I found a pin, but getting it situated without puckering and pulling the dress was arduous.
I flashed back to my teenage years when my mom would help me pin the necklines or straps out of the way. Even then with her help, it took a while to get it just right. We (or I should say "she") would work and work on it to make it the least noticeable as possible. It was a labor of Mom love.
I expect that I'll always remember little moments like that; at least I hope I do, and I hope my children have their own incidental memories for their middle years and beyond.
Mom is beyond helping me with anything now; I do all of the helping. Sometimes that makes me want to weep. Not because it's such hard work but because it's the necessity, the practical reality. And that's sad. I want her to be who she used to be.
Or do I?
You'll notice the second word of my title: needling. I meant that word to represent all of the times I struggled with my mom emotionally. She was pretty controlling and opinionated, determined to get her way, especially when it came to me and my appearance. My appearance was singularly important to her because her own was to her, and I was an extension of her.
When other mothers were trying to tone down their daughters, mine was trying to make me more attractive to the opposite sex.
It was weird.
First of all, it was like having a stage mom, but I was no starlet. Just average. I did not garner compliments every time I left the house like she always had growing up. To this day, she receives compliments when we're out, and she eats it up. I cringe. She had no career or anything besides her good looks and clean house on which to base her significance-very much a Mrs. Cleaver without the pearls. And so she passed her priorities on to me, only I resented them, most often. Occasionally it was ok with me because that meant I got new clothes, etc.
But I could not walk across the room without her telling me to straighten my shoulders. If I dropped something and picked it up, I had to bend my knees a certain way. If I carried a sweater or coat, it had to be draped across my arm, no bunching allowed. The rules were many, and she was like a giant eye, ever-watching.
One of the most irritating things she did was barge in on me in the bathroom. She had no idea we were two separate entities, no longer tied by the umbilical cord, even when I was older. If I locked the door, she tried to get in and ridiculed me for locking it. I wasn't doing anything sketchy, just PEEING, which I was not allowed to say, by the way.
This week I was in her bathroom, and in a split second, I had the most negative, ugly thought: "If she dares barge in here, I'm giving her what-for." It was like I was already angry, and she had not done a thing!
She cannot read her own mail now because she can't understand the difference between junk and legit mail. Plus she can't comprehend what she reads. So yesterday I came in with her mail, junk sorted. I was on my way to the trash when she stopped me: "What is that?"
"It's junk mail."
"Well, here, let me see it."
Ten minutes later: "I guess this is all junk mail. I should've let you take it when you were on your way with it." And she tossed it on the floor beside her chair.
I was STEAMING. What's with the control??
And then I thought, "She's 89 and very weak. She does not have much control over anything in her life. Can you not let her pretend to read her stupid mail without getting upset?! GROW UP."
What is my problem? I've got issues. Being around her is causing me to face buried resentment alongside growing compassion.
So often I waffle between deep sadness, pity and compassion and then irritation when the more frustrating parts of who she was arise.
Is she a child or an adult? It fluctuates by the minute.
I am working on this internally and working on it externally by my responses.
Some mothers never noticed their daughters were around. Mine lived through me. Both methods breed contempt. But when she's needling, I'll try to remember the pins. Because they are both a part of who she was and is, and she is my mother.