Being “That Person”

JelloWhenever my mother went anywhere, she assumed she would have no responsibility for anything. She also assumed that she would be welcomed with open arms. You already know that she would go to a potluck with one very small dish and load her plate with all sorts of goodies. She always said:

There are certain people who love to make big bunches of food.  I just let them.

When my sister Lindy and I came home from school absolutely thrilled with the treats a room mother had brought for a school party, my mother would say

Oh, Mrs. So and So just loves to show off for you kids. I’m lucky that I am secure in my own self. I don’t have to run around delivering fancy cookies to your classrooms. I let the other people do that sort of stuff.

Later on, my sister and I noticed that whenever my mother visited anyone she would say:

They can’t do enough for me.

That was her justification for not bringing anything with her or helping with any of the chores. She assumed that the people were so thrilled to have her company that they didn’t want her to contribute anything more than her lovely conversation.

For a while, my sister and I believed her explanation and thought how lucky we were to be with the only person in the room not expected to do anything. Eventually, as we aged, we learned that not everything my mother believed about herself was true.

No, people were not thrilled to have my mother (and her two children) come for a week long visit and do nothing. People did not enjoy providing all of the food for potlucks and thinking up all the activities while my mother kept up her endless chatter. Not only did people get tired of her lack of any effort whatsoever, they also didn’t enjoy her sharp barbs and jabs at everyone.

My sister and I have worked very hard to be “that person.” You know the other one (not our mother), the one who thinks of other people and offers to bring the food. We are the ones who remember the cooler with the bottled water. We are the ones who stay back and clean the other person’s kitchen after a meal. It’s an effort to be “that person,” but we want to be the kind of person people want to be around. We want people to say:

Oh!  I am so glad to see her.

not:

Oh! I am so glad to see her go.

My sister and I learned that we did not want to  be anything at all like our mother. We wanted to be “That person”, the one who brought the bottled water and cookies. We wanted to be the ones who thought of thoughtful things for other people. My sister and I didn’t want to be the one person that people hated to see coming, and we sure didn’t want to be the one person that people pulled away from while conducting a conversation as they did with both our mother and our stepmother Beatrice. Both of these women kept saying that people “couldn’t do enough for them,” but sadly they never did anything for anyone else.

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