I’ve written about my father before, but I’ve never really written about my mom. Not because there’s nothing to say, but because there’s too much to say. It’s scary to write about her! How can I do my mom justice? How can anyone?
I don’t know that I’d call myself a “mama’s boy” because I’m too much of a jerk for that – and every time I go home I revert to being a teenager again, which means I’m even less nice to everyone than normal, no matter how long I was in your womb! – but moms are pretty special, and it’s hard to capture every reason why. In the case of my mom, it’s particularly hard, because she’s so nice.
It’s hard to praise niceness. Niceness can seem bland. But there’s nothing bland about my mom.
If you’re a cynic like me, niceness can feel superficial, if not flat-out artificial. But niceness is underrated. Because true niceness is about more than simply being nice, it’s about being generous, and compassionate, selfless and patient, kind and understanding. My mother is all of those things, and then some.
Of course, “nice” doesn’t mean “perfect.”
She used to chase me and my brothers around with a wooden spoon when we were being brats, she can’t help herself from saying “you look tired” every time she sees me, often before she even says hello, and she inexplicably loves Denis Leary, potty-mouth and all. She also puts an R at the end of “idea” and I don’t even know what she’s doing when she pronounces “LaGuardia,” but it’s my mom, so you let it slide. She’s too nice to criticize.
Unfortunately, pretty much all I inherited from her was my fair Irish skin and an uncanny ability to never forget an actor’s face. If I’d gotten some of her personality, I’d probably have more friends – and a less successful blog! That said, I may not be as nice as my mom, but I definitely got some of my sarcasm from her: the weirdest thing about my mom is how easily a phrase like “And deal with those crowds? Kill yourself!” rolls of the tongue of someone who is otherwise so mild-mannered.
Thankfully, especially for me, it’s not the cheery kind of nice, or the kind that reeks of trying too hard. She’s not chipper or in your face with constant positivity and uplift or any of that nonsense. Her niceness is not a put-on; it doesn’t take my mom any effort to be the way she is, she’s just being herself. Being nice comes naturally to her. It’s who she is, and what she does.
She volunteers at the hospital on a weekly basis, she has a collection of greeting cards to dispatch the minute anyone she’s ever met hits a milestone or suffers a loss, she’s more likely to ask after your health than she is to be concerned about her own. She has arthritis but doesn’t let it stop her from going sledding with Detective Munch or waking up early with The Hammer when we visit, just so we can get a little break, even though she’s in her late 50s – wink wink!
That’s another thing about my mom – she’s youthful in a way that belies her actual age. You would never guess she’s nearing 60! It’s insane, and probably the primary reason I can still pass for twenty-something (just let me have this).
Everyone loves my mom. My kids love my mom. My wife loves my mom. And she should, because if it wasn’t for a long chat I had with my mother at the very beginning of my relationship with Mom and Buried, during which she told me I’d never do better (right after she told me I looked tired – over the phone!), she might not be my wife!
Speaking of marriage, my parents have been married for more than 50 years, and while I’ve been with Mom and Buried long enough to know that love is not the sole reason people stay together, I know you don’t last fifty years without it.
You also don’t last fifty years married to one of the men in my family without being tough, no matter how nice you may be. I remember the first time I brought Mom and Buried home, she thought my father and I were having an explosive argument but we were simply conversing. My mother has been at the center of that storm my entire life. Kill yourself!
In a few weeks, one of my older brothers is getting married. He’ll be sharing a traditional dance with my mother, no matter how reluctant he is, because like me, he knows how lucky he is to have been raised by such a “nice” person. And he knows that if he tries to back out, she’ll brain him (in her own words).
When I started writing this, I worried that describing my mother as “nice” was too generic. Saying someone is “nice” is like saying a blind date has “a good personality.” It’s faint praise. Except in my mother’s case, her niceness isn’t faint; it’s blaring. So I came to terms with the fact that niceness is a massive virtue, one of many my mother has, and that nearly every description of her will seem like a understatement.
Sometimes it takes something small to describe something so vast.
As my father just told me when I mentioned this post, “You can’t describe ‘one in a million’ with just one word.”