Tag Archives: 80s

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

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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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A Broken Family Tree Finds Leaves

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“Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were.”

When a contentious family fight erupted during my adolescence, my large extended family imploded and became estranged.  Poof.  Seemingly in an instant, my holidays bustling with cousins and aunts and uncles vanished.  Naturally — for a teenager especially — it was difficult, but the adage of children being resilient became evident, and my siblings and I muddled through.  Since that confusing and erratic time I found, like countess adults before me, that wounds heal, scars fade, and unfortunate experiences shape who we ultimately become.  Likely as a result of our past, my sister and I have remained steadfast in our determination not to have history repeat itself.  Throughout our years of heated arguments (because hello, sisters:  they were numerous) we’ve worked hard to get through them.  Over time we’ve been bonded by a shared simple goal:  that our own children will never, ever know such heartache.

But time is a fickle friend — who clearly pals around with his buddy, the internet.  While my mother lie unresponsive in hospice care, I wiled away hours with my laptop.  I Googled everything.  And everybody.  And eventually stumbled across a cousin.

When my mom passed I sent my cousin a message, in the event she might want to relay the news to her mother, my mom’s sister.  I don’t know why I did it.   She was a toddler when our family fractured and I had no idea what she knew or what she remembered or what she’d been told.   It really didn’t matter to me.   I just couldn’t imagine going through life not knowing if or when my own sister had died.  It was unimaginable to me.

I never heard back from her.  Five years passed without any acknowledgement that the news was received and I eventually forgot all about it.

This week, out of the blue, I got a response.  I stared down at my phone in disbelief and felt my gut tighten.  It took several minutes before I read it through.  Unbeknownst to us both, my message went into a holding file deep within the bowels of Facebook.  A safeguard to keep weirdos at bay, it’s a measure that detects non-friends and keeps their correspondence buried until one chooses to view it.  My cousin, obviously now a grown woman, was aghast at the length of time she had unknowingly ignored me.

We exchanged a few polite pleasantries and I sent over my last memories of her, expertly captured with my favorite Christmas gift of 1980 – a Polaroid camera — the last time we were together.  She immediately friend-requested me and we are now connected.  I can see though her photos the story of the life she has lived without me and I’m sure she’s done the same of me.

We are complete and total strangers through no fault of our own and while I’m certain we both know that nothing in the past had anything to do with us, it is still on shaky ground we stand.  I have countless memories of her.  With a decade between our ages, she (likely) has none of me.

My teenage recollections of summers spent at her house are vivid.   I remember all the records I listened to continuously on her parents’ stereo.  I knew her paternal relatives and her neighbors (gaaaaawd, I even went on a date with the boy next door to – holy 80s — a laser show at the planetarium).   I can recall every inch of her house and I know I taught myself how to swim in her t-shaped pool.  I remember my fascination with the endless packets of McDonalds strawberry jam in her fridge (perks of her grandfather, an executive for the company when they started serving breakfast).  I remember the sad circumstances of his death:  found motionless when the family returned from my grandmother’s wake.  He was babysitting her and her brother because they were too small to attend.

Memories.

It’s crazy, really.

And yet it’s comforting, too, no question.  But this newfound connection is melancholy also, as the many years of hurt and offense have flooded me of late.  I know why my own mother chose to stay away from her family but fervid curiosity consumes me about the other side of the story.  You know, their version, which — I am old enough to realize — may not be entirely accurate (as may not be mine).  There’s a part of me that wants to beg for clarity and information.  There’s a bigger part of me that asks, does it even matter anymore?  I spent so much of my life thinking my aunt, her mother, was such a terrible, dreadful person that it’s difficult to feel boundless joy in finding my cousin after all these years.  I think about the betrayal my mother might feel if she knew and that saddens me a little.

 

So many emotions, so few answers, but now we’ve got nothing but time.

 

I guess for now, living thousands of miles apart, we’ll see where the internet takes us.

 

 

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. 

Forever & Always: an 80s Kinda Gal

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I have to admit (though if my kids were to miraculously start reading my blog I’d feign dementia) that as hip as I am (that’s right) I am, at times, well, a little lame. In fact, I’m actually all sorts of lame for a variety of reasons.

 

For starters, I totally fake my way through the French words in “Lady Marmalade.”  I know….seriously.   (Hypocrite lame?)

 

I am vain to a fault, having worn lipstick through four childbirths (a subtle mauve) and also popped every blood vessel in my eyes because I made sure my contacts were in, too. (Insecure lame?)

 

I have never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”   (Uncool lame?)

 

I think tattoos are a really bad idea on most body parts (unless you’re planning on being perpetually nineteen and skinny … then I stand corrected).   (Judgemental — or jealous — lame?)

 

I can’t text without using proper punctuation (naturally it takes me five times longer because finding the apostrophes is always troublesome).  (Grammar Nazi lame?)

 

I loathe baking.  The only reason I even own a rolling pin is because one holiday season a neighbor creatively attached one to an invitation to a cookie swap and stuck it in my mailbox (of course prompting my immediate response What the hell is a cookie swap?)  (Lazy lame?)

 

But perhaps my lamest admission is that I really (really) heart the 80s. (Aqua Net lame?)  I spent my adolescence, my college years and my Melanie-Griffith-Working-Girl stage in that decade so who can blame me?  John Hughes movies, white zinfandel pinkish-pretend wine,  grocery shopping in track suits … (oh wait, maybe that last thing was just Long Island …).  It was just a funny time – so big and brash and booming.   The best.

 

Lately my friend Theresa and I have been debating the Worst. Song. Ever.  Whenever we think of one we text it to each other (properly punctuated on my end).  So, while I’m sitting at the Macaroni Grill and my phone beeps, I’ll look down and all I’ll see is “Raspberry Beret.”

 

I crack up.

 

And when she’s waiting at a practice field, her phone lights up and displays “99 Luftballoons.”

 

It’s been going on for a couple of months now and I’ve just realized that all of the songs we’ve been using are 80s tunes.

 

“Eye of the Tiger”

 

“China Girl”

 

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (my God, I think I just threw up a little in mouth just typing that one)

 

“(I’m Only) Human” (man, I hate that one)

 

“Shy, Shy” (funny:  just texting the name Kajagoogoo alone is worth sending…)

 

Still good stuff.

 

Just some really (really) lame music.

 

And it was all played a couple of weeks ago at my high school reunion (I can’t even begin to go there yet because I’m still processing the visuals from it).

 

Maybe soon though.

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was just featured in the 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. –