Tricky Traits

Last week I came across an interesting piece on Finding Yourself in Adulthood, it reads in part:

I don’t look much like my mother. But as the years pass, I’m struck by the ways in which I’ve come to embrace a variety of behaviors I once not only deplored in her but fled in horror. Surely, this must be yet another telltale sign you’re a grownup.

It started me to think, just what traits do I have of my mother I didn’t like? We were very different personalities every step of the way. I’d rather take the time to think of the traits I do like and have developed in a good manner. One’s she left behind that perhaps she wasn’t aware of, of leaving something good.

I have never written an obituary in my life until my dad passed away. Mom did not want to, my brother looked a tad traumatized (although in school he wrote terrific short stories). I ask them to write down things they wanted to say/share, aspects, and dates of things that would highlight Dad, I asked those questions and made notes. Once I collected those, I added all of ours into a journalist’s viewpoint/short story/memoir of my dad. Mom and my brother read the draft and made comments. And of course, my mother dug her heels in by not wanting Dad’s parents named. Really? Why would I, or anyone need to explain why a dead person’s parents would not be mentioned in an obituary? I will save the details, but I found a way around my mother with help from a very smart source. My dad’s parents’ names stayed.

Why am I writing about my dad’s obituary when my post is about traits that a person, me, might get from my mother? Gosh, that is just how writing takes you. Anywhere.  I decided by the end of the article I read I would focus on the good traits of my mother that I did not acquire.      

To get closer to my topic, when my mother passed away two and half years after my dad, guess who had to write the obituary? I reflected on the struggle she gave me for Dad’s obituary. Cripes Mom!  It was about Dad.

We butted heads often, and when we didn’t, it was due to sidestepping issues and finding pleasure in the things we liked to do as a mother and daughter. My point is, my mother did have fine traits, many of which she taught me via observation more than conversations. I wanted to capture the finer qualities she possessed and loved doing. These are traits I didn’t inherit, although an effort was put forth.

For instance, her greatest passion (and mine was to hear her hands on those ivory keys) was the piano and although she played by ear, she was self-taught by listening. She wrote sheet music in her head, wrote lyrics and melodies, and played songs she heard, using her composition. Her favorite was Dr. Zhivago, Lara’s Theme and Henry Mancini’s Moon River. She still played all those songs, and hers, at ninety-two not missing a note or lyric. 

I on the other hand took piano lessons for several years and got the basics, but both hands wanted to go exactly in the same direction. I blamed it on being a ‘lefty’. My mother also designed her clothes when in High School and was a terrific seamstress for many years.

My mom, a senior in high school or shortly there after.

 Again, I tried my best. The first and last dress I made, I laid and cut the material wrong side out on the yoke, sewed it in place and then refused to redo it and wore it much to her chagrin. One of her other pastimes was sketching the drawings of the Vargas girls, little notebooks full of those curvy women, and many profiles of movie stars, little self portraits, and persons she created. I would secretly flip through the pages as a young girl, and with a pencil and my tablet from school, try to copy. Mine were easily defined as Donald Duck with a bit of Snidely Whiplash. Oh well.

What I did inherit was the love for cooking, baking, decorating a home, and being pretty good at it as she was, taking it to a different level, but her foundations were placed. I see pieces of her colors, arrangements of threes, fabrics she wore often, certain flowers she grew that showcase in my garden, and how the oddest things made her laugh sideways. I cannot count how often we both noticed something at the same time and without saying a word, burst into an explosion of laughter. These are the traits, not the trials, I prefer to have.

A dress she designed.

2 thoughts on “Tricky Traits

  1. A very generous reflection on your mom, Sally. She was a difficult person as I recall. Your remembrance of her talents and her creative side are a part of who you are.

  2. I remember clearly how I struggled over writing her obituary and asking you to read it first.
    You knew my mother. A great appreciation.

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