Apparently when she was born in 1917, my mother’s parents couldn’t afford a middle name for her. I think she was offended by that vacant spot—and probably even embarrassed. She righted the wrong when she received Confirmation in the Catholic Church and took her Confirmation name, Theresa, as her official middle name. She wore it proudly to the very end.
A few years before she died, my mother completed an Enneagram test and readily identified as a 9w1: a Withdrawing type with a Compliant wing. If only we’d known from the beginning that temperamentally-speaking we were two entirely different species, we might have grated on each other a little less. She never knew what to make of me, and I was equally perplexed by her. She tended to work herself up over what the neighbors might think about something. To be fair, ours was not the most conventional of families. But I couldn’t be bothered about what the neighbors might think.
Mom’s 1 wing asserted itself at the supermarket, where she wouldn’t allow me to put any of the groceries on the conveyor belt at check-out because everything had to be precisely placed in a particular sequence she was convinced I would mess up. Since I didn’t care enough to learn her system, I’m sure she was right. When we got home to unpack the bags, all the items had to be moved to their appropriate staging areas before anything could be put away. As a Doing type, I would have been happy to put the groceries away as she unpacked them. That would have been so much more efficient. But it wasn’t the “right” way, so we never did that.
My mother also spent a lot of time complaining about how much she had to do and how she had to do all of it herself, which led to much eye-rolling on my part.
Another thing I never understood was her attempt to get me to choose one of my younger brothers and consistently back him whenever the two of them argued. Mom: “I don’t understand why sometimes you take Mark’s side, and other times you take Coke’s side.” Me: (speaking with exaggerated patience) “Well, that’s because sometimes I think Mark is right, and other times I think Coke is right.” Yes, I patronized my mother. Often. I wasn’t the prize in her crackerjack box, either.
On the other hand, having a Type 9 mother came in handy for a daughter who didn’t want a lot of parental interference. Mom had a lengthy list of things she didn’t want me to do. And places she didn’t want me to go. And people she didn’t want me to hang out with. But I learned early on that she also didn’t want to be bothered, so as long as she didn’t actually know about any of my transgressions, there was no problem. When I couldn’t get by with simply not mentioning something, I lied to her.
I wasn’t the girly-girl my mother had hoped for, nor was I particularly obedient or cooperative. And, alas for me, she was not Dale Evans—my youthful idea of the perfect mother. But we shared a wacky sense of humor—even during the most tumultuous years of my adolescence—which is surprising given how little we saw eye-to-eye on. Some of my fondest memories include the times we were nearly on the floor laughing while we did the dishes together. And the over-the-top country-western song titles she made up—and sang. And her anecdotes that rambled all over the map and never quite found their way back home, to her amusement and everyone else’s.
That’s the mom I’m missing today.