My Mother’s Daughter

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When I was young, my mom used to get home from work about an hour after I finished school. I would be in my room reading or in the living room playing with my brother and I would hear a distinctive tap-tap-tap.

This was my favorite sound. Tap-tap-tap meant my mom had arrived home from work, briskly walking through the kitchen, dropping her jacket and purse on the counter as she went. I would scramble up from whatever I was doing and run to the kitchen to say hi. I thought my mom was amazing, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and get a job and be just like her.

In high school we didn’t get along half as well. We bickered constantly in the way that only mothers and their teenage daughters can. It wasn’t until my dad pointed out, likely for the hundredth time, that we were essentially the same person that I began to understand why conflict and irritation with each other came so easily.

We are worriers. My mother’s worrying used to drive me up the wall. She worries about her kids, the family pets, how icy the roads are, what time I’m going to be home, what day I’m driving where, who I’m sending Valentine cards to, where I put my shoes, the list goes on and on. Moments ago she walked into the kitchen and worried about what time I’m leaving to pick a friend up from the airport tomorrow.

She particularly worries when my dad drives. I have one memory of our family taking a vacation to the Smoky Mountains. There were seven of us, so we had borrowed my grandpa’s eight-passenger van. This thing was huge. Like, my grandma-kept-a-clothing-rack-in-the-back-and-there’s-still-lots-of-space huge. At one point in the road trip we encountered a very narrow and winding mountain road. To our left sat the face of a cliff, and to our right the road dropped into a deep gulch, hundreds of feet down. As we wound slowly up, I saw my mom’s fists clench tighter and tighter. Eventually my mom had her hands completely over her face, her body twisted away from the side of the road that dropped so steeply downwards. I could hear her mumbling a prayer under her breath and gasping every time she peaked up. At one point she started crying. She was completely terrified.

Flash forward to last summer. A friend and I decided to meet in West Virginia for an impromptu camping trip. About halfway through, we decided to change locations, heading higher. So we packed up both our cars, rationalizing that it’d be easier to drive separately now than carpool at the end of the trip. This drive however, was up to the highest point in the state, almost completely on winding, narrow roads. Although I distracted myself by focusing directly in front of me for a while, at the first switchback I burst into tears. Already driving a slow 35 mph, I slowed to 15mph, then 10mph, until I stopped completely, frozen in anxiety. I was completely terrified.

Later I said to my friend, “It’s my mom’s fault. She did this so now I do it. This isn’t who I am, it’s just a product of my mother”.

Part of that statement was true. I am a product of my mother.

We are too independent for our own good. This becomes most apparent to me when one of us is cooking in a shared space. She hates it when I help her and also when I refuse her help. She’s always walking in and adjusting things, wanting them just so.

She has always wanted things just so. Anytime she’s about to leave the house she cleans it. It doesn’t matter what we’re late for – we have to clean the house first. Fold the blankets, wash the dishes, put your shoes in the closet, feed the cat. This has made me late for school, church, birthday parties; you name it, and I’ve been late to it.

I had thought I’d escaped this particular quality. Cleanliness has never been my strong suit, and I’m typically already running late anyways. Just two days ago, I proved myself wrong. Knowingly late to meet a friend to work out, I folded a blanket. Then another. I washed two mugs, thought about the fact that I was running late, then decided I’d just do one more thing and then leave.

I have inherited all of my mother’s most intense qualities. Anxiety, independence, introversion, and needing things to be just so are qualities that I display every day. Everyone says, “I’ll never be my mother/father”, but in my opinion, you can’t help it. And for the most part, that’s okay.

So I need to wash a dish before I leave the house, I worry too much, and I really don’t like it when people try to help me bake. These are all okay with me. I can’t help but inherit traits that I’ve watched someone do every single day for most of my life. I have traits from my dad as well: I joke at inappropriate and stressful times, I sometimes don’t take things seriously enough, and I dance when I open the refrigerator. Honestly, I’m kind of a mix of both. At my core though, I will always be my mother’s daugh