My mother used to give us safe-sex lectures at the dinner table, whether or not we had company over. One of my favorite high school memories is of the vaguely shocked looks my friends would get. Apparently their mothers never spoke of such things. More's the pity.
One evening, as we were all gathered around the teak dining table that is now mine, she told my step-brother and his girlfriend, “You know, you don't have to marry the first person you sleep with.”
I find it vaguely ironic that five years later, they did indeed get married.
My mother once, while we were in a car stopped at a red light, showed off to my friends and me that her pink and black underwear matched the pink and black dress she was wearing. I attribute my love of colorful lingerie to her. But I've never shown my favorite red bra with the mini-rhinestones to anyone but Fuzzy.
My mother is blunt, sarcastic, generous, gracious, funny, annoying, caring, intelligent, seemingly-omnipotient, stubborn, and vulnerable, all at once. The greatest insult I ever gave her was when I told her that I didn't feel at home in her house. That she eventually came to understand that since I had never lived there, I had no sense of connection to the place, is something that always amazed me.
My mother was not at my wedding. We eloped, and didn't tell anyone until after. (My wedding is a story in and of itself. The courthouse where Laura Ingalls Wilder's marriage would have been registered, a bunch of Fuzzy's mostly-Catholic friends, sarcastic commentary from all of us, and a Chinese-food dinner on a Friday during Lent.) When I told her, she refused to speak to me for weeks. Then she sent a check. And a few months later she threw a reception, where the leader of the local Humanist comunity did a committment ceremony. There was no stress, and very little expense. And the cake was chocolate.
My mother learned most of her favorite Christmas carols in second or third grade. I know this, not because she told me, but because when she sings them (off-key, but with great enthusiasm), she stands like a kid in a school concert. You can almost see the ghost of her inner child standing next to her, sporting knee-socks.
My mother was never a cookie-baking PTA kind of mom. She managed to stay involved in my life anyway. Mostly. She gave me, and every other woman in our family, the most amazing advice: Marriage should wait till you know who you are. Before you commit your life to anyone, you should live on your own for at least a year, travel if you want, and have at least one truly tragic love-affair. Wisdom for the ages, don't you think?
My mother is mystery novels, endless pots of strong coffee, cotton blouses, leather sandals, business finesse, and an endless supply of love, though she's lacking patience.
My mother has a distinct scent. It's not perfume, and it's not the Clinique make-up she used to wear (though that has it's own scent). It's something uniquely hers, and it means home.