Sunday, May 8, 2011

Excuse Me?

My mother has never liked pet stores, she says that they depress her. She doesn't like the idea that all those innocent animals are bred in such terrible conditions and that they live the first few weeks of their lives in cages much too small for them, with very little human interaction. She is not an animal person, but she has compassion, so would just as soon skip the pet store all together.

As children, my brothers and I were too young to share this sentiment. It was a very special treat for us if our mom took us into a pet store because it almost never happened. When I was about three, there was one such occasion when my mom took us in to look at the puppies, and we were thrilled.

The picture I have in my mind's eye is definitely one of a small child's. I remember lots of white, everywhere I looked. White laminate flooring, white walls, white cages, people dressed in white. The store probably wasn't that pristine, but maybe to three year old Jonsi, it looked that way. My mom led us in to the store and pushed my little brother, who was just a baby in a stroller, up to the half wall separating us from the cages. My other brother was on my right side, and we stepped up to the glass as well. I remember being disappointed because I could barely see the puppies since they were so far away, and were separated from us by several windows. My older brother and I pressed our faces up against the glass, trying to get a better look.

All of a sudden, I heard a woman shouting something at us. She was dressed in white and standing next to a push cart that seemed miles away, down the long corridor. The cart contained cleaning supplies and spray bottles. I could barely make out her face, but she seemed accusatory and kept up a tirade of angry sounding words.

I didn't know what she was saying, but I knew it must have been something bad, because my mom got very angry. My mom told me years later that the woman was shouting at us to "get our filthy hands and faces off of the glass" because "she had just cleaned it." My mom said, "Excuse me? How dare you. They are just children, and they are only looking. You will NOT speak to me, or my children that way." She may have said more, but I can't recall.

What I do remember, quite clearly, was the feeling that someone had said something bad to us, and my mom made sure everyone knew that sort of treatment wasn't allowed. I remember marching out of that store, with my head held high, knowing that we had stopped that woman from treating us badly, and that my mom had our backs. I knew, without a doubt, that my mom would take care of us, that she would protect us, she would defend us to the end. I felt that I was a part of her bravery and that no one could hurt us. I learned many valuable lessons that day: That it is okay to say no, that one should champion the rights of those who are not able to protect themselves, that no one has the right to be cruel, nor should they get away with it, and that strength means being assertive and calm. My mom has shown me what it means to love unconditionally and defend those who need defending. I was very lucky to have gotten the mom I did. I have borrowed her strength in times of need, and she has willingly, and sometimes unknowingly given it.

In the battle that DH and I are fighting against NMIL, the one where we have to be the champions of our own rights, my mom has been a wonderful touch stone. And the most beautiful feeling is knowing that she feels as lucky to have us, as we are to have her.


  1. What a wonderful memory Jonsi. A nice insight in your solid belief in defending your personal rights and those of others. Hope you have a great Mother's day and your Mom too.

  2. wow. i have never felt like that way about my mom ever. when i was a teen, i sort of felt proud of my mom for a while in some roundabout trying-to-convince-myself-way- because she was so haughty and no one was good enough for her..i thought that meant she was elite.
    the only time my mom gets mad is at ME! or when a store employee makes HER feel 'disrespected' (and then if i dont join in with her or defend her from this 'obvious blasphemy', she gets angry at me again).
    she's never defended me. she's the one i need defense from!
    the most telling and missing thing is the last thing you said, about a mom who feels lucky to have you. oh god that's the thing that's missing. what a hole.

  3. What a wonderful touchstone! And she's still touching the lives of others through you. That's a worthy legacy.

  4. Mulderfan - I've had a few friends in my life who felt the same way. One in particular, she was my best friend during our teenage years. She never actually said it, but I always got the feeling she wished my mom could have been hers too.

    Ruth - You're absolutely right. I think this story definitely illustrates the source of my feelings to defend others (particularly children).

    Lisa - I'm sorry that your mother didn't protect you. It is one of the safest feelings in the world to a child to feel that her mother can and will protect her. I'm happy to share my insights and memories because I hope you and others like you can gain something from it. In a way, it's like I'm sharing my mom with you. I know it's not the same as having your own mother, but maybe you can glean something positive from it.

    Judy - I come from a long line of women like my mother. I am so, so very lucky.

    I'm sharing my mother with all of you! Through me, I hope you can feel her too.

  5. I loved reading this story. I collect stories like this: examples of good mothering. I want to wallpaper the inside of my heart with stories like this.

    In my imagination, my NM would have been EMBARRASSED by this pushy cleaning lady and scolded us.

    Thanks for sharing, Jonsi. Your mom is special to me.

  6. Upsi - I was just talking to my dear mother this morning about this story. My mom said that the reason I still feel I can go to her with my problems is because she was always my biggest advocate. She never laughed at me at my expense, and was always there to protect and love. This story could have gone a very different way, if my mother were a different person. But as it is, it tells the story of a strong and loving mother and a child who could trust her, without a doubt.

    I've always believed that all children are special to my mother. She used to run a daycare - I believe she's loved ALL of her children. In a strange sort of way, you are one of her children too. I talk about my friends on Blogger with her, and I can feel her love in the sense that she feels FOR all of them.