In the years since I’ve graduated to the Adult’s Table and moved from juice boxes to coffee and from skunked PBR in the garage to Jäger Bombs on the bar and finally to smooth double stouts at my desk, I learned the stories and jokes I was never allowed to hear. I’ve sat with my mother, aunts, grandparents, uncles and the various family friends who like to remind me of when I ran around naked in their back yard or pooped in their driveway.
As children, our parents tend to shelter us from the harsh realities of the world…even the harsh realities of themselves. Then we become ass-hat teenagers unaware of the real people we live with because they’ve spent thirteen some odd years pretending to be Santa, hiding their sailor vocabularies, reading Sesame Street books and perfecting their imitations of Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird. We assume the picture perfect happy face parent-teacher conference version of our parents is the real thing – the only version of them.
Somewhere in my late teens/early twenties, I finally caught on to one of my mother’s jokes I’d been hearing since I was able to pay attention to front-seat cell phone conversations:
She’d refer to herself as “Mama-Me.” The conversations would were always along the lines of
“No…I can’t. I’m Mama-me this weekend”
“I’m on Mama-me duty”
“I’m going to go home and be Mama-me until bedtime… Then I might attempt to get a shower. It’s been a couple days”
And in those few years where I bridged the gap between man and child, I watched the various versions of my mother peak through the facade; as our new found teenage independence meant the rediscovery of her own Pre-Mama-me Freedom.
Now I sit across from her retelling my heartaches, my every miserable mistake, drowning in the moment, swimming in my beer. It strikes me. She did this. Everything I’m feeling – all the bullshit, the lies, the money troubles and cracked radiators.
Every miserable first date. Drunken One Night Stand. Missed Connection. Not so gentle let-down.
“You’re too old to sigh like that.” She tells me from the table behind me – she knows the sigh. She filled all these same ashtrays with soot stained tears alone in garage while I watched Transformers and convinced my brother he could fly in he held a sheet and jumped from the top step.