My friends at school used to tell me how lucky I was to be an only child because I got a bedroom all to myself. Well, let me tell you, there’s a down side. If something went South, there was nobody to blame. It was on me. I had to tow the mark, walk the line, straighten up and fly right and stop crying or I’d be given a reason to cry. Empty threats? Oh no.
I cherished the little spurts of freedom I got as a teenager. I didn’t have a mother, I had a smother; you know, a mother that smothers and controls. It’s not an insult – it’s a fact. We both knew it and discussed it quite often. I loved her madly, but at times she drove me mad. I’m surprised I know how to tie my own shoelaces. Every time I’d start to do something, I’d hear, “Oh honey, let me do that for you – you might hurt yourself.”
So I’m completely helpless today because I was not given the opportunity to do anything for myself. Of course, today I am forced to do most things for myself. Wow – I’m still alive, isn’t that great?
As a teenager I looked forward to sitting with the other teens at church on Wednesday nights. I couldn’t sit with them on Sundays because I had to play the piano for service. I was stuck on the front row, piano side from the time I was twelve years old. That’s not where a teenager wants to sit in church. Sigh.
On Wednesdays I got to be a kid and hang out with my friends. We whispered and giggled and had some fun – until I made eye contact with my mom. It was the LOOK… that, “Just wait till I get you home” look. Every daughter knows it. You are soon to be toast and you know it.
The most free I felt as a teen was when our church group went out for a bike ride. Here in Wichita we have a bike path that runs from 13th street clear to O.J. Watson Park. It was a different time in the early 1970’s. Sure, we had to worry about BTK, but other than that, it was fairly safe here. We didn’t have to wear helmets or anything like that – we just showed up with our ten speeds and took off – it was great! No parents and no responsibilities – just fun!
I remember the wind in my hair and feeling free. My life was one big responsibility – not that it can’t be fun, but not as fun as this! I couldn’t mess this up, right? There was no right or wrong – just fun.
The car my folks drove was very distinctive. Not because it was shiny and new, but because it was an older model car. It was a 1968 Chevy Bel Aire. I knew that car. It was the car I drove to school later on – trust me, I knew the car. Our biking group got about halfway down the bike path and took a little break. We got off our bikes and walked around and I remember thinking, “This is really great!” Then I happened to look up to see my folks driving by – my mom waving at me as though she was excited that I was still in one piece. There’s that smother language talking at me again. Sigh.
It was love and concern and I knew it. I just shook it off, got back on my bike and kept riding. I tried not to think of it as a lack of confidence on their part. Sometimes I admit I saw it that way, but then deep down I knew they just didn’t want to lose me. It can be overwhelming when you are at an age when all you want to do is try your wings and be trusted. I really wanted them to develop some confidence in my abilities. Nah… didn’t happen.
Until you know that life is interesting – and find it so – you haven’t found your soul. – Geoffrey Fisher
The language between a mother and daughter is very special. There was more to our relationship than “the look” when she turned around to scold me in church, or the mad waving from the car when she realized I could ride my bike down the bike path without riding into the Arkansas River. There were winks and thumbs ups and hugs and a sign language that only I could decode.
That loving smother talk just meant that she cared for me – a lot. ❤