"Let's not and say we did."
A mother's ease of rejecting a request is a kind of art.
I remember being five, standing at the door of our boxey apartment, hopping up and down to go outside to the pool. My face was shining and my flip flops were flopping as I bounced ecstatically in an attempt to truly show Vicki Lynn that going outside and swimming was not only a major priority for me, but that it would make me overwhelmingly happy if she'd take me. Towel over shoulder and goggles in hand, I was ready.
Despite the heat of the day and the annoying squeals she knew she could terminate by obliging, she did not.
"Let's not and say we did," she interjected in her calm, almost deumonic tone. Then she turned around and didn't give me a second thought.
This would always be the point when a fight would start. I never won the fight, but I always let it happen in an attempt to get the cold, heartless, witch to admit that she was trying to hold me captive in our little toaster oven so she could bake me into a dinner with whole baby potatoes as a side dish.
want to do what I want! You always say that! Everyone else's Mom is outside with theeeemmm...
" I'd say quickly and with the knowledge that I could get scooped up and thrown into my room at any moment. Pulling the "everyone else's Mom" card out usually meant I was in for either a swift kick or the silent treatment.
"Then go get another Mom. One that doesn't work two jobs then has to make dinner and do the laundry tonight. Since I'm so unfair to you. Okay?"
Ninety percent of the time, this would be enough to put me in tears and send me to my own room for talking back and expecting too much of my Mother on a hot, summer day. She and I both knew that someone else's Mommy would be more than glad to watch me in the pool. Besides, I could swim without assistance and was favored by all neighborhood parents. Even though we both knew this, I managed to keep pushing my own Mom to take me instead of all the other's.
As I'd sit in my room building a fort, angry in post-defeat, I'd mumble things to myself to help facilitate the remainder of the argument. She never gave me closure. When she was done talking, it was always over. And never brought up again. Not because she said it was supposed to be that way but because I knew better than to push her. At the age of five, I knew how much I could hurt her by comparing her to other parents and indirectly complaining about the life she had given me. So I proceeded with the fight in my most grown-up tone as I stared at the wall.
"Mom, I'm sorry I tried to pick a fight with you. I just wanted to go outside and play. With you there. I miss you when you're at work. I don't want to hang out with the other kids in the pool. I want to hang out with you."
Then I'd cry. Talking to myself. Wishing she would have given me the chance to say the right words. I always punished myself for acting like a kid because clearly, I was not one. She'd never treated me like one. Certainly never raised me to be, either. So when I ran at the mouth in true bratty, five-year-old fashion, I felt awful for what I'd done. As soon as I finished our conversation in my tent, I redeemed myeslf in the kitchen by doing the dishes.
She'd be asleep on the couch, still in her white waitress uniform - nylons on the floor, gigantic hairclip loosened. The small bills and coins she made while working the slow hours at Dr. Livingstson's Restaurant sat on the counter, and when I looked up again to see her crashed on the couch, wished I could do something to help.
I never asked her to take me out to the pool again.