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7 Little Things My Mom Did For Me That Made a Huge Impact

mom

All writers thank mom around Mother’s Day. Usually it’s a predictable list of qualities filled with all the usual platitudes about moms one would expect from a generic Mother’s Day piece.

However, my mom is anything but generic.

I won’t lie, her style is not the norm and it’s not for everyone. I could easily write a Top 7 Things My Mom Did That Drove Me Nuts column, but just about any kid could do that about their parents. Instead, I want to celebrate some of the stuff my mom did that made her cool. And different. And completely insane in some instances. But whatever the case, these things I’m listing today are small things that meant a great deal to me. Things for which I never thanked my mom. Things she probably doesn’t even think I remember.

So happy Mother’s Day (and birthday) mom. And don’t worry, this isn’t your only present.

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7. ALWAYS BEING AT MY GAMES
I played three sports a year, and my mom went to all my games. I’m not just saying that as hyperbole either. It’s a fact. My mom went to ALL my games. Didn’t matter if it was 7-year-old rec league basketball, my all-star baseball teams as an early teen, or cross-country matches in high school. She was there. Always. Guaranteed. Even when we traveled to competing high schools she was there. Wanna know how she swung that? She drove the bus. Yup, that’s right. My mom was a school bus driver when we were younger and so she used those contacts to secure the gigs driving to all our away games in high school. I won’t lie, sometimes it made talking about chicks with the guys on the bus a little awkward with mom at the wheel, but having her there rooting me on was something I always appreciated. Even if I never let on before now.

6. SIGNING ME UP FOR THINGS AGAINST MY WILL
I know you guys won’t believe this, but I was a whiny kid. A REALLY whiny kid. I cried about everything, especially sports. If I struck out it was the end of the world. If I only scored 6 points in basketball I was a failure. After the season ended I always swore I was never playing again and I told my mom not to ever sign me up. Even when registration rolled around I’d maintain my stance and tell her under no circumstances did I want to play. But then all my friends would get excited about the season and team assignments, and suddenly I’d freak out because I’d want to play but it was too late to register. Except it wasn’t too late, because my mom had already signed me up, knowing I’d come around. Because she knew me better than I knew myself.

5. HELPING ME MY FIRST DAY OF MIDDLE SCHOOL
I don’t remember specifically why, but I was terrified of middle school. The thought of going to a new school and mixing in with kids from the other elementary school who I didn’t know, scared the bejesus out of me. I swore I wasn’t going to go. But my mom took me for a tour of the school beforehand, and since it was the same school she had gone to she showed me spots she liked as a kid and it made me feel a whole lot more at ease. Sometimes it’s the little things.

4. MAKING ME GO TO MY FIRST SCHOOL DANCE
At the end of 5th grade, we were able to attend a middle school dance. I was TERRIFIED (are you noticing a trend with me here?). In fact, when we pulled up to the school I started freaking out and refused to go inside. I didn’t know which of my friends were in there, who I could hang out with, where to walk in, where to stand, etc. My dad would’ve just kicked my ass out of the car, but my mom let me calm down while she walked in and performed some recon. She reported back to me which of my friends were there, where I was supposed to go, what the layout was, etc. It took me another 20 minutes but I eventually did it. Of course, her thanks was that I immediately waved her away because it’s uncool to have your parents dropping you off. But today I say thank you — even if it is 25 years late.

3. BEING COOL ABOUT MY FIRST KISS
My dad did not deal well when I started liking girls. When I told him I got my first french kiss at the age of 11, he nearly veered off the road and basically told me to stay away from girls. But it was my mom who came to me after everything calmed down. And while she gave me the talk and told me to be respectful and safe, she also congratulated me on my first kiss and told me she was proud of me. Mom has always been cool like that, and her attitude is the reason I felt I could communicate openly with my parents about almost anything. As a parent myself now, I see how valuable and important that is.

2. NEVER GOING THE SAME WAY TO AND FROM PLACES
Driving with my mother is — an adventure. She has very little sense of geography and routinely ignores or miscalculates the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. And one thing she does that drives many people batty is refuse to go back the same way she came. She ALWAYS takes a different route. It used to make me insane, but as I’ve gotten older, well, I find I do the same thing. I take back roads because she taught me to enjoy a little diversity and find the beauty in the scenic route. So what if it takes a few minutes longer? It’s better to enjoy life a little.

