Mother's Day: the untold story

Friday, May 9, 2008

What is the most commonly used five-word phrase in the English language?

My personal guess would be "I love you, Mom, but…"

I see you nodding in recognition. Moms give us life. They nurture us. They see us through times of injury and illness. They inspire us with a slice of their own indomitable spirit. But mothers also know how to push all our buttons and drive us crazy.

The stories about motherly micro-management of wearing clean underwear for ambulance rides, digesting lunch before swimming, standing up straight, jumping off a bridge, etc. are legendary. I'm sure when witches were being burned at the stake, there was a mother admonishing her hapless daughter, "Don't forget to wear your sweater!"

We put up with the micro-management because the self-sacrifice of mothers makes us feel guilty. ("Go on to your rock concert with your friends. I have the symphony of your father's snoring to keep me company. One-two-three … Layla, you've got me on my knees, Layla….")

A good mother is there with time, money and unconditional love. You know your mom would gladly give you the shirt off her back, her last dollar, or even a transplant organ. ("Thanks, Ma, but the offer of an ovary is creeping me out. Signed, your son, Johnny.")

Of courses mothers do have their differences. Some can't wait to experience "empty nest syndrome."

My own mother, on the other hand, has always had problems cutting the apron strings for me and my brother. I'm glad that I live only 10 minutes from my mother's house and have given her a daughter-in-law and grandson that she can be proud of, but I think the original plan was for me to move next door, work from home, and reproduce asexually by splitting in half.

My mother's reminiscences are just a little too wistful. I've lost track of how many times she has used the phrase "you were just babies" when recounting some anecdote. My brother and I were allegedly just babies when we started to school, started to shave, got a driver's license, etc. I vaguely recall that when I was younger her stories went more like "I remember when you took your first step -- you were just an embryo."

Mom still pouts, moans, worries and caterwauls any time I eat out, venture out to the mall, or make a day trip to visit my in-laws. I think my curfew was 1978.

Although my mother seldom "gets" my columns, I feel compelled to write this one instead of just grabbing a generic gift at the convenience market. Over the years she has tirelessly helped me through skinned knees, bedwetting, whooping cough, a broken arm, my fascination with matches, dead pets, bad investments, totaling a car, and more.

And, oh, the delicious home-cooked meals!

She deserves something special, and her much-appreciated stories about growing up during Hard Times convince me she needs something thrifty, so -- voila! -- this week's column.

Yes, I've learned to accept the mothering. On the other hand, I dread her reaction to the 2010 census. ("Wait! You didn't ask a single question about how old Danny and Dwight were when they were weaned!")

I love you, Mom, but … my editor loves short columns, so the mushy stuff will have to wait until 2009. In the meantime, have the best Mother's Day ever.

Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at