Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another Kind of Love Story: A Valentine for Her by Bloom Guest Brooke Benton

Every once in a while I find another soul in the vastness of cyber space that just draws me back for more. And more. That's how it's been for me with Brooke. I adore her. Someday I'm going to have lunch with her, mark my word.

We are so excited to share her with you today:

My mother was the most sensible of housekeepers and paid attention to the minutiae in a way that I simply cannot. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I really CANNOT. My nature is opposed to it. For one thing, my children never wear socks; my mother was a great supporter of the sock industry. It’s only this past year that my son has discovered their sensible offering of comfort and warmth… on his own accord. A mother like me is not attuned to such things.

On our beds, when I was little, the greatest care was taken to assure a warm covering. The philosophy of a heater was not ardently subscribed to and bedtime coziness was most delightful tucked into a bed my mom had just made. Corners were stiffly folded at the bottom of the mattress and because my feet felt tight I would first kick around to loosen the squareness. And there was always the cleverest of coverings as she layered blanket upon blanket and then, folding them over at the top pinned them together with the boldness of diaper pins, neat in a little row. Among the layers of blanket the ones I remember most had drawn girls on them: Holly Hobby like dolls with their assumed cheeks hidden by abundant bonnet, their calico frocks draped with apron. It was a predecessor to fleece maybe and really warm. But a knotted marled heavy thing with a satiny wide hem.

(Sigh. How romantic and lovely my childhood bed.)

Sometimes my kids sleep with blankets and sometimes they do not. I admit that though lured by the glamour of duvets with their prissy covers, I have come to hate them for the sheer impracticality of attempting to wash and reassemble them. I like down throws and fluffy t.v. blankets, usually tossed on the bed for my kids to sort out as they snuggle down.

If they say, “Get me cozy, mom,” then I do, and we all like it—but as a rule, the bedding is just as much a mess as everything else.

Last week I finally went through my clean laundry “tower” (that builds itself almost imperceptibly: how easy is to wash and dry, how hard to fold and deliver) that indeed started at the floor and was almost as tall as my height. I sorted because it was the type of thing a good housekeeper does. That, and my children were completely out of underwear.

And as I folded I thought this: that the laundry of my younger days was never like this. It was like the dry cleaning delivery that my husband needs (because I am like this) now. Picture this precision: something soiled went into the hamper, 24 hours later it appeared folded in my bedroom. (Perhaps on the edge of a tautly made bed.) I thought it was magic. Apparently it was my mom being my slave.

Is it that I am lazy? That I don’t know how to work? Indeed I am happier when my house is orderly and crumb-free, but it is not propelled by a sense of anything more than aesthetics. When I want it pretty, I make it pretty. If it’s dirty and I don’t need pretty, then it can stay dirty.

Anyway, in the endless slog of getting through the piles of things and stuff and dirt and dust, every day I just feel really, really grateful for my mom who sacrificed doing something else for herself so that she could (and did she know this whilst she toiled?) give me cleanliness and love and—if anything—these charming little memories.

Still it makes me wonder what my own kids will remember about me, about what will underscore the obvious love of basic mothering and prove the true devotion of it. And I think it might be cookies.

What was it for you as a child? And what do you think your kids will love and cherish about you?


Dawn said...

My mom kept house, cooked 3 meals a day and was always able to make something out of nothing. For my 5th birthday she made me the coolest barbie house out of a cardboard box, completely furnished!

Laurel said...

Food = Love. That's the way it was in my house. Yummmmmmmm. I still really, really like going home. (I'm hungry just thinking about it.)

Kalli Ko said...

Who doesn't love Brooke?

My mom was and still is the epitome of everything I want to be. She can pull a full sized buffet fit for a king out of mid air, it's miraculous.

Mostly I want my kids to have great memories from family traditions and fun and a favorite food (made by yours truly) because I think all kids should have a favorite food that only their mom can make, don't you?

Melissa said...

This post had me smiling ear to ear. My mom was a perfectionist, and I am a realist. The problem is that while I'm trying to keep it real, there is a bar set to perfection in my head that constantly nags at me no matter how I try to make it go away. I remember how she did things, and that I liked those things, but I also know what was sacrificed to keep things so peachy perfect. I hope my girls remember that they were hugged and cuddled and read to. I sing to them every night before they go to sleep. These are the little comforts that I wanted to give my children, but didn't receive. It will be interesting if hugs and cuddles are what they remember, or if they'll just remember that mom consumed copious amounts of chocolate when she was stressed. We'll see. :D

ColleenDown said...

I was a latchkey kid I usually came home to cereal bowls on the table and the curtains still drawn. So the pendulum swung and I am always home to greet my kids. You know what I have learned. My children have missed out on the "down-time" I had after school. I could fix a sandwich, plop down on the couch, read a teen magazine and never once hear, "have you practiced your piano, do you have homework, we are late to soccer." I had time to chill and dream and relax for a couple hours. So in a very odd way, I guess a gift my mother gave me was a couple hours with myself! Thanks for your beautiful post Brooke--maybe I will go make my kids beds.

Valerie said...

Yay I love finding fun new blogs to read, I will become a fan of Brooke's blog for sure :) (plus cool name, my middle name is brooke)

Any way, my Mom made me (and my siblings) a themed cake every year. She made a big deal for our birthdays. Lots of decorations around the whole house. Balloons, streamers, posters with our pictures, the works! She would ask me every year what kind of cake I wanted and I would tell her...Rollerblade, cheerleader, Giraffe, even the Tasmanian Devil (when I was obsessed with him in 6th grade.)
She would free hand it and make it all from scratch, even the frosting. I hate making frosting. So that is one my cherished memories, special birthdays just for us.

We live in a Zoo! said...

You sound a lot like how my Mom was.
I never had a problem with it.
I always knew she loved me and my siblings, and that is of course the most important thing.

AzĂșcar said...

Brookey, you and I had the same mother (down to the Holly Hobby blanket) and turned out to be the same sort of mother/keeper. I just can't.

My kids will like that I laughed a lot.

Vicky said...

I LOVED this. I'll be visiting Brooke's blog soon.

It wasn't until I was grown that I realized (how stupid of me) that my mom gave SO much to us! I think it's too complicated for me to be specific, but I can see, looking back, that my mom wanted to give us everything, and she tried to in the best way she knew how. I hope my kids know that the things I do for them, like reading and cooking and snuggling, are because I love them.

jennie w. said...

My Mom was a total slob. She was into Creativity and didn't have time for mundane things like cleaning and laundry. I suppose I remember our house being dirty, but it isn't as big a memory as I would have thought.

So rest easy. Your kids will only remember what a sweet, lovely mother you are.

P.S. Safety pins? Really?

Abbie said...

My mom = good food and cleanliness.

Me = crazy fun and food. (And they'll probably remember that I was on the computer or reading a lot.:) Hmm...)

Jana said...

i think my mom was a little like you. and i say just a little because my mom DID NOT make homemade cookies, they were sliced and baked. but like you because she let us be kids: get dirty, make messes, enjoy our toys and eachother (siblings). i'm sure we were ratty, but i loved the childhood my mother provided us. we were free to just be kids!

and brooke... you are amazing!

Michelle said...

Ah Brookie, I'd follow you anywhere. I'd never visited bloom before, but I love it!

My children will remember that I played with them. I certainly won't be remembered for a clean pantry!