Not the Daughter She Had in Mind
Accepting Our Differences
"Go outside!" she'd admonish me as I sat in my room reading or writing or listening to Simon & Garfunkel records. "They're playing kickball!" How could I explain that the ball's ferocious speed scared me? That I hated to run in front of a crowd of neighborhood kids or, for that matter, in front of anyone at all?
Then my mother would do the most amazing thing -- she'd go outside and join the game. She could ride a bike, kick a ball, and pitch a baseball better than anyone I knew. Her accomplishments were not all athletic, either. She worked as a tax auditor for the IRS, adding and subtracting and punching numbers into a calculator, and actually liked doing math problems for fun. Fiction did not excite her. She could not feel my pride in having read more than 40 Nancy Drew mysteries one summer, or writing my own novel, 32 carefully handwritten pages.
But long ago, perhaps in that junior high gym, I began to stop trying to be that other daughter and simply became me. When my mother would ask, "How can you read so much?" I'd simply shrug.
This isn't to say my mother and I did not get along. She was the kind of mother who would come along when I wanted to drive past the house of a boy who had broken my heart, just to see the light on in his bedroom. She liked Simon & Garfunkel, too, and let me play their tapes perpetually and loudly.
If I couldn't sleep, she'd get up out of bed and the two of us would get in the car and go to Dunkin' Donuts, sipping coffee and eating glazed doughnuts in the middle of the night.