I don’t usually have creative ideas when I’m … taking care of business in the bathroom, so to speak- but today I was multitasking (picking up the bath toys that constantly litter the floor) and as I picked up sopping wet bathtime Ariel I had a flashback.
It’s LittleA’s birthday, and we’re gathered around to shower her with gifts and affection, and shower the guests with sangria. My parents arrived with a gift which shouldn’t have happened since they’d already given her one but whatever, and she ripped into their gift straightaway. My mom said “that’s from me, LittleA” and as my daughter pulled out the doll she screamed “THANKS PAPA!” and was too busy showing off to hear him say “thanks to GRANDMA!”. I smiled ruefully at my mom and she nodded. “it’s okay”, her expression told me.
What she didn’t say is “I’m used to it” because she’s too graceful to remind me that this scene recalls virtually every gift ceremony of my youth. Heaven help her, that girl is my daughter and there’s just something about my dad that elevates him in a little girl’s mind.
It wasn’t until later in my life, after distance and time had healed some of those common stepparent wounds, that I realized who was behind the cool clothes. The shopping trips. Makeup. Being allowed to Shave. She never let on; she never pitched a fit, never asked for the credit. Never demanded a thank you. She made birthday cakes and organized surprise parties. She listened intently even when I wasn’t speaking to her, and made wonderful things happen in my life. My mom silently took care of business behind the scenes, advocating for me every step of the way with my stubborn, old fashioned, no preservative, “makeup is gross and shaving is stupid, birthdays are just stupid days, christmas is too commercial” dad.
Now he’s mellower; sometimes I can’t believe this man who strolls through the toy aisle at Target with my kids several times a week is the same guy who built his house out of salvaged materials and train cars. But at Little A’s birthday, I came to understand some things haven’t changed. There’s my mom, back there behind the scenes, meeting needs quietly and largely without recognition.