That girl thing

Despite what I love to tell people to the contrary, I do sometimes wish I had a mother to tell me what to do.

I lost my mom when I was just 11, so it was up to my dad and big brothers to look after my growing up. I’ve had to make do with snippets of female wisdom garnered wherever possible, be it from a neighbor or one of my brother’s girlfriends, for most of my life. A lot of the people I might have expected to be there for me as a kid without a mother never were. I like to think of that as a testament to their confidence in my father, rather than proof of their indifference to me.

I figure I turned out to be a pretty good person, but wish someone had taught me to cook and iron and manage laundry properly. My mom must have done those things for my dad, so he had to fend for himself, too, when she passed away. He did his best to learn quickly and even managed to cook for us and was quite inventive in the kitchen. I remember just one occasion that might be considered a *cooking lesson* and it involved pie dough and a rolling pin, and a lot of yelling and cursing. Can anyone make a pie crust without cursing? Anyway, I sometimes feel that I lack a certain finesse for things feminine as a result. Shopping, decorating, hair and makeup – I’m clueless.

The older I get, the more I see the influence of my father in my personality and way of being. I blame him for my obstinacy and tetchiness. These I consider good, strong traits in myself, but I never thought of them that way in my dad. Oh he was stubborn and could hold a grudge for ages! I may be the picture of my mother, but underneath I am all my father, like it or not.

I’ve been blessed since adulthood by a few older women friends who’ve taken me under their wing when I needed help or guidance, or just needed help in learning how to do something that comes *naturally* to other women. Carol who taught me to tie pretty ribbons on packages and how to crochet, Joan who listened to me bawl and complain as a first-year teacher, Merry who modeled a life of quiet wisdom and acceptance, Kathy with her urgings to be independent and carefree in my love for the outdoors, Linda who shares recipes and beauty tips.

These may be little things in the making of a woman, but are important to the sense of self and to fitting in among other women. That’s not ever been easy for me and for the most part, I won’t be bothered with it. (There’s that obstinacy, again!) I often wonder though what women cherish about their relationships with other women and with their mothers. I wonder if it’s the same things that the tomboy in me as a child saw with such wonder.

I’m sharing another of what my brother calls *cheesecake* shots of my mom. Looking at her there, I’m reminded of something else I never learned: confidence in a bathing suit!

14 thoughts on “That girl thing”

  1. So thoughtful. Whoever it is that is responsible for your way with words should be commended. That is a fantastic picture of your mom.

    We are opposites. I lost my father when I was 12.

  2. I love the photo of your mom–the hand to her head, the hand on hip. You can almost hear her saying–look at me, world. Aren’t I something!
    Yes, you did turn out to be a good person.

  3. My Mom had been something of a tomboy when young. I was a very feminine girl. Mom was a lady. But she didn’t use make up until I began to. My Dad and my older brother taught me how to apply lipstick, when I got my first tube.
    It is hard not having a strong feminine model.
    But, housekeeping. I hate housekeeping. So, did my Mom.

  4. I’ll bet you have more of your mom in you than you think Laura. :c) Maybe she wasn’t the girlie girl either. I often don’t understand the snarkiness of a group of women together as well, and I had a mom and a sister. Trust me, you are not alone. She looks so lovely and confident in that photo!

  5. fantastic cheescake photo! What a stunner!

    My mom never used make up or girly things, and I was always clueless and/or embarrassed by shopping for undergarments and make-up and such. She tried to teach me to cook and sew…and yes, there WAS swearing during pie making!

    I sympathize with your musings of what might have been had your mother lived past your tender years. It’s one of those unknowables. Who knows? You may have turned out much the same. I am not versed in the things that come naturally to other women, either, though as I grow older I’m much more happy about about that.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  6. As someone who takes after my Dad, I’ve found that even though I still have my Mom, I totally don’t get the shopping, decorating, hair and makeup thing either. Shopping bores me, decorating, well, I can do it when I feel like it. Hair has to be a wash and air dry style, and makeup, well, I don’t bother with it.
    By what my Mom tells me, a daughter never gets over losing her Mom, no matter what age she is, because there’s always questions to ask her and things to discuss with her.

  7. Dear Laura,

    Everyone loves a little cheesecake :o) Your Mom is lovely and raised a lovely daughter. You learned well from your Dad and woman friends.

    When we meet, I’ll bring an extensive assortment of natural-looking make-up for you, and have fun with your wild curls that I envy and admire. Girl stuff :o)

    I’ve never been confident in a swimsuit, either…ughh.

    I loved this post.


  8. Mary, that’s a great idea. We will do a Laura-Make-Over!
    But you know, she’ s beautiful anyway.

    I was taught by my Mom to do all the girly stuff, but I pick and choose how girly I want to be. Which is to say, not much.
    We define ourselves, and I think you are great.
    Love the cheesecake. Did they teach classes in “cheesecake photography” back in the day or what?

  9. What a beautiful post, Laura. It’s interesting to me that you lost your mom so young, because I’ve always sensed a very deep feminine presence here on your blog. Your photography almost always seemed very soft and yin. I’m not even sure I know what that means, except that you project a very female energy. I was raised in a reversed role household, my dad was home with us kids when we were young and worked nights, my mom worked during the day. I learned that men were caretakers and cooks. My mom taught me that women were self-assured and could have confidence out in the world. I never learned how to be very feminine, though. I can’t tie a bow, and I don’t like frilly or lacy things. I sometimes wish I could wear a dress and not feel like it’s a costume for Halloween!

  10. Liza: Thanks. I don’t remember your ever writing about that – have you?

    KGMom: She does look like she’s thinking something like that.

    Z: Your comment made me laugh, imagining your dad or brothers showing you how to put on lipstick.

    Jayne: I think she was a girly girl, but lost a bit of that confidence you see in this pic by the time I remember her.


    Delia: Yeah, whatever. Thanks!

    TDharma: You’re right; it’s unknowable (and really sort of unthinkable). Happy Turkey Day to you, too.

    Naturewoman: Hmmm… I don’t know.

    Mary: Naa…. not what this was about at all. I will let you fuss with my hair though, if you must!

    Susan: I’m well beyond needing (or wanting) a makeover. Would rather have you teach me how to fix stuff (without cursing, of course!)

    I have gangs of pics like this of my mother – even one on a rooftop in Jersey City.

    Robin Andrea: Thanks for the thought-provoking comment. Makes me wonder how our upbringing (if it’s different from the ‘norm’) affects our expectations in personal relationships, etc.

    I understand your dress-up discomfort too; it can be fun, but feels very much like pretend. Maybe that’s the point?

  11. Your testimony to your women friends and their nurturing is touching. You are blessed. I know you’ve enriched their lives,too.

    My mother is still alive, but when you’re one of seven children – those lessons on domestic skills and effective use of feminine appurtenances sometimes never materialize and pounds of flour are tossed and yards of ribbon are wasted in culinary and decorative endeavors :0)

  12. Laura,

    I’ve occasionally read your blog from the link over at Birdchicks. This particular post really hit home for me, as I lost my mom at 15, and have always felt I missed out on so many things girls growing up do with, and learn from, their moms.

    I found a book several years ago, that you might be interested in reading. It’s called Motherless Daughters. It helped me to understand how many women are out there without a mother, and how I’m not as alone as I thought.


  13. Cathy: Thanks for the laugh, imagining all that wasted flour and ribbon.

    Denise: Thanks for saying hi. I feel that way, that I’ve missed out on some things. But also that I’ve been lucky to be able to appreciate other people’s moms too.

    Thanks for the book suggestion – will look for it.

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