Sorry, Ma.

blogxslippersOn of my earliest memories is of my mother’s heeled slippers clack-clack-clacking on the linoleum floor of the kitchen first thing in the morning. I slept downstairs on a sort of English-basement level, while upstairs, every morning, without fail clack-clack-clack. Clack-clack. Clack-clack-clack-clack-clack.

I couldn’t sleep through it, only in part because this was a loud noise with an unsteady rhythm. My mom also never stopped moving. Clack-clack. Clack-Clack-Clack. Clack. Mom kept moving to deal with uncomfortable emotions. She vacuumed off her frustration, folded laundry to gain a sense of order over anxiety. She cooked to compensate for the lack of nurturing in her own life. As a kid, all I knew was that she made a lot of noise.

blogxvacuumWell into her eighties, Mom walked several miles a day, and even at ninety, she was quite steady on her pins. My mom was the energizer bunny, while I’m the ultimate spud. I excel at sitting, though I know it’s a deadly skill unless moderated by frequent movement.

I love writing binges that go on so long, I can barely recall the last time I used the facilities. Mentally, I scurry around constantly–reading this, writing that, editing the other. I read in bed at night, and keep reading material in my purse, and in other Frequented Locations. But mostly, I love to write and write and write.

I’ve often said that in many ways, my mother and I just were not a good fit.

blogxlaundrySo…. this week, the book I’m working on demanded a break from me. While my Welsh duke was off brooding me up some more scenes, I got caught up in election coverage, in dire weather explanations, and in flame wars on matters about which I can do not one thing.

Friends, I am humbled to report that on Tuesday of this week, I vacuumed my living room out of sheer desperation. I got out the contractor bags and went after anything I could trash. I did big laundry–throw rugs, pet blankets, you name it. In short, the day I couldn’t get on my mental hamster wheel to play with my toys of choice (dukes, draft newsletters, ad design software, blog posts, revisions), I turned into my mother.

sophiexaudibleI want to call up my mom and say, “I get it, Ma. I get it.” I suspect my mother is laughing her behonkis off, which is fine–our mother/daughter bond now includes connection by virtue of a vacuum cleaner cord. My living room looks a little better, and I came up with a holiday short story you’ll soon be able to download from the website for free.

Have you ever turned into the very person who used to pluck your last nerve? Ever said the same thing they used to say that you never wanted to hear again?

To one commenter, I’ll send an audiobook of Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish, which went on sale this week, while I was busy vacuuming.




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69 comments on “Sorry, Ma.

  1. Good to see you blogging, and I think it is so sweet that you found this understanding of your mother’s way of coping. So often I hear my mother’s words coming out of my mouth (usually to my son), and while she was one of the least tactful people I’ve ever known, I now understand that it was said with love.

    • I owe the Welsh duke for this insight. I was always slightly condescending toward my mother’s mindless impulse to just Do Something, whether it was collect glasses people weren’t done drinking out of, or rearrange furniture so it interfered with established traffic patterns.

      When my book stopped talking to me, I went the same kind of nuts. I had to just DOOOOO something.

      And my mother lived with that sense of her hands being tied, and her mouth taped shut for decades. I get it, Mom. I finally get it.

  2. My mom is still around, 88 1/2. she literally drives me crazy at times, but I try to cope, knowing that some day I’ll miss all that. I hear her in me whenever I nag at someone, or tell them to be careful or cautious etc. Also, years ago I found myself buying clothes like hers – and she never was very good at fashion.

    • My sister got the brunt of Mom’s latest years, when the hearing aid was an endless plague, and Mom refused to put new batteries in it… But Mom always had good fashion sense, and she knew how to make a space inviting, so it looked just so.

      I’m zero for two in those regards, but there again, I think Mom HAD to look good, or she’d feel invisible, and she HAD to control the space around her or she’d have no power at all.

      I admire her resourcefulness. I do not admire the societal norms that demanded this of her.

  3. I am glad that you were blessed with a wonderful mother. I used to wonder about some strict teachers I had in the past and when I taught Sunday School I would think about what they would do. It is a blessing to have wonderful people to inspire and mentor us. Thank you so much for your wonderful books.

