Tag Archives: 1980s

A Momoir, Chapter 6: I’m Not Always Like You, Mom. But That’s Okay.

terms

My kids always roll their eyes but they know better than to squint them and call bullshttt when I tell my stories.  They know the truth: that I am a living, breathing product of the (legendary) Unsupervised Generation.  I drank in junior high school.  I hitchhiked.  I rode public transportation before friends taught me how to drive.  I smoked.  I cut class.  I snuck in.  I snuck out.  I pretty much did unscrupulous things every chance I got.

 

My mother knew none of this.

 

I also did my homework without being told, got myself to school (and work and EVERYwhere else) without help and filled out college applications without so much as a sniff of curiosity from my mother.  I likewise ate what was prepared, picked up after myself and made sure to disagree with her in my head or into my pillow rather than unleash a fate far worse than my imagination could ever muster.

 

Despite the lack of assistance (or Uber) it was not a hard life.  If I’m being completely honest, it was fondly enjoyable even (you don’t say) without the internet.  It seems my generation was adulting before there was even a trendy term for it and I don’t remember anyone ever complaining about it.  There were fun times (drinking age = 18 = #seriously) and scary moments (drinking age = 18 = #seriously) and there was no shortage of regrets or mistakes or lessons learned.

 

Oddly enough, I grew into a mom who knows where her children are most of the time.  Kind of a weird paradox, I know.

 

Every year around this time at the anniversary of her passing, my thoughts drift to my mom.  She’s been gone seven years now and while there are moments when it feels like cliched yesterday, there are other times when it feels like I’ve been flailing through motherhood lost and adrift without her for longer than I can remember.  I often think about how similar we are (apologies to my better half for the insufferable German stubbornness) but more telling is how different we became as moms.

 

I imagine most people try to improve upon their own histories.  I know I do.

 

My earliest memory of telling my mother I loved her was from a pay phone in the hallway of my freshmen dormitory.  As I grew older it bothered me more and more that it might have been the first time I ever said those words aloud.  It affected me so profoundly the term became my personal pillar of parenting.  I’ve raised four kids who have been hearing it – and saying it — their entire lives:  into their phones, over their shoulders and across my kitchen counter.

 

My mom was a woman of few words when I was a teenager.  A divorced mother raising three kids alone wasn’t exactly the norm back in the early 80s.   She had a lot going on and kept her business to herself (lord, she would loathe Facebook today).  She didn’t banter with my friends (cannot lie, she was a wee bit feared), she didn’t know any of my friends’ parents and she was barely civil to my boyfriends (alright, looking back, perhaps she may have been on to something).

 

When I went through a high school breakup the only way she knew about it was when she heard Phil Collins’ “Throwing it All Away” on a six-day loop through my bedroom wall.  I’ll never forget her coming into my doorway and warily whispering, “Please.  Play another song.”   That was it.  No sentimental mother-daughter moment or long car ride for ice cream.   Onward I went.

 

Conversely, I chat up my kids’ squads all the time (interesting aside: my mom never used hip terms like squad because she could’ve cared less about appearing hip.  Again, why be hip when you can terrify?).  My own home often bustles with kids and I can get a hold of every parent with a single tap.   Contrary as well, when any of my own litter experiences heartache I am at the ready.  My eagle eye and alert ear can detect the slightest change in demeanor, attitude or (sigh) hygiene and my maternal senses hurl into overdrive.  I am at once a bevy of constant communication and presence to my troubled teens.    It appears I have become the nurturing contradiction of my own adolescence.  This is entirely surprising to me because – again — I never felt slighted or deficient in my own adolescence.  I can’t even recall any friend ever confiding in her mom back then either.  That’s what girlfriends had each other for.

 

My siblings and I would kid my mom mercilessly about her earlier Teflon exterior.  She was a tough one for sure but man, oh man, did she mellow out as time went on.  It might’ve been her second husband, who arrived just in time to steady her, lessened her load of financial worry and loved her endlessly.  More likely it was the welcome stream of good fortune that befell her family the second half of her lifetime.  After a difficult decade or so, my mom’s life blossomed and happiness settled in to reveal her softer, fiercely funny side that was clearly dormant in my own youth.  She was able to witness her three kids all marry and create enjoyable lives for themselves.   She was showered with ten – TEN! – grandchildren, the joy of which infused her every thought and attention (alas, cue in the dejected and forlorn look of abandonment from said second husband, forever delegated to the 11th spot in her life).

I wish she was here to see them all now.

