“We’re sorry, Baba…”
I sighed as I looked from two doleful little faces to the unbelievable mess of a backyard.
In preparation for the summer, I had just finished a full day of backyard clean-up which had included the hot and tiring job of hand-scrubbing the white vinyl fence back to its original luster. As a special surprise for the kids, I outfitted their water table with hot pink sand and let them run the hose to create a vibrant after-school texture table.
I decided to let them play together in the backyard out of view, as I got dinner ready, moving back and forth from the kitchen to the grill. At ages 7 and 4, I was doing my best to step back and let them have more independence, to trust them even if it meant soggy clothes and sandy bottoms. After all, the weather is warmer, school’s almost out, and kids are supposed to be kids…right?
What I didn’t expect was to come out and see my entire yard destroyed – the just-mowed grass, the just-cleaned house, the deck, and the umbrella covered in wet sand – even my newly scrubbed fence, which was now splattered from top to bottom in hot pink shrapnel.
They knew the minute I came over that they had gone too far. My defeated silence had them shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, filling the quiet with soft and sincere apologies. There was none of the usual whining, defiant denials or passing the blame to each other.
I took a deep breath and started hosing down the yard, the fence, the house, and the deck. I hosed them off too – which they thought was great fun at first, not so much when they had to eat their dinner wet and chilly in the shaded al fresco. It suddenly wasn’t warm anymore and the excitement of being sandy and wet turned into whimpers of “but Baba, I’m so cooooooold!”.
Eventually, they were bathed and warmly wrapped up in fresh pajamas, and all was right with their world. They still seemed slightly embarrassed and sorry, but I simply accepted their apologies and moved on.
They moved on too and maybe they’ll never think of this event again…or maybe one day, when they are grown and have kids of their own, this memory will suddenly come flooding back and they’ll feel sorry once again, but in a different way.
In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend, I started thinking of all the things I did and probably never fully or sincerely apologized to my mother for. For all the things she brushed off and forgave but maybe never forgot. Or maybe she chose to let it all go because she loved me more than she was willing to be annoyed. Maybe she never stopped being annoyed by it. Hard to say, but she never made me feel bad about it.
So, to my mother, I wish I could say I really am sorry…
For accidentally launching a wet football from the pool, hitting you unsuspectingly as you read peacefully on the deck. Even though it spawned what we thought was a hilarious catchphrase (“I heard my neck crack!”) I know it really must have hurt and I never really took it or you seriously. I think about this a lot as a grown up and as a parent. I really am sorry about this one.
For that time when squeezing a small puff of baby powder turned the living room into something resembling a 3-alarm fire, thick clouds of white powder hanging low and covering every single piece of furniture in talcum dust. Even though we were forced to help clean-up, I am sure you did 98% of the work, wiping every surface and beating the couch cushions outside until they coughed up the last puffs of powder. No matter that you had just had a baby, probably were sleep-deprived and out of gas from caring for the house and three other kids – you cleaned the mess and did what you had to do. I know the three of us are all sorry for this one (and not just because we got caught).
For making you sit at the movies by yourself when I couldn’t get into a PG-13 show without an adult. I got to hang with my friends while you had to watch “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (which I know you must have been dying to see) alone, and most egregiously “without any money for snacks” as you had given all your cash to me.
I appreciate you letting me feel grown-up and as close to “cool” as I was likely to get those days.
For never having my act together, whether it was jumping on a last-minute Greyhound bus at Port Authority, yelling back to you “Oh, I’m sure this will probably stop in Baltimore!” or packing for my freshman year of college by throwing whatever was laying on my floor into large, Hefty garbage bags the night before I left home.
For calling in a panic and insisting you immediately stop and drive 4 hours by yourself to get me early at the end of freshman year because everyone had left already and took the TV with them and what the heck was I going to do with myself for 18 hours alone!?!
For always getting scraped or bruised or broken as a kid. I could shrug it off good-naturedly, but I know it was much harder as a parent to watch me slam through life like that.
For being so different from other kids that I’m sure it made you uncomfortable at times, to see me interact in the world. Amazingly, you never, ever, made me feel less than for my differentness – choosing instead to build me up, to celebrate that which made me “a little bit off” – and instilling a sense of pride and confidence in who I was — even as a small girl who walked out the door every day dressed like a cast member from the show “Newsies”. No matter how it made you feel, you always made me feel special and worthy. You never made me feel sorry for who I was and for that, I can never express how appreciative I am.