Thursday, September 27, 2007

Daughters and Mothers

The other day Jenny, the busy, fearless, red-headed 8-year-old, cheerfully announced that it makes her feel so good when people cheer for her. Like, when she's playing kickball or soccer with the boys and Kyle says, "Go Jenny!" And one day she made the only point for her team in kickball.

I looked at her like, Child, can it really be that I gave birth to you?

I was a PE teacher's nightmare, or I would have been, if Miss Jensen had concerned herself about me at all. Somehow she was content to always have Lynn and Robin, the star athletes, choose the teams, and if I was always chosen last, or next-to-last, next to Vicky who was fat and slow, I guess she thought that was the way the world was supposed to work.

But I guess we were talking about me here, and not Miss Jensen, although my sister Becky and I have fun talking about Miss Jensen now, the way it's fun to skewer something and roast it over a fire.

I couldn't bat balls or run fast or understand football. I couldn't make it around the track without slowing to a walk, and the time I tried to run the 880 I threw up in the bathroom afterwards. I couldn't do cartwheels or splits. I was grateful beyond describing when I finally was past the tenth grade and mandatory P.E. I played volleyball with the youth group and grew resigned to having guys lunge in front of me to get the ball so I could do as little damage as possible.

So to have a feisty and very athletic little daughter is like experiencing something I had only vaguely dreamed of. Each year at the school picnic I watch Jenny set her chin determinedly and win the foot race. "I try to imagine that my legs are really long," she says. I watch her sail over the high jump, higher and higher, beating the boys and girls her age until she's competing with boys two years older.

Amazingly enough, she really is my daughter. I gave birth to her at home, so there were no other babies to switch with. It is a very unique experience to watch your daughter shine at something you were simply awful at.

And I just spent a few days with my mom, which always makes me go all cogitating, and it is very interesting to figure out how you are and are not like your mom and your daughters.

Mom and I both love stories, and this time I sat and scribbled notes while she told me all about her first date with Dad and about Ketty Schwanz, the bishop's wife who ran the church. "Ach, you won't put this in a book, will you?" No, but I wish I could.

We also love making things out of nothing, like scrap quilts and crocheted rugs. And we collect way too much stuff.

How I'm different from my mom is I absolutely can't stand it if things don't work. She, meanwhile, happily putters around in a kitchen where the knives are dull, the beaters drop out of the mixer into the potatoes, the pens are all dry, the blender is broken, and the burners won't light. My sister Margaret and I compare cooking-in-Mom's-kitchen stories and one-up each other on how desperate we got. (Well, I ended up taking the half-mixed cream cheese over to Anna's kitchen!)

Also, if I know there's a gadget out there to make my job easier, I buy it. Mom, on the other hand, makes do. While I was there she made tomato soup and strained it through an old-fashioned sieve (her Victorio strainer burned in the house fire in 1987 and she never replaced it). And then when the jars were ready to come out of the canner I went looking for the jar lifter while she calmly took a hot pad and tried to lift out the jars without sloshing herself too badly with boiling water.

I couldn't believe it. All the canning she does and she can't spend two dollars on a jar lifter?? But I guess she's happy that way and if I bought her a jar lifter she probably wouldn't use it.

One more difference: she likes a lot of variety on the table. I tend to make a hot dish and vegetable and that's it.

One day we had scalloped potatoes, chicken, applesauce, sliced tomatoes, lettuce salad, iced tea, and zucchini bread for lunch, and Mom said,

Quote of the Day:
"Ach, it's just kind of a simple meal, for company."
and afterwards she added,
2nd Quote of the Day:
"Could you eat some ice cream yet?"


  1. The dry pens comment was funny. I remember getting so frustrated about those pens that didn't work and probably came out of the dumpster anyway. Once me and one of the aunts, I don't remember which one, went through them all and out of a whole mugfull of pens there were only about three or four that actually worked. Of course there were all sorts of other things in that mug: At least four nail clippers, pen caps, nail files, I don't remember what all.

  2. She sounds amazingly like my mom!!


  3. Reading about your personal "sports history" was like reliving my own! Ack! I was no good at much of anything. Well, until we did archery and I found I was as good as (if not better than) the guys who hunted! :-) Great feeling to finally be good at something! My daughter has mild/moderate cerebral palsy and we haven't found a sport yet that she can do well. She gets really down about it and blames her CP, but I tell her that CP or no CP, it would likely be the same if she takes after me! At least she has a "reason". I just stink. ;-)

  4. lol (about your mom's unique habits). . .
    and I can identify with the sports-deficit! i always try to help my sagging ego with the bright thought that i am perhaps better at other things . . .