A number of years ago there was a book called “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney.” It was a story about a cat that had died and the efforts of the family to cope with his death. The family decided to make a list about the ten good things they really liked about this cat and in doing this help everyone in the family to remember the good and perhaps not be so sad.
Many years before our mother’s death, I decided to do the same thing. I was going to write a list (and let’s face it, ten things seems pretty short) and then share it with Lindy.
I began writing and soon hit a road-block. I know it is very easy to write ten grocery items on a list, and I know it is easy to write the names of your ten best friends down on paper; but when I began writing this magical list of the good things about Mary, I struggled.
Here is the list I wrote:
- She sang Christmas songs under the Christmas tree with us during December
- She let me take baton lessons
- One time she bought my son Taylor some jeans when my money was kind of tight
- She liked to read and encouraged Lindy and I to do so
- She played games with us
- She did not mistreat her grandchildren.
- She taught independence (albeit without knowing it)
- She took us to Indiana every summer
After managing to create this almost complete list, I decided to share it with Lindy. Lindy could not stop laughing. My very first memory had Lindy in stitches:
Singing Christmas carols?
Have you ever wondered why she was UNDER the tree? She was drunk, that’s why.
So the positive aspect of memory number one was taken from me. My sister was correct, our mother was definitely enjoying some liquid holiday cheer as she belted out Christmas carols.
As for the baton lessons, Lindy informed me
You took them after Mary had started both of us in tumbling and for some reason decided that you were not tumbling material.
The jeans for Taylor were something anyone able to should have done for a family member in need.
The reading was just Mary’s way of escaping from life–same with the playing games (which may have occurred after a trip to the kitchen for some “happy juice”).
On the item that our mother did not mistreat her grandchildren, Lindy said
You have got to be kidding. How low can you set the bar?
Yet not mistreating her grandchildren seemed like a huge thing to me, because she certainly mistreated everyone else she came in contact with–particularly her children.
I think the fact that she did not mistreat Taylor or Fiona was a huge blessing and meant that Mary was capable of some normal human feelings. Lindy finally agreed with one of my points.
As for the trips to Indiana, Lindy reminded me that they were Hell-trips filled with Mother’s reminders about how “hot, dirty, and tired” everyone would be prior to our arrival.
Finally, discussing independence and Mary in the same sentence could cause long dormant volcanoes to erupt. She was in no way independent (she had very poor coping skills, and always had to have a man for financial and emotional support). She certainly did not knowingly or intentionally teach Lindy and I to be independent.
We became independent after figuring out that we were responsible for ourselves and our own happiness. We learned this at ages five and seven, respectively, and we are lucky–lots of people don’t learn it until much later.
Maybe there aren’t ten good things about Mary, but she did give birth to Lindy and I and helped us to develop our wonderful sense of humor. That’s two good things at least!