Becoming Your Parents
There’s an insurance commercial on the air these days that promises to save you money on your coverage, although “we can’t save you from becoming your parents.”
Ouch. I am past the age of most of the people in that ad, but I often find myself doing the same things that annoyed me to no end about my parents throughout my youth.
Prattling on about people I barely knew? That was my mother. She would meet someone whose son was in my high school class, so then she wanted to tell me that he got into med school. Even though he was never a friend. Or she heard about a recital organized by my piano teacher. Even though I haven’t taken lessons since the seventh grade.
Sigh. Now I find myself doing the same thing. I get a Christmas card from a friend and feel compelled to pass on their news to my own kids, now grown and living elsewhere. I realize now that it’s partly an attempt to find common ground with a child who lives far away and whose life you don’t get to witness. But I have no doubt it’s just as annoying to my sons as it was to me.
My mother was also a big Pittsburgh promoter. Bring a friend from college for a visit and she’d begin reciting statistics about the glory days of steel-making or how many corporate headquarters had been located here. Even worse, on the pretext of going out to dinner, her car would magically steer itself to Mt. Washington “for a magnificent view that you’ve probably never seen before.” A quick trip around downtown with free commentary would ensue. Resistance was futile.
Personally, I’ve probably been to Mt. Washington with visitors 8-10 times in the past two years. And none of them asked to go. I rest my case.
Repeating dumb jokes? I can’t stop myself, and neither could my dad. When my sisters and I groaned about how old some of his jokes were, his response was always: A good joke is ALWAYS funny.
Constantly commenting on beautiful flowers, trees and birds? As a teenager, I rated this topic on an interest level with the weather, but my mother did it endlessly. Duh, yes, there’s a tree that’s turned red in the fall, Mom. Duh, yes, I see the hummingbird.
Duh, now I say the same stuff to anyone who will listen.
Getting emotional during Christmas services, Hallmark ads, sad music, etc.? Please! I have become a veritable fountain of tears, just the way my mother used to mortify me. She would turn to me during Silent Night, the last hymn of the Christmas Eve service, her eyes brimming with joy, and hug me. In front of my friends. Oh, the shame!
Now she’s long gone, and I think that spontaneous hugs are wonderful things, especially in these days of plague when we cannot touch people outside our own pods. These days I’m the one filled with gratitude when I hear the old carols. Even on Zoom. I’m the one wishing I could reach for my children or tearing up at the thought of them not being with me for the holidays.
Yes, Dad, a good joke is always funny. But here’s another truth: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree..
Another great article by Abigail Gary and a wonderful piece of recollection—I both laughed and cried, realizing, how similar Abigail’s parents were to my own…and how similar I am to them!
Mary Jo Freebody
Abby. I loved your story! It is so true isn’t it? I find myself saying to my kids, “Tomorrow will be better.” Pray about it.” And more. I miss her and even hear her spirit saying those things to me! A part of me believes she is talking to me from Heaven. I hope so!