There was a point in my life when I wanted to be like my mother. I remember the feeling clearly between the ages of five and ten, but not much beyond double digits. I had my mother’s eyes — chocolate brown, she’d say, as if she could reach out and eat them. I had her nose, the Langlois nose, long and narrow, distinct in my aunt and grandfather as well. I was also quiet like my mother, and my memere often commented on how she hardly knew the sound of my voice because she so rarely heard it.
There were things that differed, things that I couldn’t change. My mother was a brunette, and I was blonde, very blonde. At age five, while living in Florida, my hair bordered on white. I remember wishing for her hair, and her glasses, hoping that I’d become nearsighted, and soon. By age eight, I did receive my wish — not for brown hair, but for nearsightedness — unaware that big pink glasses would welcome taunts of “four eyes” and “Urkel” from my new classmates in New Hampshire. When I cried to my mother about these things, about how other kids didn’t like me, she told me that she never really had friends either, that kids always made fun of her for being skinny. We were alike.
Playground bullies grew old fast, and by fifth grade I’d somehow convinced my teacher to let me spend recess in the library so I could write a play about the Great Lakes region. I spent all my time writing about a robber named Sheila who stole sardines from convenience stores in Michigan (Lansing was the capital of Michigan) and who hopped on a train to Ohio (Columbus was the capital of Ohio). I wanted my mother to read my additions, but most nights she would fall asleep at the table each time I nudged the script under her Langlois-like nose. Mornings, she would drink coffee and flitter between pantry and table, too caffeinated to keep her eyes on my writing. I wanted to mimic her, to become a coffeeholic, and somehow my father convinced her to let me have my own cup of coffee, to let me be like her. He poured four parts milk and one part coffee, then dumped in what must have been half the sugar container. I gingerly took a sip.
I hated it. My dad told me to give it another taste, that I shouldn’t be wasteful. He was using the same sing-songy, mildly threatening voice he’d used the time he told me that our phone number was 9-1-1, or the time he convinced me to eat a raw potato, or the time he called me a mental midget, or the time he solemnly swore that there was a vortex over Detroit and people were time-traveling in Michigan. And every time, I believed him.
After drinking the whole glass, I realized that imitating my mother wasn’t worth the sensory overload, that glasses were horrible things, that having speech problems and writing plays about Lake Superior during recess and eating dark chocolate and having scoliosis were the end of the world. A few months later, my mother was bedridden with a herniated disc, and I remember my Langlois-nosed aunt, the one I hadn’t seen in several years, telling me that I was built just like my mother and I’d have to watch myself, spine-achingly friendless, a brunette stuck on her living-room cot.
Cross-posted. Was originally a practice assignment, but I thought it would fit well here.