And now, a scene: Mom and I preparing to serve brunch, October 2008.
My mother shakes her head. She bites her tongue. She swears, swears, that she won't do it this time.
She watches me. She opens her mouth, shuts it, opens it again. My father puts down the newspaper and slowly mouths, "Don't do it."
But she succumbs to her overwhelming need. What I am doing is just too wrong, too egregious. She, despite all her efforts to be the cool mom, cannot stop herself.
She blurts, "Nancy, WHY are you throwing a perfectly good egg away?"
I turn to her, rolling my eyes like the fourteen year old I am in her presence. "Well, Mother, because I wasn't able to get the peel off."
She swallows, and says, her voice growing increasingly shrill, "So what? It's still good! Who taught you to waste food?"
"Mom, I don't waste food. But when you're making deviled eggs, you can't have the eggs look like ass. I overcooked the eggs, so I can't peel them, so I'm throwing the bad ones away." Even as I say this, I know that she is right, and I am wasting food. However, what exactly am I supposed to do with a mangled hard-boiled egg?
Mom knows. "Nancy, really. You could make a salad, you could eat it for breakfast, your father could eat it, right Ed? He doesn't care what his food looks like, right? "
My father continues to read the paper, choosing to tune out of the entire conversation.
"Mom," I say, pulling out my secret weapon. "I'm thirty-three years old. This is my house. These are my eggs. Let me do what I want."
I've got her. She knows. "Fine," she says, then mumbles, "but it isn't right."
I leave the kitchen at that point to tend to one of the boys. Listening upstairs, I can hear her rummaging through the trash, taking out the hard boiled eggs, washing them, and painstakingly peeling each one. Just like I knew she would.
They're the hit of the brunch.
She's a dangerous combination, my mother---she's tenacious, sentimental, detail-orientated, thrifty, and creative. This all adds up to an individual who CANNOT throw anything away. She always imagines the "maybe" or the "someday" of any item. This is a woman who:
A) Kept a frozen whole trout in the freezer for two years. Not for eating. Not a trophy from a fishing trip. No, this fish was a preschool craft. The kids (her students) dipped the frozen fish in poster paint, then used it as a print. She kept the fish in case she ever wanted to do the craft again. (Note to self: investigate Owen's preschool options carefully).
B) Still wears her sorority sweatshirts on occasion. She graduated college in 1970.
So, my act of rebellion is to throw things out with abandon. I've been cleaning the house of all things festive, and getting rid of other junk while in the process. The "I was born at Calvert Memorial Hospital" onesie? Trash. Letters from old students? See ya! Commemorative mug from my trip to Hong Kong in 1997? Off to the thrift shop!
I can hear my mother gasping as she reads this. It's just as appalling to her that I get rid of these treasures as it is for me to live with them. Things overwhelm me. Things feed her.
Her life has had so many stories, and so much joy, that she needs her objects to help her remember. All I need, most of the time, is a laptop and a quiet room of my own. (Okay, I've referenced Virginia Woolf, officially becoming pretentious. Sorry. It won't happen again.)
My mom and I butt heads, because deep down, we're the same person. We're smart and stubborn We require audiences and attention. Simply put, we can be tough eggs to crack (or peel).
But know, Mom, that I hear your voice every time I purge my house of unnecessaries---"Are you sure you don't want that?" And sometimes, Mom, out of love for you, I put the object back on the shelf, trusting in your wisdom.