  4. “Ever said the same thing…” Oh yeah. And just like me, the kids don’t want to hear it. They want to make their own mistakes – just like we did. It’s hard to watch sometimes.

  5. Just the other day my mother (who will be 82 next month) said that she didn’t get to bed until 1:30. I was aghast because I’m an in-bed-by-10:30 kind of person. She had to iron the sheets. Iron the sheets… Boggles the mind. Your post spoke to me because I’ve often wondered if my mom’s cleaning/tidying obsession was a cover for emotional turmoil. And so, yes, I’ve scoffed at her preoccupation with keeping the house just so. I hate vacuuming with a passion. However, it must be done at some point. Can’t tell you how often I’ve come up with the solution to some problem while doing this task. I resist vacuuming, but when I do it the flow comes. Zen and the art of vacuuming indeed! I’m thinking I should let my mom in on my guilty secret.

    • I can’t say house work puts me in flow–writing does that, sometimes, but then I need to get away from it. I do think I went way too far in the opposite direction from Mom just to differentiate from her. Housework? What housework? Housework on a schedule? Don’t be silly…

      And as a consequence, my living space doesn’t lend itself as much to creativity as the light, pretty, tidy space Mom made out of her home.

  6. My Mom and I are total opposites. I do hear her in my husband at times!! Especially, when The Mister asks our daughter…..What are you doing? When are you coming home? Is your homework done? When are you working? It’s actually quite funny, I sit in my chair, read my book and pat Celeste and Rose who watch the nightly inquest with much interest.

    Am glad you put time and space between you and the Duke. I was wondering how you were going to spend your week apart!! And your house is neat and tidy!

    Am glad you are back blogging…missed your sense of humor and insight.

    Go make up with your Duke and finish his story so we can read it!

    • I used to think Mom and I were opposites, but I surely did get her sense of independence, and I hope I got her ferocity. I wish I’d gotten her red hair. Ah, well… maybe a grandchild will get that prize.

  7. I think we all *sound* like our mothers eventually. When Moms words started coming out of my mouth, I knew I was doomed!

    Mom was a cleaner, too…as the Mom of six, I think she had to be or the house would get swallowed up with junk and dirt. Everything had to be taken apart, dry dusted and then dusted with polish. Things sparkled but the problems started when she decided the older girls (I’m the oldest)would do the dusting and vacuuming on Saturday morning. I continued until I had a regular Saturday morning job but one of my sister refused and it was a fight every week. Ironically, she did the same with her kids ๐Ÿ™‚

    • We had regular chores, including doing the dishes for nine people every night, but Mom mostly hoarded the housework as her fiefdom. She was also safety minded, and had to cook in a very small kitchen. The last thing she wanted were little people underfoot when she was preparing a meal, and one of her battle cries was, “Get outta MY KITCHEN!”

      Little enough to ask when open flames and boiling water are involved.

  8. My mother drive me crazy at times but I miss her everyday. I hear her voice in my head telling me what to do and quite frequently I hear it coming out of me telling my kids and husband what they should do!

    Love your books. Thanks for the opportunity to win this audio version.

    • Lisa, glad you’re enjoying the books, and there will be a whole lotta audio going on over the next year–a new release every week.

      The odd thing is, do we hear our fathers? My dad was very much in evidence as I grew up, but I don’t hear him much when I speak.

  9. Your comment about her heels click clacking was my mother, she even wore them to the beach one time. How this women wore heels into her into her 80s is beyond me. But I have turned into her in other ways; getting up early to drink coffee in the piece and quiet of the morning, creating a home based business… Ok that’s about it, I avoid the iron and making jello when I’m frustrated with work and avoid shoes and makeup when ever possible. Glad you and Duke have resolved your issues.

    • His Grace and I are at a cease fire… I’ve never seen in a store the slippers my mom wore. They were like ballet slippers, but plastic, with thin hard plastic heels that made more noise than castanets. Instruments of torture for the child trying to grab another ten minutes of sleep.