 

I especially long for her to see mine.

 

My oldest was a high school senior and putting us through the ringer at the time of her illness.  Whisper as we tried to shield her from our own distress, she knew.  She always knew.  I would give anything for her to see how he turned things around to shine so brightly.  She would be over the moon with pride at the impressive young man he’s become.

 

Long before she died my mother had already taught my daughter how to sew but her protégé had only just begun to display her innate talent.  In the time she’s been gone my creative gal has gone on to teach herself how to knit, then crochet, then paint, then create jewelry, then, just recently, open an online store.  Without question these two special ladies were kindred spirits of an enviable kind.  I know the magnitude of her granddaughter’s natural gift would fill my mom to her absolute core and I wish she could revel in it.

 

She would still get the biggest kick out of my second son, whose devilish grin as the tween she adored now radiates the stubbled face of a young man.  He captures every nuance of my mom’s own unassuming and affable personality and she would be tickled at their spitfire similarity.  Gawd, if she ever caught sight of him in his college dress blues she might never stop showing his picture around Long Island.

She’d probably favor my youngest the most, a mere little boy when she left us. There was never any harm helping out the baby, she believed, because from any vantage point all the others always seemed unfairly ahead of the pack (*writer shakes head, remembering childhood).  My littlest’s unrivaled charm would find her putty in the palm of his hand.  If she could see him now she’d gush at his every accolade, triumph in his every touchdown and sneakily slip him a twenty whenever they were alone.

 

I get jealous of my fortunate friends who still have time with their moms.  I really do.  I hate that my kids won’t see their Nanny’s eyes glistening at their weddings.  I hate that they don’t get to hear any more of her stories.  They wouldn’t dare roll an eye at hers.  I hate that she’s not here to teach them more.

 

But if I find myself on a lonely road, I know too well my friends will eventually find themselves on a difficult one.  Aging parents leave battle scars endured only by the strongest of daughters.  I hope my familiarity and understanding of this stage of adulting is a comfort to them, for I’ll be at the ready for all of them when they need me.

 

I miss my mom at some moment in every day.

 

As the years tick on without her I shall remain incredibly bemused at our similarities (sarcasm, anyone?) and increasingly content with our differences (ummmm, mea culpa, mom, for the bandwagon Facebook brags).  Something tells me she would be nothing but overjoyed at the perfect metamorphosis of the Mom she raised.

 

(Finally, for what it’s worth, here’s my maternal postscript to my kids:   Yeah.  Just because I did it doesn’t mean you can.  Remember, spidey senses.  I catch EVERYthing.  Wink.)

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements. (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

 

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

 

Chapter 1, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/07/29/a-collection-of-eyerolls-chapter-1-yes-billy-joel-we-will-all-go-down-together/

 

 

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

 

 

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

 

 

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

 

 

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Tube Socks

tube sox

The summer of 1981 may well be remembered for the lavish nuptials of the Princess of Wales but for me it will forever photograph the road trip of my lifetime:  five weeks, twenty-one states and the freedom that came with the unsupervised parenting that was well, 1981.  Move over Lady Di, at fifteen-years-old, I was clearly in a fairy tale situation of my own.

 

The opportunity came about rather simply.  My best friend, Kristi, and her family – an older sister and two teacher/parents – went cross country in their RV every summer.  Always somewhere different.  Always returning with exotic photos and strange souvenirs (think tchotchkes from The World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or postcards from Pike’s Peak).  Gooberish to many but always envy-inducing to a girl like me, who never went anywhere over summer vacations.  When my folks moved us to Long Island from the grimy borough of Queens, apparently THAT was to be our perpetual vacation.

 

Kristi’s family was all set to take off as planned but – serendipitously for me – Kristi’s sister failed English in her last term.  In order to graduate she needed to attend summer school and couldn’t go with them.  At first it was a monkey wrench:  being meticulous organizers Kristi’s parents had already planned out their five-week itinerary to the day – every meal was planned for four people, every attraction had been purchased for four attendees, every bathroom stop had been calculated to include four travelers requesting them.  It didn’t take long for two highly intelligent educators (and one persistent teenaged daughter) to find the perfect solution:  With spending money in my Velcro wallet, I packed up my Smurfs, hopped into Kristi’s sister’s place, and off we went.

 

Our forty-day trip would take us to the opposite coast of California and back, traveling a different course in each direction, allowing us to insert twenty-one brightly colored push-pins into the map of the United States.  It was more than I could wrap my brain around at the time.  Twenty-one states for a girl who had never even been to New Jersey.  Twenty-one states for a girl who still referred to Long Island as “the country.”   Twenty-one states that most people in the nation wouldn’t see half of in a lifetime.

