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Thank God for My Mother

You can never be too prepared. I say this as someone who didn’t grow up above a fallout shelter, so maybe this isn’t a fair statement coming from me, but I did grow up with a mother who refused to leave the house without starting a load of laundry first. The car would be running, one of us was sulking in the backseat after losing an antagonizing game of shotgun, and my mom was throwing clean clothes in the dryer while simultaneously turning off all the lights in the house. Then there were the really special occasions when my mom was starting the dishwasher while my dad anxiously sat in the front seat because instead of arriving at our sporting event two hours early, we were only going to be there one hour and 47 minutes ahead of schedule.

I tend to prepare more than what is necessary for any given trip and I’m pretty sure I developed this habit watching my mother pack for family vacations like we were moving. I’m sure packing for three children (and a grown man who thinks packing involves nothing more than a spare pair of socks and a toothbrush) was no easy feat. We spent several summers on the Oregon coast where we were either drenched, covered in sand, or drenched and covered in sand.

I went to Arizona last month for a wedding. The trip was four days long and I packed six pairs of shoes–three of which were high heels. I had one formal event planned and the rest of my days there spent in dive bars doing stand up comedy where the patrons probably wouldn’t have looked twice had I been barefoot. I almost bought an additional pair while I was there, and that’s when I thought this seems excessive.

But sometimes over packing is necessary. My dad was the coach of our 8th grade girls basketball team and some weekends we would travel for tournaments. For one of our team outings we went bowling. During the course of the game, someone stole my dad’s shoes. Had this happened to me, no big deal–I have five pairs back at the hotel. But for my dad, that was it. There were no back-ups, with the exception of the bowling shoes on his feet. As the night wound down, and he realized his tennis shoes had in fact been stolen, he said “Oh well, I’ll just wear these to the game tomorrow.” Panicked, I quickly imagined the horror of my own father pacing along the court sidelines, trying to intimidate some 19-year-old referee in some worn-down bowling shoes that had clearly been worn by most of the men within a 20 mile radius.

It was moments like this (along with several others) where I say thank God for my mother. It took mere seconds for her to shoot down my dad’s plan to coach his daughter’s basketball game looking like an aging hipster. “The hell you will,” she told him. We went straight from the bowling alley to a department store where he purchased a pair of Tevas. You remember Tevas–I’m pretty sure Jesus had a pair. I can’t remember if we won that game the following day, but I do recall the sweet relief of knowing my father was wearing semi-appropriate footwear which prevented my death-by-embarrassment.

I believe my mother’s hair started turning gray by her late 30s. A time also referred to as, The Year She Taught Me How to Drive. My dad came up with every excuse in the book to keep us from driving:

“Driving in the snow is dangerous.”

“Driving in the rain is dangerous.”

“Driving when it’s windy is dangerous.”

“You might hit a deer.”

I find it ironic that my dad is the only one of us who has in fact hit a deer.

My mom was always the voice of reason. She knew the dangers of teenagers on the road, but she also wanted us to leave the house someday. She taught me and my sisters to drive and for that, she deserves a plaque and a vacation home to hang it in. I remember it taking me a few tries before mastering the art of stopping at a red light before turning right. I also remember yelling, but I have no doubt it was deserved. I’m still not great at the right hand turn, but my mother tried her best 20 years ago, and now it’s up to me.

I have to say the real effort was when she attempted to teach me how to drive a stick shift. It only lasted about 5 minutes. We were in the Safeway parking lot and the last thing I remember about it was swerving to miss a mailbox. Right about the time her life had finished flashing before her eyes, she firmly suggested I stop the truck and get out.

So Mom, thank you for packing for all of my vacations growing up, and in the process teaching me to pack for every kind of weather because you just never know. And for slowly removing some of Dad’s questionable wardrobe choices over the years. And for having the patience to teach four teenagers how to drive through the wind, rain, and deer.


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