My grandpop always had trouble with Aubrey’s and my names. Well, maybe not trouble, but he called us Carol and Nancy, respectively. For years, we’d correct him, he’d grumble and then eventually get to Aubrey and Amanda. Toward the end, we just answered to Carol and Nancy. They’re female names. What’s the difference?
Progressive released commercials in November about Parentamorphosis. They can’t protect you from becoming your parents, but they can protect your home and auto. There’s mommeostatis and daddeostasis. These are hyperbolic, comedic gems. That said, I’m not sure we’re all so eager to be “protected” from parentamorphosis. I looked up some articles online about becoming one’s parents and I found only negative perspectives. An article from Psychology Today says, “Once it was a girl’s dream to be just like her mom. Now it’s more like every woman’s nightmare. Yet it happens to us all.” Them’s fightin’ words. The editors at Psychology Today clearly have not met Nancy Papa Doran.
I started realizing I was becoming my mom when I got addicted to running. As a kid I didn’t understand why she’d choose to leave home for 30 minutes to “run around the lake.” Running was meant for playing tag, chasing toddlers, or escaping our neighbor’s yard where Aub and I got caught hanging out in a bush with our friend Rian, for god knows why. Yet, my mom always seemed so eager to run, and on purpose. How masochistic! Then my mom convinced me to try a 5K with very few entries, I won a bouquet of flowers with a speedy time of 29 minutes, and she’d gotten me hooked. I had inherited that masochistic gene. I cannot do life without exercise now. And when I go running with my mom now, I’m very conscious of this life-long gift–well at least until my patellas break in half–that my mom has given me.
In my sophomore year of college, I found myself with three jobs, a penchant or a least tolerance for shots of Smirnoff with my friends, and an obsession with my grades. Aside from the Smirnoff, I was continuing to morph into Nance. I had developed a need to fill each waking minute with an activity. In between my activities, I’d nap. That’s how we thrive, Nancy and I: rapid-fire activity bookended by naps.
Chas recently asked me, “What time are you going to take your nap?”
“Well, how do you know I’m going to take a nap today?” I asked.
“It’s a day, Amanda. It’s a day,” he said. I am Nancy.
My mom says that naps are important for putting sleep into your “sleep bank.” Now that I’ve found myself using that term without even mocking my mom but because I believe it like she does, my transformation solidifies.
Another inheritance I think Chas could do without is the need to stock up on sale items. Don’t even let us in a Dollar Tree. Once my friend Mary walked into my parents dining room and immediately exclaimed, “Look at all that glue!” There, lined up on the wooden secretary were two dozen new bottles of Elmer’s. Nancy’s justification: “They were 19 cents each!” Why they were on display in the dining room and not hidden somewhere with less chance to be discovered, I’m not sure. I hide my Dollar Tree tubes of Colgate (I mean really, they’re full-sized and they’re a dollar!). For my mom, this pattern has repeated with extension cords, all types of office supplies, and definitely with yarn. The thing is, unlike most people she’s never searching around for an extension cord. I just hope she never joins Sam’s Club.
My mom’s dedication is where I certainly fall short. She’s worked at the William S. Baer School in West Baltimore for 40 years. Count ’em. 40. She has been visiting the same nursing home for a decade and a half, something that started out with our dog Duffy who was Pets on Wheels certified. Duffy died in 2010, god rest his giant, sweet soul. But, Duffy still receives mail from Congressman Dutch Rupersberger for his service to the veteran’s he visited. When he was alive, my mom put the envelopes under Duffy’s massive paws and took a photo each time of “Duffy with his mail.” Maybe not for her glue-hoarding because if you’ve ever taught children you know that glue hands are a classroom management crisis, but for her service and dedication, I wish the whole world could become Nancy.
My mom has imparted on me letter writing, memorizing birthdays to the point of creepiness, crocheting with variegated yarn, urban biking, Renaissance Christmas caroling, working throughout the weekend, waking up before the rest of the world, trash ministry, and so much more. Aside from long working Sundays, I know how fortunate I am to become Nancy 2 and I hope it continues.
As I continue to become an adult–29 is the new 19–I realize that I am also becoming my father. Chas sees it too. Dick is a big idea guy. He thinks of something magical and then he carries it out. Recently, this has resulted in what my mom calls “the coffin” and my dad calls “a large raised strawberry garden.” My dad and I are both in job transitions now and I feel like without inheriting his intolerance for unhappiness, I’d still be very stuck and very sad. But, I am most grateful for the grandiose visions I get from my dad. I’ve also inherited a desire for adventure, a habit of saying what I think, a green thumb, a need for NPR, and an occasionally cryptic sense of humor.
So when I think about becoming my parents, bring it on. They’re weird but they’re great and I know I am fortunate to be able to say that. Think about your own parents and if you’re becoming them, welcome the great things about that. It’s a form of legacy. And, if you didn’t agree with or in some way believe in that trait, you probably would do the exact opposite (hence, my obsession with a neat home environment). Parentamorphosis? Welcome!
Sarah Kay has a TED Talk in the form of a spoken word poem called “If I Should Have a Daughter.” In it she says, “’Baby,’” I’ll tell her “’remember your mama is a worrier but your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.’” I love this and every time I watch the video of this poem, I think of my mom speaking it.
Sarah Kay’s poem ends, “Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartbreak, slip hatred and war under your doorstep and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.”
And I tell the world that: you really ought to meet my mother. And also my father.