There’s a lot of sweet (and rightfully so) on my Facebook feed today. Wonderful and lovely pictures of friends’ moms and friends’ kids. But this morning, I am feeling a bit “salty” (my favorite new coffee drink from the Songbird café here in Ann Arbor is rosemary sea salt latte—it sounds weird, but the sweet and salty flavor is wonderful and delicious). And to me, sweet and salty captures being a mom.
Take the picture below. Last night, I arrived home late from being at my oldest child’s crew regatta in Columbus on Friday and most of Saturday. There was a Bath and Body Works store across from my hotel in Ohio and I picked up LOTS of hand soap (typical mom multi-tasking). When I got home, I asked Sophia, my middle child, to put the soap in the kids’ bathroom. This picture represents her interpretation of that request. Salty.
I am reading cartoonist Roz Chast’s hilarious and poignant graphic memoir “Can We Talk about Something More Pleasant?” about dealing with her parents’ old age. In depicting her parents, she certainly does not have rose-colored glasses, and shows them warts and all. The reader gains an understanding of their personalities and how they got to be who they are. Her mom, a retired assistant principal, tended to anger when challenged and described this as giving people “blasts from Chast”. While it is clear that her daughter experienced this as upsetting, she is able to add humor to her perspective and has an understanding of her mother that is lovely, albeit painful.
With my family, I too possess what has charitably been called a “Mediterranean temper” (and less charitably, “being a jerk”). I have worked on it over the years, but my children have received many “Blasts from Kales” particularly in response to “Insubordination from Kids” (see above picture). On reflection, the blasts are not that effective, and over time, I have tried to change my ways (we’ll see how that gets depicted when they write their own graphic memoirs, likely pretty salty).
My own mom is uber-patient, kind and always there to listen (sweet). She is a hard act to follow. However, HER mom was pretty salty. She was one of many children born to a farm family in North Dakota and didn’t receive much attention or love her way. When she became a mom, that got played out. Although my grandmother could be hilarious, fun and witty, she could also change on a dime and go to bed in a huff. Interestingly, my mom describes some of her best times with her mom (who had developed Alzheimers’) as occurring after my grandmother was placed in a Catholic nursing home in Minnesota. Somehow my grandmother’s love for my mom was loosened and she could express it more easily. However, she was still WAY salty: one of my mom’s favorite last memories of her mom was when a music therapist was leading the elders at the home in a rendition of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. My grandmother’s response? “Shaaaad-up!!”. It makes us laugh to this day.
And being able to laugh helps you to accept the salty with the sweet. Happy Mother’s Day!