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  • Writer's pictureJeb Brack

Doing What Moms Do

My mom drove me nuts, but that's what moms do, right?

She was my teacher in elementary school, so I couldn't get away with anything. She knew my homework, she knew the phone numbers of every teacher in the school, hell, she INVITED the other teachers over to our HOUSE! Drove me nuts.

In 1976 she and my dad bought a house in the country, an old, dilapidated, smelly, isolated house in the country. No drugstore on the corner, no library across the street, no friends within walking or even cycling distance. Instead we worked to renovate that house, plant gardens, clean up the debris from the previous owners. The photo above is from this era, right after we moved in. Don't we look like disadvantaged waifs in some tenement? Okay, waifs with fabulous 70's hair, but still. Drove me NUTS.

One of my chores as a kid was cleaning the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, wiping the counters and so on. Naturally, I could not be expected to do this directly after mealtimes; there were books to read, games to play, and Hogan's Heroes wasn't going to watch ITSELF, right? My mother had different ideas and would call me to my task. But she wouldn't just yell "Jeb! Sean! Clean the kitchen!" Instead, she would call out three syllables that were a bastardization of the word kitchen, as if spoken with a French accent but then drawn out into a sing-song: "KIT--SEE--OWN!!" I hated that word. It. Drove. Me. Fucking. NUTS!!!

She never slowed her mind long enough for her mouth to catch up, so she often spooned in spokerisms. Once she pointed at a songbird, rare in our area, that sported red wings on its black body. "Look!" she exclaimed. "It's a rat-wing bedbird!"

Everything was a "sign" to my mom. Any time she saw a robin, it was "the first robin of spring", even if it was September. She could never get the names of me and my brothers correct on the first try. Any time she rode in the car while I was driving, she would flinch and gasp at every movement ahead of us--even if it was a leaf blowing in front of the car.

But that's what moms do, right?

God knows what she would have made of today's world. Would she have become one of those Facebook moms who constantly forwards glurge and urban legends? What would she have done with Twitter? She could barely handle a VCR; I can't imagine her navigating an iPhone. More importantly, what would my life, and the lives of my children, have been like if she was still around? Would she still be driving me nuts?

I'll never know. Mom died in 1995, ten years after first being diagnosed with breast cancer. Maybe if it had been found sooner, maybe if today's treatments had been around, maybe maybe maybe. What happened was, she worked as hard at life as she did at anything she loved and crammed a lot of it into those ten years. If she were still alive, she would be doing the same thing--living, working, enjoying herself and her family. Driving us all nuts.

Because that's what my mom did.

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