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December 15, 2005

Climbing the Snowy Mountain

by Nancy

The Silver Bullet failed me.  Go to fullsize image

The best time to go Christmas shopping around here is during the televised football game, so on Sunday afternoon I grabbed my credit cards, a fortifying bottle of Aquafina and a list carefully written on an extra large Post-It. Then I jumped into the Silver Bullet and headed for the boutique shops in a picturesque neighborhood not far from my house.  A lovely, fluffy snowfall began as I left the driveway and started down our long, winding hill.

By the time I reached my destination eighteen minutes later, three inches had piled up on the road and the white stuff was still coming down fast. No sight of a snowplow or salt truck.  PennDot crews were obviously back at the station in front of the football game. I love my car, as you know, but it was built for high performance on the smooth curves of the Autobahn, not slithery


slopes covered in lake effect slush with a layer of ice beneath.  I made it a couple more miles before another car blocked the way up a treacherous hill, and the Silver Bullet spun out.  I backed him into a country club parking lot & decided to wait for the road crew to come along.

They never came.

What the heck. With the heater cozily blasting on my toes, I relaxed, made a few cell phone calls—mostly catching up with friends and talking to my mother about what we’re going to cook on Christmas, but also to report my whereabouts to my husband.  Unbeknownst to me, he launched a rescue mission that would have impressed the crew of Apollo 13.

This sort of thing happens more often lately.  People have decided I need to be looked after.  Is there a frail wobble in my walk all of a sudden? Do I appear to be dotty? (I prefer to think I grow more eccentric as the time goes by.) Are they looking to tuck me safely in The Home soon?  The speed with which my family leaps to assist me has become obvious.

Example: My husband is having his wisdom teeth removed tomorrow.  I’m driving him to the surgery and will bring him home and look after him for a couple of days while he recovers. But my younger daughter, Sarah, a nursing student who’s just about to take the exam to become an RN said, “I’ll come by and check on him in the afternoon.”

Like I can’t be trusted?  Like I haven’t already made his favorite lime Jello? Chilled the ice packs? Rented some movies for him? Okay, there was that one instance when I suggested he take a little extra pain medication for a knee problem, which sent us to the emergency room at 3 in the morning, but that was a teensy, one time mistake anyone might have made, right?

Before I departed for

New York

Go to fullsize image last week, my mother slipped some crisp 20 dollar bills into my handbag.  “Take cabs,” she urged.  “You’ll be safer.”

And maybe my night vision isn’t what it used to me.  “Why don’t I drive?” our older daughter suggests when the sun goes down.

They exchange glances, our daughters, when certain subjects come up.  I know that glance---I’ve shared it with my own siblings when we notice the older generation needs a little help. 

But wait a minute. Another possibility hits me. 

Good grief, maybe this is the other side of the mountain of motherhood??

Since delivering two children over twenty years ago (eight pounds, six ounces, and eleven pounds two ounces, but, really, it was so long ago who’s counting? Besides me, that is?) I’ve fought my way up the slippery slope of motherhood.  Done everything, coped with the gamut—the terrible twos, the teenage sulks and weepy phases, New Math and book reports that weren’t started until after bedtime, Sarah’s broken leg, the year Cassie quit eating, those damn junior high projects that have nothing whatever to do with learning about the Renaissance but everything about family dynamics, the long trips ostensibly to look at colleges but really one last shot at discussing the big issues of life like sex and drugs and—oh, jeez, there’s no better time to bring up abortion and what exactly our family values are.  I’ll spare you talk of those bodily fluids every parent knows, and euthanizing the beloved dog and the inevitable fender benders, plus those orchestra concerts where they play Pachelbel’s Canon for the gazillionth time—that’s 65 repetitions of the same 8 notes on the cello which can make the Chinese water torture sound like a day at the beach.

I sheltered them from pain.  Kept them safe.  Of course, their dad was right there with me—we’re like a couple of Clydesdales in harness. Go to fullsize image A good team.  We nurtured their educations, their emotional lives, their creativity.  They’ve contributed to the welfare of the family by doing their chores, learned to write thank-you notes, volunteered in the community, babysat other children, developed their own senses of responsibility.  It hasn’t been easy—on any of us—and we’ve had our low points, of course, which I won’t get into here because one of them’s going to be a lawyer and I really don’t want to make the pages of USA Today because she sues me for what I blog about.

Finally, however . . . maybe their father and I have reached the summit? This year I find myself at a dizzying altitude. Maybe we're at the top and looking down at the sunny valley that lies ahead—the time when our kids are actually adults and capable of loving, self-less acts.  They’re no longer those grubby need machines (a phrase I’ve stolen from another blog, which I cannot locate again, so I can’t give credit, I’m sorry) who need to be warned that Santa’s watching their every move.  Suddenly they’re delightful grown-ups capable of kindness and generosity all by themselves. I am astonished.  Pleased, of course. But did I ever imagine the time would come when they wouldn’t need their mom to—well, mother them anymore?  That the tables might be turned, and now they feel the need to look after me instead?

Two days ago my aunt phoned.  She smelled gas in her condo and feared an explosion.  In a wavery voice she said the utility company was on its way, but could she come to stay at my house if they told her she was evicted?  “Of course,” I said.  “I’ll come get you.” 

It was nice to know somebody still thinks I’m a capable person. 

And I can always slip a little extra cash into my daughters’ handbags before they go off on trips, can’t I?