1. THE BEST/WORST SEX TALK EVER
Every parent worries about kids when they become sexually active. Most of them are hesitant when it comes to discussing it. But not my mom. On December 25, 1996, I unwrapped a present on Christmas morning and discovered — a 36-pack of Trojan condoms. They were from my mom — her way of making sure I was being safe. I wrote about it in full detail here, but it was an especially brilliant move because every time I needed a condom I was forced to think of my mother. Can you say “deterrent?” Interestingly enough, this also tops the “Things My Mother Did That Drove Me Nuts” list as well.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. Happy Mother’s Day, happy birthday, and thanks for always being there — even when I wished you weren’t. I love you, mom.

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Old People and Technology Don’t Mix

As most of you know, we’re spending a lot of time at my parents’ house as we get the condo situation straightened out and look for a new place to live. They’ve been absolutely fantastic taking us in, putting up with us and watching Will more times than I can count. We’d truly be lost without them.

So naturally I’m going to ridicule and humiliate them here.

My parents have been together FOREVER. They’ve known each other since the 6th grade, they’ve been dating since their junior year of high school and married for almost 35 years. I can’t be sure, but I think they ran out of things to talk about after the first 12 days or so. And since then, they’ve filled their downtime with an endless amount of bickering. I’m not kidding. Anyone who knows my parents knows they go at each other like—well, like an old married couple. It’s not (usually) nasty or mean-spirited or anything like that. They love each other. They just have a funny way of showing it sometimes.

And one of the arguments that seems to pop up is over technology.

My dad has an iPhone 4S. Probably because my brother has an iPhone 4S. The two of them are in an eternal technological competition, always trying to one-up each other. My dad gets a 50-inch TV and my brother gets a 52-inch TV. Then my dad spends the next few months trying to convince my mom to get a new TV—and TV that’s bigger than Nate’s. To my dad’s credit, he does know how to use his phone for the most part.

But that’s in stark contrast to my mom. She doesn’t care about the difference between regular def and HD on TVs. Her cell phone is a Droid Incredible and she has absolutely no clue how to use it beyond the phone and texting. Seriously. She’s had the phone for two years, and last month she asked me what the funny little icons were at the top of the screen. She had no freaking clue there was a drop down menu and had never updated any of her apps, checked missed calls, etc. Which is mind-blowing to me.

But despite her technological shortcomings, my mom has no shortage of opinions regarding the matter.

The first thing you need to know is my mom hates Siri. If you’re not aware, Siri is like a virtual personal assistant on the new iPhone. You just ask her a question and she’ll find your answer. Even though I’m not an Apple fan, it is pretty amazing technology. But my mom DESPISES her. Which isn’t totally surprising considering my mom tends to dislike and mistrust any robotic persona that attempts to tell her what to do.

Case in point, a few years ago my mom got a Tom-Tom. But instead of using the GPS as it’s supposed to be used, she would quarrel with it and try to trick it. If Tom-Tom told her to go one way, she’d automatically take a different route just out of spite. Which, ya know, kind of defeats the purpose of a GPS. And that was just with directions, so you can imagine the angst she feels towards the all-knowing Siri. To make matters worse, my father’s sole purpose in life seems to be crawling under my mom’s skin and pissing her off every chance he gets. Which means he’s constantly using Siri in her presence.

Which takes us to last Tuesday night.

Mom yelled at dad for using Siri. Again. Dad then told mom he uses Siri because it allows him to skip a step and do things like text faster. My mother (who just an hour earlier learned about the “missed call” notification icon on her own phone) took issue with this and basically told my dad he was full of shit. She claimed she could use the voice activation on her phone to text me something faster than my dad and Siri could. Whoever sent me a text that said “I’m home” first would win.

I sat on the couch in disturbed silence as these two elderly smartphone gunslingers prepared for a not-so-epic duel of inept proportions. After a 3-2-1 countdown they were off. I took mental notes and it went something like this:

Dad: “Siri, send a text message to Aaron—”

Mom: (speaking into her Droid) “I’m home.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I did not hear what you said. Who would you like to send this to?”

Dad: “Cynthia, you can’t talk while I’m talking. She can’t hear what I’m saying.”

Mom: “Done! It’s sent. Told you.”

Me: “Mom, I don’t have a text from you.”

Dad: “Siri, text Aaron and say—‘”

Mom: “What do you mean you didn’t get it? I sent it!”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I did not understand–”

Dad: “Hey, that’s not fair. You’re talking over me.”

Mom: “I’ll try it again. ‘I’m home.'”

Dad: “TEXT AARON ‘I’M HOME!'”

Me: “I still don’t have your text mom.”

Siri: “Are you trying to contact Nate?”

Mom: “I don’t know what’s wrong, I’m texting you!”