  10. Ah.. mothers. My mom is 79 yrs old. However, she does no t like living alone. I needed to move back in. Living with you mother after living alone and an adult takes on another level of patience.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • My sister did this for my dad after my mom died. I don’t think she grasped the magnitude of the sacrifice she was making. Don’t think my Dad does either. Our parents looked after us when we were small, but in most cases, they knew the job had an expiration date. With the elders… they can literally live to be 100 or drop over tomorrow, and that’s a challenge.

  11. I definitely have no characteristics of my mom, Super woman . But I see some cringeworthy parts of myself in my daughter and she hasn’t had a particularly happy life:(

    • You know, my daughter might view me as Superwoman too, as much as I know I dropped the ball, modeled some bad stuff, and set her up for some of the problems she has now. Nobody is Superwoman all the time. I also see that my daughter and I are trying to solve the same challenges in different ways, but they’re the same challenges. We’re both shy, we’re both good at academics but not particularly comfortable in school…

      I hope my daughter’s early challenges mean she has less hard work to do (on herself) as she goes through life’s later transitions. If you work out the basics–like security and freedom, self-respect, self-definition, values–early in life, it can save a lot of time and heartache in the later stages. Blessings in disguise, and all that.

  12. I’ve read this book and enjoyed it and the whole series. I would love to win the audio book so I can hear it while driving. I find the audio books very relaxing.

    • Louise, glad you like the books! I love this narrator. James Langton is a Brit, raised in Yorkshire, educated in Scotland. He’s also a musician and voice actor, and I haven’t found many narrators who are his equal. He’ll be doing the rest of the series in the coming months, and I hoping for a late winter storm so can I can binge-listen.

  13. My mother and I were like chalk and cheese, probably because we were so emotionally similar and I did not like what I saw and felt. I remember venting to my daughter, who was about eight at the time, and she said, “Mom, she only criticizes you because she wants the best for you.” My daughter often stops me in my tracks.

    • Yikes! From the mouths of relentlessly observant babes! I got my parental pride handed to me when I was on a tear about something very important–like always putting the broom back in the same place–and my four-year-old daughter turned to me, put her hands on her hips, and scowled the scowl of death at me. “Mommy, don’t you talk backwards to me!” In my exact, mean-mommy tone of voice.

      I about busted a gut, and to heck with the broom.

  14. My mother was a loving but strict parent. My older sister and younger sister and I each had our chores to do. She was a strong woman and survived loosing her 4th child in her 7th month of pregnancy which was a little boy because she had 3 little girls at home to raise. She did clean a lot but she worked midnight’s at a factory and slept during the day while we were in school. My dad worked straight days. He is the one that taught me to do most of my cooking and cleaning.

    The only flaws she had was she was very opinionated and not afraid to speak her mind. I really do not think she liked any of our husbands but as she put it she did not have to live with them. She started smoking at age 14 and was told to stop at age 54 if she wanted to live but she died 3 weeks before her 69th birthday. She only got to see her 1st Great-Grandson David (my 1st grandson) who will be 21 this month. Now she would have had 18 Great-Grandchildren.

    I do not feel I am anything like her but sometimes I will do something and my husband will say OK you sound just like your mom or you mom did it that way. My sisters has more her personality.

    I love and miss her still.

    Thank You.

    • Sounds like your mom was what I’d call strict but loving. She ran a structured household, but kept an eye on the emotional agenda too. I can’t imagine working midnights, raising three kids, seldom seeing my spouse, and grabbing only a few hours sleep at a time…. for years.

      Sorry for your loss. Sixty-nine is too young.

  15. Over the years I have turned into my mother with enough frequency that it boggles the mind.
    She would make a small noise when would get to a function where her children were waiting for was her way of letting is know she was there.
    It drove me crazy. Everyone of my friends andy siblings friends would tell us,your mom is here!
    Now I would give almost anything to hear her voice!

  16. I think most mothers and daughters have some friction to go with their heaping helpings of love. Probably because we don’t see our similarities and differences quite clearly enough and thus don’t appreciate them enough. At least that’s my story ……. and I’m on my way to visit my mom. Doubtless we will annoy each other at some point this afternoon, but we’re used to it. If all else fails, we can talk about my brothers and their kids!!

