I write a lot about baseball, and the Dodgers, and my daddy. I try to mention from time to time that my mama also grew up loving the Dodgers and even went to Ebbets Field once with her daddy, but on Mother's Day, I should probably mention Mama first thing.
If you go to my parents' house, there are things you should do: pet the dog, admire the flowers, eat whatever's cooking. There are things you shouldn't do: leave your wet towels on the floor, expect anything you may have left there to be where you left it, reach for the remote when Mama's North Carolina Tar Heels are playing.
"I'm just going to flip to the other game between commercials," you may say, your words withering under the Death Glare.
You will put the remote back down. You may even find yourself wearing sweatpants with (the other) Carolina blue on them, because you want said Tar Heels to win so much, as much as you want Clemson to win when your daddy's watching, ALMOST as much as you want your Gamecocks to win on a Saturday in September.
I grew up in a divided household. Daddy and I were Baptist, while Mama and my brother went to the Methodist church. As I got older, it became clear that my opinions on some significant issues were not shared by everyone under our roof. However, the most glaring dichotomy could, for years, be seen in the garage: the orange tiger paw on the front plate of his truck, the blue foot on the front plate of hers. (I, in typical fashion, complicated things by adding a splash of garnet feathers to the mix).
I get a lot of my fiery love for sports from my daddy, to be sure. But a good deal of the appreciation of the underlying fiber, the connective threads of home and heart, the stats that matter more than the score - a lot of that stuff comes from my mama.
Mothers and daughters can be complicated things. We hear judgment in email and read underlying meaning into emoticons like no one else. The hypersensitivity of the 16-year-old bitch I often was is always a few pointed remarks away, lurking on the bad-angel shoulder, ready to sweep down in a torrent of illogical response that cares not for my 40 years of living, experience, and semi-wisdom. For the most part, I keep it under wraps. Pausing before speaking, trying to see her perspective, and vodka help.
I suppose all us girls turn into our mothers. It's inescapable and, for the most part, not utterly terrifying. When I tell my stepdaughter to turn on a light so she can see better to read, or when I find my tongue poking out of my mouth in intense concentration, I do a mental head shake/eye roll, but I deal. Turning into my mother, by and large, would be a good thing.
Scrolling through Facebook today, I've smiled to see all the mama pictures, old and recent, joyful and sad. For far too many people I love, including my own child, this day tastes bittersweet, and brings unwelcome thoughts of mortality and time and the jabbing realization that one day, for all of us, the smiling face in the frame, the one that is most familiar, will be all that physically remains.
I am fortunate that this is not yet me, and today I offer the universe my gratitude.
I'm grateful for some other things, too. I'm grateful that Aroldis Chapman and his triple-digit fastball returned from a horrific injury to strike out three and get the save in Cincinnati's 4-1 win against Colorado. I'm grateful for Vin Scully's voice in my living room. I'm grateful for the high-definition beauty of the late afternoon sun slanting across the infield grass. I'm grateful for the sound a baseball makes when it strikes leather, and I'm grateful that I was raised - by my daddy and my mama - to appreciate such fine things.
I'm happy that Michael Sam was drafted.
I'm also grateful that, as I type with the cat at my knee, I hear my husband's voice, going over review questions with our child for next week's Advanced Placement World History exam. She just brought home her honor roll certificate for the year, her freshman year in high school, and she just got braces to accent the smile that already lights up the room. I think, as much as parental figures can know these things, that she's happy, as happy as high school freshmen are these days and throughout time, and I know that the voice I hear is a big reason, the biggest reason, for that. Circumstances demanded that voice take all manner of tone, from firm to understanding to questioning to broken. I have tried to add mine to it, to produce a harmony of security laced with humor. Most days, I think the sound is a pleasant one.
I do not claim the title mother, but I do try to parent, and I am grateful to have experiences and memories to help me in that pursuit, as well as a phone number to call - or text, as my mother does these days - if further information or advice is needed.
I just try to remember not to call when the Tar Heels are on.