Dad: “Jesus Christ Siri, you’re not helping me here…”

Me: “Mom, your phone automatically imports Facebook contacts. You’re probably trying to text my Facebook.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand—”

Mom: “Oh shut up. I win. I’ve already sent two text messages.”

Me: “Two text messages that haven’t gotten to me.”

Dad: “Siri, you’re making me look bad after I stuck up for you!!”

Me: “Everyone looks bad today. I’m going to bed. You two work it out amongst yourselves.”

Until next time, when they fight about who’s the worst driver. In the meantime, if you want to see the most hilarious parody video ever involving Siri, just click here.

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All Roads Lead Home

Moving back in with your parents at the age of 32 with a wife and kid in tow is fairly unsettling. Second only, I’m sure, to being said parents and having your house unexpectedly invaded by two adults, a child, a pesky golden retriever and a fish. Sure enough, it’s taken some getting used to on both sides.

And while I can only speak for myself, I have to admit: it’s not so bad.

This is my hometown and this house will always be home to me. It’s where I spent my youth. It’s where I went to school. It’s where MJ grew up too. I live 3 miles from my old elementary school and just a few more from the school at which MJ and I first met in the sixth grade more than two decades ago. When we got engaged we drove to the school parking lot, put on our song and danced in the falling snow.

My grandmother’s house is in this town on the reservoir where I caught frogs. I can name at least one family who lives on every street. I know all the restaurants, including Downtown Pizza, the place that kept me alive throughout my formative years with delivery trucks that automatically shot towards my house when you put them in gear. I know the best places to go for a walk, I know where the cops set up speed traps and I can drive the roads with my eyes closed.

My dad graduated from Norton High School, as did his father before him. I’m not lying or exaggerating when I tell you half of the teachers I had in high school also taught my parents. My parents met in middle school and were dating halfway through high school. Three years after graduation they were married. And while they’ve lived in several homes over the years, all of them have been in Norton.

My mom is involved with the church because my grandmother was the choir director until her death in 1996. My mom also drove the school bus. My dad has been a selectmen in town twice, a finance committee member and currently serves as the Town Moderator. He also writes a column for the local daily newspaper. High school sweethearts? Check. Lifelong residents? Check. Total townies? Big time check.

All of this to say that for a creature of convenience like myself, this kind of familiarity is extremely comforting.

I’m a traditionalist at heart. And the older I get the clearer that becomes. So I’d be lying if I said the thought of Will spending time in the same town and house I grew up in didn’t please me in some small way. So far I’ve taken him to one of my favorite ponds, showed him my grandmother’s old house and walked on the field on which I learned to play baseball.

I even took him to the cemetery where my two grandmothers, grandfathers and two aunts are buried. Which sounds a little morbid, but really isn’t at all. He may not have met all of them, but he’ll hear stories about them and learn from them nonetheless. It’s important to teach kids to pay their respects.

Every kid grows up trying to escape their hometown and I was no different. I swore I’d get out and never come back, at least not for good. But the more places I visited, the more I saw my hometown wasn’t so bad. And then I slowly realized it wasn’t just “not bad,” it was pretty damn good. Finally I became a parent and realized it’s a helluva place to raise a kid.

Hometowns have a way of calling you back. They’re magnetic in more ways than one, and you can’t underestimate the strength of roots that are dug in deep.

In a few months we’ll move out and have a new place of our own. But in the meantime, I’m listening to the call of my hometown and enjoying what it has to offer. Will loves being with his grandparents (while simultaneously missing his Nana and Grandpa B back on Cape Cod, the one big downside to all of this) and I think he’ll really benefit from getting to spend so much quality time with them. And I get to heed a timeless call, raising my son in the same place I was raised. Fostering an appreciation for a town that will always be special because it will always be home.

Welcome home kid.

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The Mother of All Hoarders

So we moved in with my parents.

Maybe I’d feel more like a failure for writing that last sentence if my parents weren’t a thousand shades of awesome. Honestly. I’m not just saying that because they’re my new landlords roommates. I’m basically a younger, better looking, more talented version of my father so living with him is like living with a slightly less cooler version of myself. And since I know I’m awesome, that’s pretty great. And my mom is just about the most loving, caring, compassionate person I know. They love us, they love Will and I think this will be a great few months while we save up first, last and security to find a new place of our own.

But…

Of course there’s a but. You can’t suddenly move back in with your parents after more than a decade and not have a but or two.

I’m sure you’ve all seen or heard of A&E’s TV show Hoarders. People who feel the need to collect everything in their homes and never, EVER throw anything away. Now before I go any further, I want to say I understand this is a serious condition. Also, my mom is not a hoarder. Well, she’s not a full-fledged hoarder. I guess you could say she hoards as a hobby.