    • That’s one aspect of being in a big family I took a while to appreciate. Because there were seven kids, I had relative privacy. Unless I made a fuss, I could just smurf along, looking, talking, and acting as if all was well. That wasn’t always a good thing, but because I need a lot of privacy, it was probably better that way, than living under a parental spot light.

  17. I hear my mother’s voice coming out my mouth every day now. It uses to drive me crazy as a kid. I would give anything to hear her voice and scold me. It will be 18 years on Valentines Day.

  18. That is how my mother dealt with frustrations too. As an adult I somewhat understand it but I totally rebelled from it and am usually the total opposite. I did not want my children only remembering me for cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Although they may remember me for the lack of it lol. But I hope they will remember the time I spent with them. (please don’t enter me as I’m not an audio person)

    • As one of my friends put it, “Do you really want your tombstone to read, ‘She kept a very clean house.?'”

      NO, I do not. But neither do I want it to read, “Her mother would have been horrified…”

  19. My house is an ode to clutter and dust. Both of the things my mother waged war against on a daily basis. I go after both on an erratic schedule. My mother actually had dust buildup on furniture a few years ago. I said nothing. According to my father, when he brought her home after her first cataract surgery, she was appalled at all the dust she saw. It was a tough time for him convincing her to rest, instead of cleaning. I could clean everyday, and the bunny fur would be all over the house again in the blink of an eye. I love my pets more than I love a spotless house.

  20. The morning I was married, my mother sorted the linen closet.

    My husband and I leave to visit her tomorrow. She’s 88, living in the enormous house that made sense 40 some years ago. WE will not stop while we’re there, either.

    I believe we have more socially acceptable options for dealing with anxiety than our parents did. We can be more connected with a whole lot of other people and know we are not the only ones vacuuming… I bake cookies. How many dozen would you like?

    • One of the options we have is to name what we feel, which in itself reduces the destructive power of the emotion. I think in my family, in that generation, nobody’s emotions counted for much–emotions won’t get you through a World War or a Great Depression. My parents also drank, my dad more than my mom, because that was just what you did.

      I do not envy my mother her lot in life. If I had to depend entirely on somebody else to provide for me and seven kids, if I had to accommodate another person’s priorities in almost every area of life for decades, if I had to put myself last all the time after eight other people… I’d go barking mad.

  21. I’m one of those millions of women who say they’ll never be like their mom, but at times I have been. I like to think I was better about letting my kids’ be themselves without judging – at least I hope I was. I’m a better housekeeper AND I was lucky enough to fall in love with a man who helps out around the house. However, there were many times when I heard myself saying the exact same things my mother had said to me and my siblins.

    • My mom’s judgments were so subtle. “No matter what you weigh, you’ll always have a good figure…. Don’t worry about having big feet. A sizeable structure needs a firm foundation.”

      She was five-foot-four, red-haired, blue-eyed, and had a great figure. Me.. not so much.

  22. Gawd yes! I’ve channeled both parents at alarming moments.

    Why did you release an audio book in the middle of a hurricane so I’ve only a phone & no way to get it?! Grrrrr (insert teeth gnashing & mumbled cussing!)

  23. It seems like I’ve always heard, “You look just like your mother”. Now, I know I’m a lot like her too. We joke that the nut didn’t fall far from the tree! We’ve always been close but now we’re best friends and I see her several times a day since I moved across the street from her. In fact, we just got back from celebrating her 97th birthday for five days at Disney World. LOL To me, it’s the best compliment ever when I’m told I am just like her, even though I know we have our differences.

    • I like them for long fights and roadtrips, myself. I also just like to here my narrator–James Langton–speak. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years back, and he sounds even lovelier in real life. It’s just not fair…

  24. It wasn’t until I was grown and gone that I realized how much our mother had sacrificed for us and how her childhood had been less than ideal. I haven’t turned into my mother but she has certainly influenced my outlook on life. She was intelligent, beautiful and funny — and so very naive. She trusted and gave to everybody she met, very often to her detriment. She’s been gone over 20 years now and I still have regular conversations with her. I’ll see something bright and glittery in a store window and it will make me think of her because I know she would have loved it.

