My female friends — and actually a few male — have at one time or another exclaimed in horror, “Oh my God, I’ve become my mother.”
Well, I’ve done them one better. I’ve become my Grandmas. At forty-something, and mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old, I’ve discovered I am the re-incarnation of my frugal and practical Gramma Pearson-Pruitt, who never saw a need to spend money when you had perfectly good things at home, and anxious and nervous Grandma Brown, who was always in a state of unease about us children jumping off of high places or running around too fast and breaking things, including our own crowns, also known as noggins and cappies.
I realized my transformation after a recent outdoor party at our home when my partner and I were cleaning up and she remarked that it was a waste to throw away the plastic forks, knives and plates. After all, they were the really nice heavy-duty resin stuff from Costco. I laughed, because it reminded me of sensible Gramma P. — the matriarch of the Pearson family, who raised her three children, mostly as a single mom, on the salary she made as a telephone operator, and who saved money by drinking well water rather than town water and eschewing air conditioning in the swamp-climate known as a DC summer, and who used to wash and re-use her disposable flatware. Then I found myself immersing a sink full of plastic utensils and plates in hot soapy water. Why not?
I had inherited it. I was a carrier of the thrifty gene.
It was the same feeling I got when I whipped out a stack of wrinkled coupons on the counter at Babies R Us. I picked through them, asking the clerk, “Can I use the $5 off on the Pampers and the 20 % off on the same purchase?”
It was scary.
Then one day when I was sitting in my family room with a friend when my little stunt man prepared to launch off of the coffee table onto a pile of pillows below, when I heard, “Get down from there right now young man.” It was dear, sweet Grandma Brown, who has been gone since my sophomore year in college, speaking through me, loud and clear.
These verbal artifacts, some colored by well-worn Southernisms I heard growing up, dormant in my brain for many many years, have inexplicably resurfaced recently. “Did you hear me Buster?” “I’m not going to say it again Mister (or Missy).” “I’m going to count to three and you’d better (insert desired behavior).” Of course, with modern perspectives on child rearing and corporal punishment, I have not gone so far as to utter the dreaded, “Settle down, or I’ll go outside and fetch me a switch.” Also, in light of the years of psychotherapy that it might require to undo, I have not resorted to “go get Mr. Dryers from the attic,” which was threatened when we were really misbehaving, and which started quite by accident when my then five-year-old brother misheard my Grandma Brown talking about on old washboard that was stored in the crawl space above her staircase.
While it initially was a bit disturbing that motherhood brought out these age-old traits and mannerisms, it was also reassuring and confidence boosting. The role I was assuming was a rite of passage, from adulthood to parenthood. Though I had waited until late in life to start a family, and I thought I had matured as much as I was going to, I found that being a mom, having that responsiblity for a little being, protecting him from harm, getting him fed, bathed, dressed, helping him to learn things, progressed me to an altogether new and different type of growing up. My priorities have evolved, including not only my greater concern for person other than myself, but also I have shed my former need for certain brand names on my clothes and other status symbols.
I suspect becoming a mom has a great deal to do with my emerging Grandma persona, but also I think it may in part be just a matter of getting older. This I realized when I pulled out my 23-year-old nanny’s laundry from the dryer and thought it was odd she had washed her hair scrunchies, then I realized those tiny scraps of elastic were her undergarments. As I tossed my balloony granny panties into the washing machine I realized that, indeed, I am from another generation, and to me thongs are rubber flips flops to be worn to the beach. I reckin’ Grandma would agree.
So, okay, yes, I have become my Grandma, but what’s wrong with that?