Some Thoughts #59 - A Column About My Mom

    I was writing a column for Heartattack for the Punk Women issue and I started to write about my mom.  She is an integral part of me and who I am.  We have a fantastic relationship and any time I get started on a story about how I got into punk - my mom always comes up.
    I have often said that my mom is more punk than most of the punks I know.  My mother is a true individual.  She has always gone against the grain and upstream.  She dances to her own beat and does her own thing.  Needless to say I was raised with her “be yourself, do your own thing, be an individual, be strong” attitude. Being an only child - my mom was my role model without my even realizing it.  She was home with me (which I was fortunate for).  She works in the theater - as a stagehand and she is also an artist working with wood.  So I was raised inadvertently backstage at a theater (as my father also working in the sound dept of the theater) and traveling to craft shows.  Even the fact that my mother took wood shop in high school rather than home ec - which was really the norm for her generation -- show how unique she is.  But she makes no pretenses about it.  She just does her thing.  For as long as I can remember she has worn black. And she has always worn work boots or cowboy boots.  (That thing about “you mother wears combat boots” couldn’t be more true).  When you are young - you don’t question these things.  You only know what is in front of you.  My parents are both pretty individualistic people - while not anti-social they don’t socialize a lot especially not in the traditional society way.  No entertaining houseguests and dinner parties in my house.
    My mom taught me independence at an early age.  Probably because she too was an only child, raised with a strong mother in a poor working class family.  The way my mother is and the way she taught me to be is practical and no-nonsense all around.  I dressed myself for as long as I can remember.  I arranged my room however I wanted.  I made my own breakfasts and packed my own lunch for school.  It’s not that my mom didn’t care -- but she couldn’t see the sense in doing for me what I could do for myself.  It was only when I found out that the other kids at school didn’t have these same choices that I realized how my family was different.
    As all kids do - I too went through the “my parents aren’t cool and I want to fit in and be like everyone else” stage.  And since my parents, and particularly my more visible mom, was so different -- that all rang a bit louder.  It wasn’t just that as a pre-teen I didn’t want to be seen hanging out with my parents -- it was that I though my parents were weird and therefore a reflection of my coolness. 
    I so strongly remember; in fact this is one of the strongest impressions I have of that pre-teen era.  When I wanted Jordache jeans, which were all the rage - my mom refused to pay the inflated price for them.  I threw a tantrum and insisted that I HAD to have them.  Why she asked?   “To be like everyone else” I said. To which she obviously replied “why do you want to be like everyone else?”  I’m sure that only made my tantrum worse as it further proved how un-knowingly cool my mom was that she didn’t understand.  But those words forever rang in my head.  “Why do you want to be like everyone else.”  This of course is the turning point - after already growing up with all the subtleties of “not being like anyone else anyway”.  I was stumped by the question.  And it was the beginning of a new era.  I am glad that the era of wanting to “fit in” didn’t even last a school year and I quickly began to realize how cool my mom was.  She humored me while I went through trying out make-up and other junior high school girlie stuff, all the while explaining why she doesn’t partake in these things.  Not self-righteous; not trying to make me like her; not trying to make me do anything (even then I was highly motivated and did much); she just pointed out things in her nonchalant obvious commentary way and the seeds got planted deeply all along.
    It’s no surprise that within a year I was discovering new wave and synth pop (which was the thing at the time but still a bit avante garde).  I became obsessed with the punk rockers in town.  And before long I was striving to “be different”.  I actually remember having conversations with my best friends about “how we could be different” - with burgundy hair color in my rat tail and shaving my head in lines and layers and an eventual mohawk.  Needless to say I was lead along the punk rock path.  And my mom was into it all along.  She thought it was outrageous.  She laughed at my hairstyles.  She laughed at my thrift store oversized men’s baggy clothes and my black gothic bat waver gear.  But she enjoyed it all.  Each new hair color that went in - she loved.  My friends who stopped by from the next town over (where the “real punks” all seemed to be and I so quickly found) had to come by for my mom to see.  She loved mohawks.  She still brags about me, and carries around my green-haired senior portrait in her wallet.
    I feel as though with each new thing that I thought of - and each new idea that I took to my mom -- when I discovered the 60s civil rights movement and wanted to know what she had been doing; when it was the woodstock hipster music scene of the time; when it was feminism -- thorough all of that I wanted to hear that my mom had been there at the front lines.  But that was not the case.  She was never a joiner.  She has lengthy reasons for what she was doing and why and how the popular movements didn’t appeal to her nor spark her involvement.  And again - though we got along so well - I just couldn’t understand why she wasn’t involved in all that great stuff.  With age, I can understand it all more.  I can see my children asking me if I was at woodstock II or at Lollapolloza or some other mainsteam cultural event of the 90s (or something still to come) and me being distant with loads of individual reasons of why what I was doing was so much more meaningful to me and my kids won’t understand (or maybe they will since I think that at this point in time I would have a pretty good story to tell of what I was doing in the 90s and of what I was involved in).  For all of our likeness - and for all of my isolated individuality -- I’m still more of a joiner and a participant that my mom is or was.  Where I have always wanted to be a part of something, she has always done her own thing - on her own terms.
    And it’s no wonder that the more time that passes the more like my mom I find I am.  We are both fond of saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  In past recent years as I’ve gotten interested in one subject after another - I find that my parents have “been there and done that”.  Gardening, self-sufficiency, living in the woods, camping, hiking, traveling, astrology, astronomy,  native american everything... some of this I have always known and some of these tid-bits were huge discoveries.  My dad knows everything.  He is like a walking encyclopedia.  My mother reads books as if she were an encyclopedia.  My mom and I see eye to eye on so much.  Of course we have plenty of differences - plenty of things that we can challenge each other with and a whole different generation’s worth of attitudes.  For all of my mom’s “Wildness” she still thinks it just isn’t right that my bra straps can so readily be seen in my cut-out t-shirts.  It’s not that it bothers her - it’s her conservative upbringing deep inside that still shows upon occasion.  And I actually enjoy those things.  The treasure is in our friendship.  We speak the same language - get excited about the same things and different obsessions in the same ways.  We’re like giddy kids when we are together and it’s a relationship and a friendship that I value so much.  I have seen so many kid-to-parent relationships that are so far off from ours that I know how to appreciate a good thing.  Completely.  My mom and I look at other family members and other people’s situations and can’t understand so much of what makes them the way they are.  My mom and I are both of the “it seems so obvious” way.  And I’m glad for everything that she has passed on to me.  My mom is a rad women.  She’s strong and powerful and she does her own thing.  And I know that she always will.  I value everything that she has taught me.  I’m so glad that she didn’t give in to the jordache jeans and that she taught me how to question the norm and find my own way.  And as I said - I think my mom is more punk than most of the punks I know. Musically, she still thinks it’s all noise, but that just proves that punk is a lot more about attitude than just music.  My mom rocks.