My Mom’s Birthday

February 5, 2008

My older daughter had the day off from school yesterday, and, because she needed new jeans, and because I had long ago promised her a shopping trip — just the two of us — I took her to Chattanooga and set her loose in a couple of stores.  It was, for the most part, a fun day for both of us.  She’s nearly thirteen, so I won’t bother trying to convince you that it was idyllic or conflict free, but we returned home with our relationship intact, with smiles on our faces, and with new jeans and a couple of shirts. (“Tops, Daddy!” — Er, right, tops.)

All day long, though, I was thinking about my Mom, and the shopping excusions she and I used to go on each fall, just before school started.  It wasn’t quite the same, of course.  I was a teenage boy, and clothes shopping for me was not the transcendent experience it appears to be for my daughters.  But still, I always looked forward to those afternoons with my mother.  We’d drive from our home in Larchmont to a part of White Plains where there was a cluster of department stores — Bloomingdales, Brooks Brothers, Saks Fifth Avenue, and, my mother’s favorite, Lord and Taylors.  My tastes were pretty typical of the time and of my age and gender:  Levis, flannel shirts, crewneck sweaters (which were cool, as opposed to v-necks, which were too preppie; these days I only wear v-necks.  I’m not sure what that means.) and a couple of turtlenecks.  

Really, though, the clothes were secondary.  This was a time for my Mom and me to talk, for her to ask me questions about my life, about which I wasn’t always as forthcoming as I could have been.  At other times I’m sure I threw roadblocks in the way of her curiosity, but on these trips I tended to open up, particularly as college approached and I began to realize that our excursions were numbered.  That was also around the time I began to realize just how insightful my mother could be about friendships, about school, and even about the behavior of girls my age, who were, to me, a strange and unfathomable species.  My Mom understood people.  She had an uncanny knack for sizing up a friend or girlfriend in mere moments.  She also had a keen and nimble mind, and an insatiable hunger for knowledge.  She was always reading something:  books, magazines, the newspaper.  She was intrigued by politics and the arts, by history and science.  She was always thinking about the next vacation she and my father would take, not to some resort or tourist destination, but rather to someplace exotic and interesting and different.  Someplace where she could learn about a new culture.  It took me years to realize this, but she was fascinating.

I had a wonderful day with my daughter yesterday, and I hope that I was able to offer her a little of what my Mom used to give me on our days together.  But I have to admit that I was wishing my daughter could have been shopping with her Gram instead of with me.  I would gladly have given up our day together for that.

Today would have been my Mom’s eighty-sixth birthday had we not lost her to cancer back in 1995, the same year my older daughter was born.  I miss her everyday, but on this day especially.  I miss her for myself, of course.  But even more, I miss her for my daughters who never really had the chance to know her.  They would have adored her, and she them.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  Sorry for telling everyone how old you are….

Today’s music:  Bela Fleck (Places)

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3 Responses to “My Mom’s Birthday”

  1. Frank said

    I’m with you on this one. a “top” is half a bikini. I am pretty sure you bought shirts.

  2. I personally use the term “Tops” and “Shirts” interchangeably. I must have mixed wires somewhere.

  3. davidbcoe said

    Yeah, tops and shirts. I think this is one of those guy/gal things. “To-may-to, to-mah-to, po-tay-to, po-tah-to, Let’s call the whole thing off…”

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