Sunday, May 9, 2010

Secret Lives of Little Girls, Part 3: Anna Katherine

My mom (left) and her friend, Rose
Cleveland, Ohio
April 1957

Anna Katherine Kane Laughlin (December 8, 1939 -- August 13, 1994) was my mother. She liked Japanese gardens, bowling, and astrology. She seemed happiest in her life when she hung out with her girlfriends. She died of a brain hemorrhage due to complications with alcoholism and diabetes.

My mother didn't like to take me to the grocery store because I would run the cart into her heels. I started hiding in the back-back of the station wagon and then I would pop out when I knew we were close enough to the store that she wouldn't turn around and take me back.

But when we watched "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" together on Saturday nights, I would lay across the end of her bed, and she would scratch my back.

My mother got so irritated when we played "Marco Polo" for more than 10 minutes...."Marco"..."Polo"..."Marco"..."Polo". She would scream for us to stop.

But she never wanted me to get my hair cut. She would brush it and put it into pigtails every morning.

My mother made very regrettable choices, and she would not have been a great choice to write an old-fashioned or a modern-day parenting book.

But I never went to bed without a kiss.

My three best friends from growing up think of my mother often, they tell me. This is moving to me. One of these friends has nightmare-type dreams of my mother where my mother appears to her very sad and angry. I am intrigued, and deep down I am jealous because I have not seen her my dreams.

But I see her in my shoulders and my eyebrows and when I am taking care of my fingernails, my hands look just like hers.

My mother died over 15 years ago. Mother's Day never makes me sad.

But her birthday hits me like a brick every year, even when I plan that it won't.

You know it is the little adjustments that pull you safely out of ruts. I cannot undo neglect and confusion.

I have learned to practice grief and praise, and that is everything. It is easy to remember her laugh and her pain and her thunder. It is easy to think that she loves my life. It's hard to explain why she was the perfect mother for me.