Meredith’s Musings: I Thank Mom For That
by Meredith McKinnie
I remember feeling my mother’s palm snap in front of my face, when the inappropriate scene suddenly appeared on the movie screen about ten minutes into the blockbuster Jerry Maguire. I was fourteen, and my sister was ten, and as always, Mom took us to the movies she wanted to see. We were a trio, with our freshly baked popcorn in Ziploc bags seasoned with Molly McButter and canned colas; we went to the theater often. Mom just waited out the scene, and eventually we cried and laughed together as we always did in the adult movies. She didn’t shelter us from reality. She thought the parts worth seeing outweighed the ones that challenged our maturity level. I started absorbing the complexities of human relationships early. We sat in front of the TV countless hours watching Dirty Dancing and Gone with the Wind, long before we understood the underlying issues of abortion or Reconstruction in the South. I still have an affinity for movies, though now I buy my popcorn and carry floss in my purse. But the core of human connection still attracts me on Friday afternoons. I thank Mom for that.
Back in November, Mom and I had an argument in front of Dad and my husband. As our voices escalated, theirs disappeared. Dad refuses to involve himself in “women’s business.” And my husband knows the octave at which to disengage. I left in a huff and continued the argument with my husband in the car all the way home, with no feedback. He won’t even say, “I agree,” because I would challenge that, too, best to say nothing. A few days later I got a card in the mail, on her monogrammed stationery, that simply said, “I love you. – Mom.” The subtext was, “I still stand by what I said, but you knowing I love you is more important than saying I’m right again.” Mom is always the first to say, “I’m sorry,” even in her own way. It’s a sentiment I still struggle with, instead leaning toward a grudge, but her example is sinking in. I see it emerge in my advice to friends; perhaps one day I’ll beat her to the punch with an apology. I’ll thank Mom for that.
Many afternoons were spent playing double solitaire at the kitchen table. Mamaw would join in. She was eighty-plus years old, and Mom never hesitated to beat her. She would slam her hand over the deck, insisting she was there first, no acknowledgement of her quicker reflexes. She was there to win, even if her victory was predetermined. And even with me, she insists on a set of three games, if she loses the first. If she’s not winning, the game begins to bore her, the same with her beloved basketball on TV. She shouts at the TV, throws her hands in the air, passionately in pursuit of a win at all cost. I, too, prefer to win, to do things to the best of my ability, never engaging unless I can fully commit. And I admit, I adore recognition of my accomplishments. I got the initial passion honestly from my mother. I thank Mom for that.
She doesn’t ever lose herself in the chaos of life. If Dad and I are going to my husband’s game on Saturday, and it’s her only day off, she’ll simply say, “I’m not in the mood for that.” And while we might be disappointed, I love that she doesn’t deny herself. She bakes us all brownies, but doesn’t serve them until she’s eaten out the runny middle. We all get an edge piece; Mom delves in first. She’s taught me that I can respect others, be giving without resenting my efforts, always remembering to take care of me. She’s independent without totally isolating herself. She trusts her gut. And as a result, I’m not afraid to be alone, often reveling in my solitude, my indulgence of self. It gives me balance in a society, where women are so often expected to only give outward. Mom takes care of Mom, too. It’s the kind of mother I want to be. I thank Mom for that.