I officially morphed into my mother last week. I flipped down the visor in the car, opened the mirror, looked at my reflection and said out loud, "Why didn't someone tell me I look like death warmed over?"
I've never said that line out loud before because it was always my mother's line. She often used it when we were going somewhere in the car. It was a show-stopper, a line that could hold a crowd. My dad would glance over from the driver's seat, my brother and I would momentarily stop fighting in the backseat, and we'd all direct our full attention to the front-passenger seat to see what would happen next.
What happened next was what always happened next. She'd open her purse, whip out a tube of red lipstick, stretch her mouth thin, carefully apply the lipstick, smack her lips and snap the visor back in place. Another near-death encounter successfully averted. I grew up thinking red lipstick was the CPR of motherhood.
Why is it we think we won't become like our mothers, when we share the same gene pool, voices, laughs, gestures and mannerisms?
I had just gone a verbal round with our youngest when she was in high school as we were on our way to the grocery one day. We were both miffed, both certain the other one was pigheaded and stubborn, both wondering how we were even related.
As we walked side-by-side into the grocery, a man walking out of the grocery said to us, "Don't tell me you're not a mother-daughter combo! You not only look alike, you even walk alike." Of course we walked alike; we were mad walking. Stomp, stomp, stomp. Thinking we were radically different, we were unmistakably alike.
My mother and I did our share of mad walking as well. Like all mothers and daughters we were alike but different, different but alike. Not long after she died, I picked up a picture of her and wrote on the back of it as fast as I could all the marvelous things about her that I was terrified I would one day forget, praying I would always remember.
"Thank you, Lord, for the things you taught me through my dear mother. Kindness, goodness, forgiveness, fortitude, patience, forbearance, organization, zeal for life, love, 'lighten up,' thoughtfulness, anticipating needs of others, honesty, stewardship, planning, how to have fun. I miss her, Lord. Her voice, her laugh, her racing mind, her sparkling eyes. You have given me a good gift."
I know now that I could never forget my mom. By nature, mothers are unforgettable. I often picture Mom in my kitchen, sitting at the table, drinking coffee, cup after cup after cup, speed talking, offering wit, insight and commentary on people, places and things. Tell me that apple didn't fall far from the tree.
To those of you still insisting you'll never resemble your mother in any way, shape or form, thanks for the laugh.
If you'll excuse me now, I need to apply some lipstick. Why didn't somebody tell me I look like death warmed over?
(Lori Borgman is the author of "The Death of Common Sense and Profiles of Those Who Knew Him." Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)