Mother’s Day has come and gone, and as a mother for over eight years now, this day has taken on a new meaning. Actually, now that my kids have sprouted from toddlers into kids, I am thinking about their impact on their friends’ houses (are they jumping on Gracie’s bed?!) and their friends’ moms’ impact on my kids. (Would Gracie’s mom tell them to get down?) I remember a lot about my friends’ moms as a kid and have a whole new appreciation of the “village” of mothers out there. Did you ever get reprimanded by your best friend’s mom? Or your next door neighbor’s mom? I did. And I’m awfully glad I did!
I could probably write one hundred books on how awesome my mom is. She fed me bottles when I was a baby, she held me in her arms, she kissed me on my forehead when I was sick, she gave me nicknames like doodlebug, little bit, and squirt, she picked me up when I skinned my knee. She disciplined me when I misbehaved. She put the fear of God into me when I stole a toy at a shop when I was five years old in downtown Lilburn. The police station is right across the street! Do you want them to find out what you did?! She let me rest my head in her lap during the sermon at church, stroking my hair while I half listened – half daydreamed. Later on, as an older kid, she taught me tough love by telling me to “put some spit on it” when I scraped my knee again, helping me to help myself. She slept by my side on a foldout cushion when I got my wisdom teeth out (which put a crick in her neck for at least a week, limiting her ability to religiously attend Jazzercise!) She did a million things for me as I was growing up, and she’s still there for me now.
As awesome as my mom is, she’s not the only mom who stamped me with impressions I remember to this day. My neighborhood where I grew up was full of kids and we ran from one house to the next, depending on what was most interesting to do on any given day. We’d jump on the Neville’s trampoline one week, jump on the O’Lenick’s trampoline the next week, play spotlight from the front stoop of Katie’s house the next week. Inevitably, the moms from all these other houses played a role in my life as well.
Most days I played across the street at Katie’s house. She had one of those cool, new side-by-side refrigerators that made crushed ice! (Most things at my neighbors’ houses were cool and new because, after all, we were the last family on the street to get a VCR.) Katie’s fridge was always stocked with 2-liter bottles of Coke and Grape soda, but I’d fill a Solo cup to the brim with crushed ice and enjoy chewing ice while we played. One day I set my icy cup on a nice piece of wooden furniture and about an hour later I heard Mrs. Fundy talking on the phone to her friend about the atrocity of someone leaving a dripping cup without a coaster! I didn’t make that mistake again.
Once, when my sister and I were jumping on the trampoline and broke out into a fight, Mrs. O’Lenick peeked her head out of her back door and told us that we were too old to be fighting like that. Embarrassed that we were heard from inside someone’s house, we let go of that fight real fast.
When things lined up perfectly, I’d score the opportunity to spend the night at my friend Laci’s house. And when we woke up, we didn’t eat cereal. Mrs. Infield made scrambled eggs! I looked at the eggs, steam rising from my plate, but when I took a bite they didn’t taste the same as the scrambled eggs I ate at home. “These taste funny,” I remarked. “They have cheese in them,” said Mrs. Infield. “That’s weird,” I replied. “Weird sounds a little insulting. Try interesting,” Mrs. Infield said matter-of-factly. (I’m not sure I could keep my composure if someone I take the time to cook for throws an insult my way!) “Hmmm, interesting,” I said after I took another bite. And I cleaned my plate. I also learned not to use the word “weird” again when referring to food!
My friends and I also spent a lot of time in Mrs. Moakler’s minivan heading to and from tennis matches. One afternoon she had to make a quick stop at a neighbor’s house and asked us to stay in our seats for a minute until she came back. As twelve and thirteen year olds, we quickly unbuckled, blared the radio, and were as noisy as we possibly could be until we saw Mrs. Moakler come back out of the house. We jumped back into our seats, but not quickly enough to not get caught. She asked us what we were doing and made the comment, “I’m sure Jody stayed in her seat.” And I knew in that moment what was expected of me. And I wanted to live up to those expectations.
Kids are egocentric by nature; even teenagers don’t truly understand an adult’s desire to keep a new sofa “new” by making and enforcing Eat Only in the Kitchen laws. Looking back on my childhood, I’m glad that all the other moms poked and prodded me with their reprimands, rules, suggestions, expectations, and nurture. Sadly, my mom probably taught me all of the same exact lessons and offered plenty of love and nurture, but I definitely remember lessons (and cheese eggs) from other moms more distinctly. As a mom of a five year old and eight year old, I rejoice in little moments when another mom steps in to help mold my child. It’s one less battle for me and perhaps they will remember the lesson better from Gracie’s mom than from me!