    • My mom was 92 when she died, and I’m aware of how much women’s roles broadened in her lifetime, and how they haven’t really changed enough. Mom rolled with a lot of societal punches to femininity, and tried to raise three daughters who’d have more options than she did. Sometimes, though, she just hurt for us, and other times, she could not understand why we made the choices we did.

  25. Mirror, mirror on the wall I am my mother after all! Not very original but I get it now. Spent my early adult life trying not to be her, focusing too much on the behaviors that drove me nuts. Now am so glad I am more and more like her every year. She had a lot of endearing qualities I am just now understanding. I just wish she was still here with me.

    • I turned a corner in my relationship with my mother when I was in my thirties, and single-parenting, and having to admit that I wasn’t getting it right much of the time. Mom had SEVEN kids… Oh. That’s a lot of kids, and then my dad had his expectations of her. I grew increasingly protective of my mother, and critical of my father–not as a person, but as an exponent of a culture that did not adequately value or compensate women.

      Mom did the best she could, and that was amazing.

  26. once or twice i’ve said something i’ve heard and had annoyed me and because that person had used it so repeatedly i had to actively make sure not to say it til it was out of my head lol

    Thanks for the chance to win! *fingers crossed* ๐Ÿ˜€

    • There are phrases like that. One of my author friends drafted a novella where an antagonist was always saying, “Am I right?” As a way to insist, “I’m right, aren’t I? Admit it…” Brilliant touch to cue the reader into who was the non-hero. And that speech tick, “Am I right? Am I right?” was really hard to get out of my head. Now I hear it in conversation and internally wince.

  27. It’s my birthday and the blog was a sweet,humorous little read. What could l d go wrong with cats, vacuum cleaners,housecleaning and dukes???? Now I am more than ready and antsy to read this story. Thanks for the hours of Calgon take me away relaxation. Keep up the great work!!

    • It’s my birthday and the blog was a sweet,humorous little read. What could l d go wrong with cats, vacuum cleaners,housecleaning and dukes???? Now I am more than ready and antsy to read this story. Thanks for the hours of Calgon take me away relaxation. Keep up the great work!! And yes, my mom drives me crazy with cleaning but I love her all the same. I’m the oldest but blessed that she is still around to ‘help’ me.

    • You are welcome, and thank you for reading what I write. The best part is, what takes you away as a reader takes me away as a writer… assuming the Welsh Duke and I shake hands and make up. That guy…

  28. Glad to see you and the Welsh Duke have called a cease fire. My mother was and remains very much like yours. She actually gets angry if she feels she has done “nothing” all day. She is 81 years old and considers a day wasted if she has not done the dishes, done the laundry, vacuumed the entire house, swept the foyers and the downstairs den, gone shopping, and a dozen other things. It is difficult now as she is on a fixed income and still wants to buy as if my father was still alive and her income was more than her social security. And when I lecture her about spending and budgets and the fact there is no need to buy everyone a dozen gifts for Christmas I get a childish temper tantrum in return.

    Before I always had the excuse of my day job, but now I do anything I can to avoid housework. Since I left Walmart I have been able to write so much more, and my sleep and wake cycle has gone back to what it was when I was singing. I fought it for the first month AW (After Walmart) because I kept hearing my mother saying “Get up! You are wasting daylight. You’re being lazy!” It was making me nuts until a fellow writer asked me when I was doing most of my writing and I realized it was in the evening and late at night. So I stopped fighting it and I have discovered in addition to everything else when I rise around 9 AM I like to spend an hour or more outside simply enjoying the day. It takes nearly 14 years of spending most of your daylight hours inside an artificially lit store to realize how wonderful spending time outside is.

    And Mom? She thinks I should be spending that time cleaning! LOL

    • Louisa, I’m so glad you’ve put that job behind you! And yes, getting outside first thing in the day is wonderful. Somebody told me southern women get in that habit, because for much of the year, it gets too hot and buggy to later in the day, and they stay in that habit because it’s the best way to keep the circadian clock running smoothly.

      Whatever works for you, and gets the words onto the screen best. Go you!!!

  29. Oh yes. Sometimes I even hear my mother speaking out of my own mouth. I even hear her voice when talking with my daughters.