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They grow up so fast

My mother and I are sitting in her glacier-colored Volkswagon Passat, outside a Panera Bread in the parking lot of a strip mall. She is on her lunch break from work. I drove to her office to pick her up and take her out to lunch but now we are at a standstill in the parked car and she is shaking her head, biting her lower lip, telling me she wants to go inside, but we can’t go inside because of my fleece jacket.

“Why?” I ask her.

“Because it looks dirty. And I don’t want people to see you wearing a dirty fleece.”

“It’s not dirty.”

“I didn’t say it was dirty, I said it looks dirty.”

“It’s just a little pilly,” I said, pulling off one of the pills with my fingers. “But it’s not dirty—I just washed it. And who’s going to see me wearing it?”

“Who knows,” my mother offers. “I work a few blocks away—there could be people there from the office. Or someone from church.”

“We haven’t been to church in twelve years.”

“Even worse,” she says. “First they’ll wonder why we haven’t been to church and then they’ll see you in that fleece and think you don’t wash your clothes.”

“Ok first off,” I say, “You are being ridiculous. I love you because you are my mother and I want to eat lunch with you, but you are being completely ridiculous. And secondly, even if I wanted to go home and change fleeces we don’t have time if you have to be back at work in an hour.”

My mother pauses, thoughtful. This is the hard part. The hard part for me is that she is not malicious or evil—it would be much easier to just have a horrible mother that I could hate with abandon but my mother is not cruel or unfeeling, she is simply omnipresent and easily embarrassed. If someone were to ask me, “Would you rather have a wonderful, heartfelt talk with your mother or throw her out a fifth story window?” I would reply, “Yes.”

“Here,” she says suddenly. “Take my jacket.” She is tugging her arms out of the sleeves, disengaging herself from the jacket in the awkward confines of the car.

“I can’t take your jacket—what are you going to wear?”

“I’ll just be cold,” she says. “I’d rather be cold than have you go in there with that fleece.”

“I really don’t want your jacket,” I tell her sheepishly.

“I’m fine,” she says, rubbing her hands together enthusiastically, her upper arms sporting a shallow layer of goose pimples. “I’ll just order something warm.”



“I don’t want to wear your jacket.”

“What’s wrong with my jacket?”

“It’s a petite jacket,” I tell her, “and the sleeves are up to here on me.” I make a motion with my hand at where the sleeves will hit, which is approximately two inches past my elbow. “It’s not going to fit me. I’m going to look like a giant.”

“You can pretend they’re three quarter length sleeves,” she says cheerfully. And it’s the “cheerfully” that kills me. Because it’s the “cheerfully” that is my mother saying, “Look, Kelly, I’ve FIXED this! I’ve fixed it and found a way for us to go out to lunch together and please don’t ruin it!” when I want to cry out that it was her disdain for my recently-washed-but-pilly-fleece that created this situation in the first place. But even while oblivious to her role in the problem, she is desperate for a solution because deep in her loving, well-intentioned, easily embarrassed heart, she wants very much to go out to lunch with me because she loves me. And deep in my crazily screaming, frustrated heart, I feel the same way.

“It’s not just the sleeves,” I tell her. “It’s a petite jacket. And I don’t like it—I would never wear this jacket.”

“Just try it on,” she says.

And angrily, begrudgingly, I take off my fleece and put on the petite navy blue suit jacket which obviously, obviously does not fit, and which looks ridiculous. I am five foot-nine, wearing a suit jacket that would need only slight tailoring to fit either a Wizard of Oz munchkin or a five year-old, my long, Frankenstein-like arms protruding from the sleeves.

“It doesn’t fit.”

“It looks fine,” my mother says happily. She has unlocked the doors and is already getting out of the car.

She is happily walking toward Panera, chatting away—telling me that last time she got French Onion Soup in a bread bowl but that she is trying to watch her weight and that maybe she will get a salad. I walk behind her awkwardly, the suit jacket pinching around my armpits.

I am thirty years old, wearing a blazer that would fit a Kindergartener. It looks as though I started out the morning as a child, my mother dressing me for elementary school picture day, saying “let’s put on your good blue blazer for the pictures,” and now here we are only a few hours later and I am wearing the same clothes, but have somehow aged 25 years and grown a foot and a half taller. I look, frustrated, up at my mother and she looks longingly back at me and I realize, in a way, that that is exactly what has happened.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
I love this story.

Parental narcissism is so awful to live with, and so entertaining to describe.

Oct. 7th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
I know you didn't write this to solicit advice - it's a painfully wonderful story about how we, as adults, are often reduced to our former roles as children in our parents' eyes.

But still. You really shouldn't have put on that goddawful blue blazer. Stuff like that just makes it harder for the rest of us to grow up in their eyes.
Oct. 7th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
sometimes I put on the blazer and sometimes I don't :)
Oct. 7th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
Oh Moms. I have a mother like this. Don't we all?

Next they are going to pull out a comb like at school pictures and start fiddling with our hair. Maybe lick their finger and wipe something off our face :(

I know they mean well but OH MOM.

And I don't think you should *not* have put it on, everyone has their own life to lead and sometimes you compromise because although they bug the hell out of us, sometimes you just want onion soup in a bread bowl and no one's going to get it unless WE PUT ON THE BLUE BLAZER. And it stops their silly panic and god, I just want some bread dammit.

It's symbolic, it's like the white flag, the I GIVE UP, and isn't it hilarious the details that bug some people? Because really... what's going to draw more attention, a pilly fleece or a Blue Blazer made for teeny tiny people?
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
This story is wonderful. People are complex and *hard* sometimes - and it's wondeful to take time to figure out some of what's going on underneath.

Oct. 12th, 2011 12:25 am (UTC)
Oh, I laughed so hard my chest hurt at this. Man, that is funny. *whew*
Feb. 22nd, 2012 06:09 am (UTC)
I'd essentially stopped checking LiveJournal some time ago, just as a result of drifting away from it, I guess. And then for some strange reason, it had suddenly occurred to me that I had not read your posts in a while. Yes, after a long absence, of all the things to think about that I might've missed from LJ, it was your random, unscheduled posts. So I check, and, wow, it looks like I hadn't checked LJ for almost an entire year.

Anyway, the eight stories that I had not read revealed that your writing was still as great as ever, with that same thoughtful, casual, kind of meandering style. And I read each one, with a smile tugging at my lips and/or an inexplicable need to rub my eyes because, darn it, someone's cutting an onion around here, or something.

I don't know whether you're still writing here, or whether the plans I vaaaguely recall about a book compilation of stories were going anywhere, but just wanted to post a comment thanking you for your stories. (c:
Feb. 25th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
I'm always touched and flattered to hear it. Thank you. This made my day :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )