It's the kind of thing you can't fake or force, as she would sagely point out.
There is a towel that hangs from my rusty old oven in my tiny old apartment that says, “Sometimes I open my mouth, and my mother comes out!” It’s punctuated with a kooky illustration, a distraught woman I believe, though, like my mother, I don’t necessarily open my oven enough to know for sure. Naturally, it was my mother who gave me this very towel. I believe it was part of a Christmas gift, probably wrapped in a repurposed LaCroix or Triscuit box—her favorite annual prank for the last two-and-a-half decades.
The truth is, every year, this towel’s quip grows more and more true. Not all that long ago I remember remarking while watching one of our shared favorite shows—Grace and Frankie, she was certainly more a Frankie, and I, a Grace. But even now, a mere Netflix season or two later, that feels less true and I can appreciate that we are both a combination—as are most people—of the two purposefully polarized characters. (Though I still think popped collars go vastly underappreciated and I’m sure they’d clash with my mother’s earthy “healing” crystal accessories.)
But even as we grow more and more similar, I know I cannot yet compare; No matter how often or carefully I open my mouth, I cannot come up with the kind of haphazard wisdom that comes out of hers. It kind of tumbles out, peppered with an inconsistent South Alabama accent.
It’s remarkable, how she becomes a sort of modern, Athleta-clad oracle in the narrow kitchen of our old, suburban ranch I grew up in. Over the years, as I’ve grown up and clued into the more complicated aspects of adulthood that flew over my head for so long, I’ve realized why so many friends and family members stop by for her grilled cheeses, hot tea (organic!! I’m sure), and a chat.
She always stands on the opposite side of the bar, and I, or the visiting guest, post up atop the very same (and frankly, uncomfortable) bar stools that my friends and I giggled in after sleepovers. She’s patient, an acute listener, and has this insane mothers-only ability to truly put you before herself for that minute—and however many more it takes.
She doesn’t always say perfect things. Certainly not. Like the time when she was teaching me how to drive, in my little 1997 Avalon, and decided to offer the immense insight that “Turn lanes are helpful when you are trying to turn.”
But when it matters, it never fails—she gets it right. Really right. Just recently, while I was lamenting all the things a 25-year-old with a warm bed and stocked fridge has to lament, she in a naturally off-hand way, said, “You just can’t force it. When you force things, you only end up forcing trouble.” And I don’t know about y’all, but I just thought that was about the most perfect and probably only advice I’d need to hear for the rest of my life.
Now, realistically, I’m sure I’ll be back in that bar stool again sooner rather than later, but it’s that kind of blasé, accidental wisdom that she generously and kindly doles out that keeps our kitchen in constant rotation. It’s the kind of thing I know only comes with time, and experience. I can’t fake it, and I certainly can’t force it.