 

I remember being unable to sleep the night before our ungodly early departure.  Grappling with nerves riddled with excitement and anxiety and anticipation I slept on the couch in the downstairs foyer, listening to albums on such low volume at times only a slight bass thumped from the speakers.  I couldn’t tell if it was fear of leaving my family for the first time or Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” that kept tears streaming down my cheeks through sunrise.

 

I was ready for a road trip.  At the close of the school year I’d been unceremoniously dumped by the (third) love of my life, who’d taken up with (sigh…) my tall, tanned, blonde friend.  I was ready to suck-face with strangers and make-out with as many Rick Springfield look-alikes  I could muster up from the George Washington Bridge to Mount Rushmore.  I’d packed enough cute terry-cloth shorts (you know, with the white stripes) and tube socks (with the colored stripes) to ensure it. Yep, I was ready.

 

While many details of the minutiae of the trip have been faded by other memories (and, okay, decades of equally great times, some perhaps involving alcohol) many moments of that summer still make for a funny story.  My fave:  an admission that while we were trekking across America we occasionally called friends back home — and charged the calls to the telephone numbers of people we didn’t particularly like.  For real.  Today, as a mature adult (with – God help me – teenagers) I shudder at the memory.  But it’s true.  Anyone who remembers B.C. times (before cells) will fully recall how people would actually have to speak to an operator when placing a call from a (gasp) public telephone booth.  My friend and I would innocently declare we’d like to charge the call to our own home number – and viola! – instantly a nemesis-left-behind got thrown under the bus (or rather, her parents did, on their next phone bill).  Simultaneously evil and brilliant. Shudder….

 

The number of hours (and money) we wiled away in campground arcades was unfathomable.  We had no internet, so we read books and wrote in diaries, traveling hours and days at a time past nothing but cornfields.  There were no I-Pods, so we stopped every few days to buy more “D” batteries for the cassette player that ran constantly.  There was no HDTV or DVDs, and when we went to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” we dreamt about it for days, hoping (and wishing and praying) that in our wild cross country adventure out to Hollywood we might actually sidle up next to Harrison Ford on an L.A freeway and tell him how much we loooooved him.

 

We were in the magnificent state of Washington when MTV’s little astronaut man debuted to stick a flag on the moon so we missed that but it turned out okay:  we were allowed to drink beer after taking an Olympia Brewery tour, which single-handedly made us the coolest freshman felons on this planet.

 

Throughout the steamy summer days we mastered Pac Man and Phoenix.  We shared a dog-eared copy of The Other Side of Midnight.  One night while driving through Idaho we witnessed an actual tornado.  We saw the Vegas strip, something my own mom never got to do.  We went through more national parks than I can name and staunchly passed on the toilet paper factory tour  (Kristi’s parents went alone and we stayed at the campsite to sneak more Olympia beer.  They duly pretended not to notice.)  We traveled through the Mojave Desert by nightfall to avoid triple digit temperatures.  We wore bandanas and cowboy hats and short-shorts and found boys to kiss outside the arcades in the moonlight.  None looked like soap opera pop singers but it didn’t matter. We lived like we were never going to return to our simple suburban lives and swore that our five weeks together would bond us like sisters.  It did.

 

In the weeks we were gone Kim Carnes’ gravelly “Bette Davis Eyes” had gotten its ass kicked by  the sap of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie.  The grueling “Endless Love” was being played by tri-state disc jockeys nonstop throughout the final leg of our journey back and it made coming home even sadder and more torturous.  Kristi and I cradled our cassette player between us and watched out the window in silence as our exit on Long Island’s  Southern State Parkway neared.

 

I was fifteen that summer, presently the age of my youngest child.  The idea catches my breath some days.  While times are different and perhaps more dangerous today, I can’t help but admit I’d give just about anything to have my own kids live five weeks like I did back in 1981.  It was extraordinary.  It was (according to my diary) a pissa.  It was living.

 

And should they ever have the great, great fortune to live it, there’d be a bonus for sure –these sneaky kids have their own phones today; it would be highly unlikely that irate parents would hunt me down for bogus phone call money.

