Headlines circulate that moms become THEIR moms around the age of 33. Since I am now a grandmother and way beyond that magical age, I have reflected on my life at that time of supposed transition from myself to my mother. At 33, I had a seven-year old son, was returning to teaching after working as a payroll clerk in a brake lever factory following eight years in the classroom, was divorced and returning to the town where my parents lived.
At 33, my mom had three kids, worked sporadically in a shoe factory in St. Louis and was living about four hours away from her parents. She would have said she was nothing like her mother, though she would have quickly quipped that her first-born daughter (me) had that covered. I even have the fair skin and reddish hair coloring of my maternal grandmother Ardieth Turpin Bizzell. Mom was a brunette with olive skin.
Being born in the midst of the Great Depression did not mean mom hung on to anything. I do. We both graduated from high school at 16. She went to work and married at 18. I married after college. She wanted to be a teacher. I lived that dream for her while she worked as a bank teller. She could sew and embroider, can and freeze summer bounties, and always had a spotless house. All beyond my skill set. Mom was a classy dresser, preferring muted colors and suits. Not that I can’t be a lady, but I grew up in the hippy era. Give me bright colors and comfortable fits, and I love my boots. Did mom even have any except the galoshes she wore over her shoes? She could indicate to me and my siblings that we were in big trouble just by raising one eyebrow. I never mastered that technique so good thing my son seldom needed corralling in that manner.
Mom loved flowers, especially coleuses and hollyhocks, and all sorts of wildflowers. Similarities shine here. Our city flowerbeds were lined with her favorites, but with all the oak tree shade in her eventual country residence, she preferred the haphazard looks of all the wildflowers she could name as they appeared each spring. I tend to those now, and get the same pleasure in discovering them each year.
When I visit my younger sister, I am struck by the familiar expressions I see on her face and mine as we laugh and reminisce. Perhaps growing up in an era when one bathroom per residence was the norm explains the way my sis and I both apply makeup as our mother did, even using some of the same products. Mom will sometimes wink back at me when I am trying to get my lipstick on just so.
My voice is a clear connection. I hear mom, sometimes in exasperation, sometimes in surprise or happiness, sometimes in a hello or goodbye, sometimes in conversations with my son, sometimes in a “Well, I’ll be,” that I recall mom saying. She grew up in the Bootheel, with Appalachian ancestry perhaps to explain other countrified expressions that come out of my mouth from seemingly nowhere.
At 33 I might have rolled my eyes at being compared to Ruth Evelyn Bizzell Pearson, but not now. Miss you, mom. Wish you were here. Maybe you are.