Janeen as Me

For people who know me,  you could easily think that the photograph above depicts me in someone’s kitchen. You would be wrong though, as my mother is the teen featured in an early image of our family kitchen. When I saw this photograph for the first time, I actually thought it was me before it sank in that it couldn’t have been given her dress and the kitchen’s decor. All the same, this was the for the first time in my life that I recognized why family and long time friends often mistake me for my mother.

The resemblance mattered to me because last week, I noted how my mother sometimes presumes that I am her duplicate. The presumption troubles me, but ONLY when it comes to matters of personality. My mother is much more social than I am and her speech is far less delicate. To that end, even though she’s usually correct when she speaks on my behalf regarding some social event my family requests my involvement, but the way she states my case takes a “straight no chaser” approach that reflects nothing of my manner. I would give you an example, but I only repeat her pronouncements to close friends in very private conversations.

Despite these significant differences in personality, I’m proud to resemble my mother in many other ways. Like many of my friends who were the children of working class parents, punctuality was a must. I was never tardy for any class from kindergarten through college; I am usually punctual for meetings and appointments; I’ve never overslept. Now that I’m a mother, my parenting in this regard models my mother’s practice. Thus, my son has never been tardy or even absent from school. When I shared that news with my mother, she was beaming with pride. In my mother’s time (she graduated from high school in 1971), employers asked for transcripts and placed a premium on days tardy and days absent. Employers used this information to determine if they could rely on you; if you were responsible; if you took your work seriously; were dependable. For my mother then, her five-year-old grandson, is on his way to becoming a reliable man.

I wonder if attendance records have significance beyond school these days. Do employers request this information (which is most likely protected by law)? The parents whose children were in class with my son certainly didn’t seem to value time. Typically, he was one of seven children, out of eighteen, who was in class in time to get settled and to ready himself for the work ahead. Sometimes I would chat in the halls with other teachers or other parents beyond the official start of class and stay as late as fifteen minutes after 8. As I would leave the parking lot, I would see parents dropping off their children. They clearly weren’t concerned about disrupting class or in teaching their child(ren) the value of timeliness. My mother’s concern for timeliness taught me to value time. Thus, I never lusted for financial wealth as much as I did for being time rich. In my world, time is a precious resource and one of my greatest desires is to have as much control over it as I can. To this end, my mother and I both have placed constraints on how long we will wait to be seen by doctors, hairstylists, or grocers. Both of us have left examination rooms after we’ve been tricked into being assigned a room with the expectation that the doctor will be right in. Now, I give my doctors an hour before I leave and ask to be rescheduled; my mother gives 45 minutes. For both of us, wasting our time is an egregious offense. What I’ve learned from this practice is that you only have to perform this act once before your doctor, dentist, or midwife knows to see you right away upon subsequent visits. I’ve even started checking out in the 10 items or less lanes when my grocery store has two lanes open and ten customers in each line. Since I’m a regular customer and make it clear to the manager that they need more lanes open and fewer people straightening cans of corn during busy times they pay attention (and I’m very pleasant in voicing my frustration).  If it happens that another customer gets in line when I’m making my protest in the 10 items or less lane, I will apologize and offer an explanation or I’ll let them get in line ahead of me if I haven’t put my groceries on the belt.

So yes, in some ways I am my mother’s duplicate…though one who has tried to dull her sharp tongue.

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