 

Tina’s husband looks nothing like Rick Springfield…and she no longer wears terry shorts…. but she still loves beer. She and Kristi have been friends for forty years now.

tubesTina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

 

The Thinking Girl’s Thong

Look, Mom.”  My 13-year-old daughter’s eyes shone with a sort of mischief as she called me in from the hallway.  I stood in her doorway and watched as she opened her top drawer and proceeded to hold up the teeniest, tiniest thong I’d ever seen. Momentarily halted (“DON’T TASE ME, BRO!”), I just blinked. I’m assuming my face froze unnaturally (or maybe I just dropped the laundry basket, I can’t remember) because she added quickly, “Don’t worry, I got it on sale.” Good God. How was my head supposed to explode off my neck when she was following my cardinal rule? I drew a breath, nodded and did what any other mom would do: turned on my heel and left. I needed a mom moment. For sure.

It’s not that I feel seventh grade is entirely too early for thongs (I do), and it’s not that I don’t particularly see the need for invisible panty lines in middle school (I don’t). The bigger issue, as I see it, is the undeniable and intrinsic empowerment of a thong. Any female that’s ever donned one knows there’s a hell of a lot more going on than invisible panty lines. It’s as if there’s a secret sexual revolution going on in your pants. I guess I wasn’t expecting a thong—and everything that comes with it —  in middle school and worse–– from her.

She’s hip. She gets it (only mothers of teenagers who don’t get it fully understand this phrase. Trust me, my eldest teenager, a boy, does not get it. That’s an entirely different article…). But my savvy, sassy daughter? She’s confident. And reflective. And beautiful. Not beautiful in the kum-ba-ya sense that “all kids are beautiful,” but beautiful enough that our friends nod knowingly and offer “yeah, good luck with that” condolences or “got the shotgun ready?” inquiries whenever she whisks through the room. The truth is she doesn’t need a thong. I only wish she knew that.

My daughter might disagree (quite loudly, I imagine) but I happen to think I’m a fairly cool mom. My hair’s not stuck in a time warp, I tend to favor high heels with just about anything and I’m incredibly adept at the muffin-top-camouflage. Still, even the coolest parent will grimace when their baby girl wants to be sexy. I’m not a soapbox-standing mom who’s going to blame the demise of teenage morals on MTV or say the world’s going to hell in a handbasket because some emaciated Barbie traded her bikini top for peanut butter on Survivor. I know sex is everywhere we turn, but I also know I’ve instilled some pretty good values into my little girl’s head. So why the sudden need for the inner strength of sexuality?

Having been a teenager myself, I remember the gradual ascent of provocative dress. In junior high, my Nautical Blue eyeliner was smuggled into the roller rink undetected in my Jordache pocket and was wiped clean off my face before pick up hours later. In high school, weekend club-hopping called for white anklets and cotton-candy-colored pumps paired with denim mini skirts (Hello… Long Island in the ’80s? I was far from alone). I understand the glorious burst of self-esteem that comes from feeling sensual. But the image of a sexy pink string just visible over the tiny waistband of my daughter’s jeans just might send me over the edge. This is so not Nautical Blue eyeliner.

My inability to come up with an intelligent (or any, for that matter) response was eating at me. Clearly this was some type of mother-daughter milestone that shouldn’t be dismissed with some dropped laundry. I fretted for hours while my daughter easily resumed her life, humming effortlessly without noticing the elephant in the room (the irony being that our particular elephant was the size of a Band-Aid). If she felt the need to be secretly sexy, I didn’t want to deny her the nourishment that her self-image might need at this particular moment in adolescence. At the same time, I didn’t want to send her father to the emergency room should he catch a glimpse of it for the first time one night at Chili’s.

Right before I turned in for bed, I noticed her light was still on (of course it was; parents of teenagers already know their children turn into vampires after their 12th birthday. I haven’t stayed up past my two older kids since the season finale of Lost). She looked up at me, questioningly. Here was our big moment. I cleared my throat.

“The thong?” I asked plainly. It was as if she had to remember.

“Yeah?” She seemed unaffected, like I was inquiring about chorus practice or where she’d left my curling iron.

“If I ever see it, I will take a scissor to it.”

She didn’t skip a beat and went back to her textbook. “Got it.”

And that was that.

I imagine June Cleaver might have spent a bit more than 11 seconds on the entire interaction, but I know my point got across. Some things work best when hidden. And some feelings of empowerment are meant to be savored—privately.

Tina Drakakis is a freelance writer in Carver, MA. She finds humor in the chaos of raising four kids and tries valiantly to keep her husband unaware of thong-related family issues. She no longer wears white anklets with her high heels but will vehemently defend the fashion choices of yesteryear.