christmas conversations

“I don’t know if you’ll like what I got you for Christmas. Not knowing your tastes or anything.”

(Translation: I’m your mother and yet you never tell me ANYTHING.)

My mom has an interesting sense of privacy. Which is to say she has no sense of privacy at all. She’s come over to my house, poked around, and then wandered over to me with my paper journal in her hand to say she can’t read some of my writing so can I tell her what this or that word is. When my sister first moved out, some of her mail still ended up at my mom’s, who would open every last piece and read through it, ostensibly in the name of “helping”. “No really, mom,” my sister would say. “Just put it all in an envelope, UNOPENED, and send it to me.” But that made no sense to my mother whatsoever. And she just ignores what she doesn’t agree with.

When I went to counseling during my divorce, she was perplexed. Why do you need to pay to see a counselor when you could just talk to me? she asked.

My sister recently ordered some sexy lingerie online. “Just in case!” she told me. I told her that was wise. When you encounter a moment when sexy lingerie would come in handy, it kills the mood a bit to say, hey, so sexy lingerie sounds awesome. Let me just order some and we can wait a few days for it to get here. I’ll get back to you.

My mom was in the car when my sister stopped at the post office to pick the package up. “Ooh, a package. Who’s it from? Open it!” My sister declined. My mom badgered her all the way home and left pouting. Because clearly it was her God-given right as a human on this earth to see absolutely every parcel of mail she chose.

You might try to see things from my mom’s point of view. She’s only trying to take an interest in her daughters’ lives. She’s interested in knowing more about them and how they’re doing. If you thought this, you’d be wrong.

My mom’s compelling need to know everything about everyone comes from her starring role in the movie of Life, supporting cast: everyone else. Everything, everywhere, has to be all about her. Otherwise, why would it exist? Movie storylines don’t have subplots that are irrelevant to the main character.

But as with all good movies, you don’t want to get bogged down in the details of the supporting characters. Case in point:

“I always brag about my daughters. Everyone always asks how you’re doing and what you’re doing now. I really have no idea what you’re doing, so I just tell them to Google you.”

(I am, in fact, very Googleable.)

This comment is a two-for-one special. She gets to play the part of the proud and loving mother, while at the same time the slighted and shut out one.

I ask if she has Googled me, since she has no idea about me and clearly thinks this is a good way to learn more. No, she has not. I point out that as it turns out, in a twist even better than reading the internet, I am standing right here and could fill her in on what it is I’m doing now. She laughs and changes the subject. No need to introduce a lull in the movie with details like that.

She has mastered the art of listening. And by that, of course, I mean she pays just enough attention to the conversation to find an opening to talk about herself. We were out at dinner and I mentioned that one of my cats had cancer, had just had surgery, and was about to start chemotherapy. Her response?

“Well, my cats don’t seem to be sick at all. I don’t ever bring them to the vet of course since I don’t have any money, but….”

And then she went on with story after story about her three healthy cats. While working in her surely sympathy-inducing lack of money. This, her reaction to my sick cat.

“You’ve always had thick legs.”

This is a favorite topic with her. I’m so used to it, I barely even notice. My sister was apalled.

“I can’t believe you just called her fat.”

“I didn’t say she was fat. I said she was muscular.”

My muscular or perhaps thick legs and I just drank more wine.

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