We're not talking about Khruschev right now, Mother. We're talking about the two dead bodies* in the bath tub. ~ from a dream I had last night
I woke from this dream remembering how I used to talk to my mother, as if she didn't have a brain in her head and I was so much smarter. I started doing that when I was about 15 and was pretty sure she wouldn't slap me silly. It wasn't until after she died (almost 13 years ago) that I really understood how smart she was, that experience counts more than education, that she was doing the best she could with what she had, and what she had was seven kids in 14 years, which means she had the last one when she was only 33. Dad worked a blue-collar job while Mother fed us and clothed us on a startlingly small amount of money.
But I was a smarty pants, and the more book-learning education I got, the less smart Mother was. Mind you, my education was in English Lit, so sure - if you wanted someone who knew all about the sonnet form, I was your gal. But if you wanted someone who could make a buck go a long long way, I would have been no use at all.
I've read that one of the problems with teenagers is that their brains aren't fully formed yet, and when my grandsons hit their teens, I told my daughter that her main job was to keep them alive until they had the wits to keep themselves alive. My unformed teen brain told me that I could navigate the world just fine, thanks, and didn't need my mother (pronounced MO-ther! accompanied by an exaggerated eye-roll) to tell me anything.
When I turned 18 - brain still teen-muddy - I got a job in San Francisco and would stroll around the Financial District at my lunch hour, chatting with strangers and acting like Market Street was a safe place. Once a man in a suit and tie chatted me up at a stop light, and when he asked if I'd like to go out for a drink after work, I laughed out loud. "No thanks," I said. "My dad is picking me up." Another time my friend Karen and I went into Chinatown where she had heard of a place that sold the kind of tropical fish she wanted. We wandered around and finally found the the entrance to the place in an alley, well off of any beaten path where two mostly brainless women might be safe.
I don't believe in guardian angels, but if I did, I'm betting kids get theirs when they enter their teens. How else to explain their survival rate? I continued to be insufferable well into my 50s, when I could no longer excuse my behavior by citing studies on teen brains. The older I get the more credit I give my mother, who could do some pretty darned funny things - like the night she drove me and my brother and some friends to a play rehearsal and sat for a long time at a flashing yellow light waiting for it to turn green. My brother and I love telling this story. But here's the thing: she didn't learn to drive untl she was 35 years old - and that night there were about five teenagers in the car being smarter-than-thou - so she gets to have a lapse in remembering rules of the road. But we won't stop telling the story.
I wish I could have learned this lesson before my mother died. Maybe I'd have been nicer to her. Maybe we'd have found more things to talk about. But talking about Khruschev? No, I don't think we'd have gone that far.
* And just so you know, the two dead people died of natural causes.