mother and daughter

The Ladies’ Club

It used to be “card club,” back in the 50’s and 60’s. My mom would set up card tables (ah, that’s where the name comes from), wash her pretty glasses, and set out ash trays. Remember ash trays?!!

The glasses had pastel-colored handles of bubbly pink, yellow, blue, and green. The ash trays were translucent pink with ruffled edges, or milk glass with raised polka-dots. Everything was feminine and lovely.

I was about four or five. I didn’t quite understand what was going on, except that a lot of women in dresses were coming through our front door, a door we didn’t use. My mom was dressed up and smelled so good (Tabu), and she wore pearls. This was so unlike my everyday mom. Everyday mom wore pedal pushers and Keds®, no make-up, her short bob slightly mussed.

I remember thinking that my mom should wear a dress, and perfume, and pearls every day, just like June Cleaver did. I couldn’t understand her choices. It took me a long time to “get it.” She was a feminist, in her own way; not with words, but by her actions.

She had her own car her entire adult life, even before she met my dad. She put herself through nursing school and became a registered nurse. This was in the 1950’s, when most suburban moms did not work. She could have supported herself, and she wanted the same for her kids.

And, so, began 25 years of turmoil between us, a modern mom and a daughter who wanted long hair and patent leather shoes, not the pixie cut and sensible Oxfords I got. I was a child of the media influencers of the 60’s: the ad agencies. I didn’t understand my mother’s high expectations of me, why she was slow with the praise and adulation that I saw in other Cleaver moms.

* * * * *

As we both got older, our disputes became less frequent. She was the one who finally cut the cord – she told me that I should not commute to law school; that it was probably time [for me] to go. Of course, Mom was right.

Moving away was my first step toward really growing up. I had bills, a job, and rent: the responsibilities of living. I learned to take care of myself. Having kids, though, was the clincher. Now, I was the one responsible for nurturing another life.

As we grew closer, I finally was able to ask Mom why she was so hard on me growing up.

“Because,” she responded, “I wanted you to be strong. My mother was strong. I never saw her cry.”

I felt she was trying to tell me even more than that, but she was a woman of few words.

* * * * * *

Considering the current news stories about sexual harassment, predation, and assault by media and political figures, my mother’s achievement in raising strong children was a blessing. I am not saying that the victims of these incidents were not strong, for I have no knowledge of their circumstances. What I am saying, is that my mother equipped me with the ability to survive the ugly parts of life.

What I am saying is, thank you, Mom.

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