I got home from my snowy shopping excursion all by myself, too, by the way.  The Silver Bullet and I managed to rescue ourselves.  But it’s a pleasure knowing the rest of the family stands ready to help if I need it. 

This Christmas I’m looking at my family a little differently. It’s a new era.  Of course, I’ve still got to shop for a few more stocking stuffers before next week.  It wouldn’t be Christmas if my kids didn’t get a surprise or two from their mom. But I’m also going to enjoy my new friends, my adult children.

I hope you make the most of your holidays, too.


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Aw, shucks, Mom. I'm more than happy to take the wheel after sunset - friends look out for each other that way. (Plus, it's a little disconcerting to be a passenger on windy roads while the driver keeps muttering, "I just can't SEE anymore.")

And I still need a little mothering now and again - migraines, pep talks before law school exams, soothing talks *after* law school exams... But maybe now it can be a novelty, not a neverending chore of need machine upkeep, eh?

Nancy, good luck to Jeff with his wisdom teeth. I had mine out in a dental school. Well, maybe I better not tell that story in case Jeff's lurking.

Cassie...I was in the passenger seat with your mum this summer when she was muttering about not being able to see anymore. Of course, she did fine. She's just got to keep us on our toes, y'know? ;-) And she always gets where she's going.

This one got me misty-eyed. My Mom - who has spent her life raising kids, then tending aging parents (there should be a coordinating term for that - "de-raising" or something), is fighting us kids to keep as much independence as possible.

At the same time, after burying all of her elders, we're becoming more and more protective. It's not that she's not capable (although she doesn't even pretend to want to drive at night any more), it's just that, in the natural order of things, she's the generation with the most seniority, and we want to make sure we all, especially her grandchildren, get as much time with her as possible.

So when your kids offer/insist/demand/just show up to help - don't think of it as fulfilling your needs - think of it as fulfilling theirs.

Actually, Nancy, what's happening is that you've crossed over into true mystery superstardom and you're finally getting the diva-like treatment you deserve. C'mon now, where is your sense of entitlement?? Those girls should be bringing you soy lattes!

Okay, this particular blog hasn't generated many comments, but instead I've had a SLEW of phone calls this morning! I guess some subjects just call for the telephone, huh?

And my kid needed to talk about a potential job opportunity, so I guess I'm useful after all.

And guess what???????? My husband cancelled his dental surgery!!!!!!!!! Have I mentioned before he was raised a Christian Scientist? Or maybe he's just chicken-hearted. Men. Honestly.

You, with a "frail wobble in my walk"???? Surely you jest. It'll never happen. Might be worth it, tho, to get some TLC from Nurse Sarah....

The kids might grow up and Jeff might chicken out of surgery (10 days before Christmas, can you blame him?) but in case you're ever in doubt, *I* still need you. You are, come to think of it, just like your beloved Silver Bullet--flashy, fun and dependable, and on the rare occasions when you do falter, you get back on the road all by yourself.

First of all, is that Beemer a rear-wheel drive? Of course it is. If not, put a set of Nokias on it, baby, and you're in action.
Secondly, and more importantly, I am so glad to hear of this transformation and look forward to it with great anticipation - especially as I will be listening to my 14th elementary school rendition of Pachelbel's Canon tomorrow night. Friday night Christmas concerts! - Talk about testing family priorities. (Office party or your kid's concert, which is more important? Please pray for the promised snowstorm.)
And, finally, I am proud of you for having the wisdom to NOT be a cranky old lady and instead to be a secure, lovely woman of a certain age who knows when to accept the favors due her. I'm sure your daughters (BTW - aren't daughters GREAT!) are happy to oblige.
PS - Thanks, Cassie, for taking over the night driving. The motorists of the greater Pittsburgh area salute you.

Nancy, I was out in that same "blizzard" Sunday while driving my mother home from visiting my dad in "The Home." Trust me, you're a long, long way from needing to worry about that.
Happy to know we all made it home safely. And, really, where WERE the salt trucks??? They weren't out here in Washington County either!


I assume your daughter at least is playing in the concert. Try to be imprisoned as a parent of a non-orchestra child being forced to listen to that mishugas. I felt as if I were in The Music Man, but not as one of the proud parents. Plus, there's the religion element of Catholic School Christmas concert, which we had in public school as children but which I'd bet you don't have now; and, as you know, as the Parish Jew, I have to be on extra good behavior because I represent My-People-Who- Sort-Of-Are-The-Reason-For-This-Whole-Thing-Anyway.

Eleven pounds and two ounces??????? That one owes you for more than just ace-high mothering for however long it's been :) Adult children are pretty cool (especially daughters who will go see chick flicks and Disney movies with their moms and even occassionally pay for their own popcorn); in my experience, though, they never stop needing mothering. I know I never did . . .

I guess I was fortunate to miss the orchestral period; we just did the occassional choir concert, which always made me cry.

Oh, Nancy, you're making me cry.

Nancy - Are you driving a beamer or volvo? My volvo LOVES snow, but here in the south we don't get much.
I always offered to drive my mother after dark. She SAID she could see "fine" but then the opthomologist tested her eyes for cataratics. She was legally blind in one eye because the cataratic was so bad. Yeah right, she could see just fine. Her driving was scary, but now, pretty good.

My car doesn't have a cute name like the Silver Bullet, and it saved my life this weekend. After my encounter with evil road ice, I'm referring to it as the Shiny Black Tank.

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