Of all the hopes we have for our children, there’s one that is universally unique to a mother. It has nothing to do with dreams of happiness, making a lot of money, marrying well or staying out of trouble. Ask any mother and she can tell you what it is she really hopes for.
“I hope you end up having a child exactly like you!”
Rarely, if ever, are those words spoken when one has just made the honor roll, scored the game-winning goal or been praised by the local minister. Rather, it is hissed out of a mouth contorted with fury and spewed across the room fueled by rage.
I wasn’t an evil child, as evil children go. But I certainly wasn’t an easy one. I was number three of four daughters and landing smack in the middle like that made it quite difficult for me to get the attention I craved. I wasn’t even the second oldest. I was the second youngest.
In households with a shortage of bedrooms, the younger ones typically share a room, at least until the oldest leaves for college. But, in our house, it was Susan and Emily, the older two, who shared a room while Nancy and I lived in the lap of luxury with bedrooms all to ourselves.
The legend goes that I was way too difficult a child to share a room with anyone.
I do recall lying in wake at the top of the stairs for Susan to walk by on her way to the bathroom. I reached out and sniped her, drawing blood on her ankles with my fingernails. I used to pull chunks of hair out of Emily’s head, simply because she looked at me. And I was known to fly into irrational rages without any warning, lashing out at whoever was in my path.
When we were all going somewhere together, my three sisters would stand at the edge of the driveway, giving me first choice of seats in the wood-paneled Country Squire station wagon. They weren’t wimps. But they weren’t stupid, either.
I hated change and transitions and anything out of my control.
We spent many years vacationing at Skytop, a resort in the Poconos. Our parents would golf during the day and deposit the four of us at Camp in the Clouds. We had good times there, swimming in the murky lake, crafting tile trivets and singing “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” which made the still bosom-less Emily and me shake with laughter.
And then one year, my parents decided to try the Tides Inn in Virginia. I was as excited as the rest of them to take a six-hour trip south to a place that promised to be as equally inviting as Skytop. And it was. However, when we pulled into the driveway, something didn’t match the picture in the brochure. I’m not sure if it was the white impatiens instead of purple petunias or the valet’s red rather than black jacket. But something set me off. I refused to get out of the car and it took me days to acclimate to the new resort and allow the rest of the family to enjoy the vacation.
But, those were just minor glitches along the way, tales that are laughed about at dinner tables decades later. There’s so much more I need to apologize for.
Mom, I am sorry.
I’m sorry for saying “I don’t care” when I clearly did.
I’m sorry for going so far out in the ocean that I had to be rescued by the lifeguards.
I’m sorry for pretending to go on job interviews when I sat in Rittenhouse Square instead.
I’m sorry for coming home at two, three, four-o-clock in the morning.
I’m sorry for tormenting the babysitters.
I’m sorry I let Karen Shea ride on the roof of the station wagon.
I’m sorry I pretended to swallow that pin.
I’m sorry I never wore that crocheted vest you got me for Christmas.
I’m sorry for telling you it was Patty who smoked when I came home with my clothes stinking. It was really Emily.
I’m sorry for wearing torn blue jeans and a flannel shirt on Easter Sunday.
I’m sorry I talked back. Talked too loud. Talked too much.
I’m sorry I went to Florida on Mother’s Day.
I’m sorry I quit the team the day after you bought my uniform.
I’m sorry I wouldn’t eat vegetables.
I’m sorry I begged and pleaded relentlessly for $60 hiking boots, to paint my room green, to get my ears pierced.
I’m sorry I didn’t say thank you.
I’m sorry I got a D in Home Ec.
I’m sorry I told you not to come to my Creative Writing night.
I’m sorry you had to say, “I hope one day you have a child exactly like you.”
But most of all, I’m sorry I wasn’t sorry until I became a mother.