Most people don’t know who my mother is. I usually don’t say a lot about her, not because I don’t love her. I don’t talk about her because we have a more professional relationship then the usual mommy/daughter thing. If that seems cold or confusing, think about Dr. Spock from Star Trek, and picture him pregnant and having a daughter. That was me.
I grew up with a mother that has incredible IQ. She once worked with the Surgeon General. She has served as both a Naval and an Army officer. I actually have no idea how many languages she currently speaks, or how many degrees she now holds, so I just say “a bunch.” She didn’t get that way hanging around the kitchen baking cookies.
Growing up is a confusing and painful process, and I’ll admit that often I wanted a mother that would teach me about makeup instead of bacteria. One of my childhood memories is my mom showing me petri dishes full of a disgusting moldy growth. It was the results of someone’s fingernail scrapings. It was an extreme but effective lesson on hygiene.
Some girls may walk into the bathroom to find awkward things their mom has left behind in the bathtub. I’m no different there. I can still remember the day I pulled the shower curtain aside to find a half dissected cat brought home from college as homework. That’s how I learned what formaldehyde smelled like.
My mom may have seemed emotionally distant when I was younger, but as I’ve grown I’ve learned to accept and appreciate that. I always had food and clothes, and she instilled in me an intense curiosity about the world that I treasure now. She taught me to read and write before kindergarten. Maybe she didn’t teach me to put on eyeliner, but I was reading Dostoevsky by 5th grade.
To many it would look like we have a distant relationship, and maybe that is true by many standards. We don’t talk on the phone much, and we have physically seen each other twice since 1990. I know she loves me though. Those other things are details, and not what matters.
The important things are the respect I have for her incredible mind. I trust her medical knowledge beyond any doctor. She knew and warned me about HIV when it was only a few people infected. If my mom says don’t do something, I know it is for a very real and probably medical reason, and never just because ‘she said so’. I can honestly say that the smartest person I know is my mother.
That is what is so beautiful about moms. None of them are perfect, but somehow in the stumbling and clumsy act of parenting, they shine. Children look up at their maternal figure and see someone to love. Mistakes can be made, sometimes relationships are split so far they seem irreparable, but at some point every little girl looks into the mirror as a woman and sees her mother looking back at her… and sees two woman to love.