother, and yes it surprises me as well.

Always independent, blunt and cantankerous, she continues to be all those things but more so in old age. She was never the most effusive or affectionate of mothers. A kiss on the check at bedtimes is about as lovey-dovey as she got. Once as I child I got so angry with her that I swore I would never kiss or hug her again.You would think she would have been the one pursuing any kind of affection reconciliation and yet she didn't.  I kept my vow for a year but eventually  I was one who broke my own pact. It seemed weird not to touch my own mother and weirder still for her not to want me to.

There are parents who live vicariously through their children but my mother is quite the opposite. As she is completely self-centered and narcissistic, she has shown little interest in what is going on in my life. When I had swimming lessons at age 7, she’d sit under a tree reading. I'd shout at her “Look at me, Mom! Look at me” and she wouldn’t even glance up from her book.

For some women, their mother is their best friend, but that isn't the case with us. We rarely confide in each other. The only time my mother shared a secret with me had devastating emotional results. She phoned me when I was in college, sobbing and confessing to having an affair with a former sweetheart. I found it to be almost impossible to comfort someone I wasn’t particularly close to and who was cheating on my beloved father. But I’m not an unfeeling person-I tried to listen and say the right things and be there for her. Obviously if the roles were reversed, there’s no way I’d trust my mother with my own personal heartbreak.

 There is one way that my mother is motherly; she always took care of me when I was sick. She fed me soup, read me Wizard of Oz books and put cold compresses on my forehead. She was a good nurse.

Another example of my mother actually coming through was when I cut school and the attendance office called to notify her of my truancy. She informed the caller that that she would handle it. And I didn’t even get in trouble- she had been a notorious school ditcher herself and almost applauded my efforts. She could be one of those cool moms on occasion.

 The most surprising role my mother ever played was  advocate. When I was switched out of the only science teacher’s class I ever enjoyed into an exceptionally boring student teacher’s class, she became enraged. Completely out of character, she marched down to the school and demanded they put me back into Mrs. Segre’s class-which they did. I got the great teacher and I got out of school an hour earlier than everybody else.

But when it comes to being the center of attention, there can only be one star  and my mother believes it  should be her. When I played the part of  Harriet Stanley, the crazy aunt in “The Man Who Came to dinner” in high school, my mother swore that her performance in  very same role, in  a community theatre version was the better one.

Since my mother prefers animals to people, I have been angry many times about her seeming disregard for family members,  neighbors, and  other humans. She is gifted at not speaking to people if she gets angry with them but can’t stop talking to her pets. They never sass her back unless she pretends to speak for them.

Despite the fact that my mother considers herself to be an agnostic, she prays that I will lose my house and be forced to live with her. God comes in handy when you want what is best for yourself, not what is best for your daughter. It isn’t that she enjoys my company so much, just that she would like to cash-in on all the care-giving she gave me when I was sick as a child.

It took me a long time to accept what my mother is willing to give and the kind of mother she is. How I wished she’d miraculously turn into one of those over-protective nurturing types of mothers. A mother who would put her daughter’s needs over her own. But that is never to be.

One thing that my mother does do  that is like other mothers is give advice. Sadly  her suggestions are so off the mark, it would seem like we're  strangers. Some of my mother’s ideas have included  that I  rent a room in a rooming house that housed all actresses, keep cat poop in the car so that it will smell horribly and deter potential thieves and for me to perform an “act” based on the Incomparable Hildegarde (a singer, I didn’t know who she was either.) Considering that there aren’t boarding houses anymore, carrying cat poop in your car is crazy and I can’t sing, those weren’t exactly viable suggestions.

My mother has given  me many things such as creativity, independence, and the power of being your own person. I’m sure I got my very unique point of view from her, a love of animals and a sense of humor . Naturally she  gladly takes  credit for any talent I might have.

By my having a-loving in her own way-kind of mom, I’ve had to appear to be a bit tough and indifferent as if it were  okay that I didn’t have an overtly loving mother. I’m fine. I can handle it on my own. I'm like a s’more marshmallow-crusty on the outside and melted on the inside. I would love to be able to be a more affectionate daughter to my mother but at this point it would feel strange and unnatural.

Instead of sending a card to my mother on Mother’s Day, I will call her up under the guise of finding out what she wants us to bring her on our next visit. The extra large bags of cat food, we will invariably be asked to bring, will be my way of telling her that I love her and I am grateful to her.

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Yes, you can really write about all this mother stuff. My mother is also self-centered and narcissistic. She has really done a number on me all my life and I have written about here here on OS. There are many of us with these types of mothers here. We get it. The deadly struggle I am in with my mother now is heavy. I am not going to give up on her or give in to her either. I am working on a post now called..."Mom, I am your worst nightmare." Keep writing.