Apologies to those with saucy expectations, as this isn’t a parental sex post.
It’s about a twist on the old “Oh my god, I’ve become my mother” I recently experienced – instead, I’m becoming my father, which is a far more loaded realization.
I click my ring bands on the steering wheel to the rhythm on the cd carousel or to a song in my head. I’ve been doing it as long as I’ve been driving.
I remember the rush of excitement when we could hear the chimes of the ice-cream truck lumbering up our street, tinkling through the dull roar of Rte 128. How we’d run to my father if he was home that night, and he’d reach into his pants pockets with dirty calloused hands and pull out a handful of change for us to cherrypick. His hands were never smooth, and often grey from solder and god knows what else.
So, of course, where did I reach when Ben decided it was time to ride a carousel horse? My own pockets, rife with lint, and receipts, and quarters. Marks I couldn’t account for all over my hands (probably as much lipstick as dirt.)
Then there is the tickling. Or as Ben calls them, the kickles.
In all the time growing up, I don’t remember a single day where my mother looked like she was having fun with us. No sustained smiles, lots of anxiety, frayed nerves, all the time. (In hindsight, it’s amazing she was able to function at the level she did, given the terrible things she bore in the marriage.)
I also decided I would never be that way. Instead, I would see where charm, smar-tee-pants, and humor – with a shiv of sarcasm in my sock for self-defense – would take me. I remembered how much fun it was to be around my dad, unaware of where he was falling through. I saw how kids loved him, instantly: how he was always present with them.
From my mother, I learned fairness, caution, reason, anxiety, moral compass, and responsibility; but from my father, I learned the happier presence, the charmer, the engaged conversationalist, the passionate teacher. The entertainer. And more darkly, sarcasm and anger as power; power as essential. I am hoping I can keep the best, and be rid of the worst of it.
At least I’d like Ben to know, without always having to say so in words, that I’m happy he’s here, and to be his mommy.