Exhibit A is the picture to the right. Those are nutcrackers on top of the piano. Hundreds of them. Those creepy bastards freak me right the fuck out. I’d love to get rid of even half of them but my mom isn’t having it.

And my new sister-in-law Melissa can tell you about Exhibit B. It was last Thanksgiving and she was cooking something that needed nutmeg. My mom—who is a good cook but doesn’t cook often—pointed her towards the spice rack and all was well. Or so we thought.

I’ll never forget the look on Melissa’s face as she told us the nutmeg might be a little out of date. How out of date you ask? The expiration was October…1981!!

But with three of us moving in with all of our stuff, the real problem is in the basement. My friends can tell you the horror stories about the basement. We cleaned it out about 15 years ago. It took a dozen people a full weekend and we filled up two industrial sized dumpsters. There was that much crap down there. But the hard part isn’t the work itself, its the differing manners in which the members of my family feel it should be dealt with.

My dad and I are eager to clean it out. And just so we’re clear, our version of “clean it out” translates into “throw EVERYTHING away.” But the mere thought of filling up a dumpster with bags of stuff that have been collecting dust for 20 years is just too much to bear for my mom.

Fifteen years ago it was hell. Each person who came up the stairs with a bag of trash had to let my mom inspect it before it was thrown away. And what looked like a bag of shit to me was anything but to my mom. She somehow found sentimental meaning in every single piece of crap we lugged out of that basement. That was my first backpack on my first day of school, that’s the blanket my brother threw up on in first grade, that’s my first-grade report card. My poor mother was in tears trying to catch everything while we attempted to find ways to sneak it past her so we could finish the job.

Fast forward 15 years and not much had changed. The basement is still a mess, my dad and I still want to throw everything away and my mom wants to hold onto everything. Case in point:

I saw an old headboard that doesn’t fit on any bed, so I had the crazy notion it was trash. Not so said my mom. When I asked her why she would possibly want to keep it, she inexplicably started crying and said “Don’t you realize there are children with no place to sleep??” I not-so-calmly pointed out that it was a headboard, not a bed, and the children would be mighty uncomfortable sleeping on it.

Then we found some really old textbooks and I went to throw those out. But my mom’s Spidey senses started tingling and she came over to stop me in my tracks. When I told her they were headed for the trash bin, she turned on the tears again.

“Why not donate them to a library? You should never throw away a book!”

These books were more than 10 years old. One was a marketing book which referred to the Internet as “an upcoming and exciting technological advancement.” They eventually got thrown out, but not without some hurt feelings. And of course, more tears.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s tears over a headboard and antiquated textbooks. Not a good start.

But the kicker was my mom’s “donation pile.” She had us put a bunch of things in a pile at the end of the driveway. An old kitchen table, chairs, a desk, two bags of clothes and some other odds and ends. First my mom said the Boys & Girls Club was coming to get it. Then, halfway through Sunday, that was switched to the Epilepsy Foundation. My father expressed his concern that my mom hadn’t properly checked with them to make sure they would take everything, and we’d end up with a pile of shit that sits there for months. My mom said she had it taken care of. They were due to pick everything up Monday, and for all of our sanity I hoped it would go smoothly because my parents fight and bicker like—well, an old married couple.

When I got home from work it was still there. Or so we thought. Upon closer inspection, they actually did come. But they only took two bags of clothes and, just as my dad said, left the rest. A spirited discussion ensued. My dad saying he was right, my mom refusing to admit she was wrong and me feeling like nothing has changed since I was a kid.

In a weird way, it was the perfect welcome home.

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Grunt Work

My mom reminds me of an offensive lineman in the NFL.

Now before you start to write me hate mail for calling my mom a fat, hairy beast of a 350-lb monster, just hear me out. And yes, if you’re wondering, I’m about to talk about parenting by using football as an example. I’ve done it before and this won’t be the last time, so just listen.

There are 11 players who compete for each team during a game. Ask a random person on the street which positions they can name, and I’ll bet you quarterback is the first one. The quarterback is what I call a “glory” position. The QB touches the ball on every play and directs the offense. He is widely considered the most important player on the field, and as such he is revered. He throws the arcing spirals to win the game and is the first to get all the credit when things are going well.

Hell, the rules of the game are designed so that no one can hit the QB very hard.

But not many casual fans think about why a successful QB can be so good. The answer is that a QB is only as good as his offensive line. Offensive linemen are the worker bees of the NFL. Their only job is to protect the QB and do all the grunt work. While the QB is being lavished with praise for throwing the winning touchdown, the linemen are often face down in the mud after fending off enormous defensive players and giving the QB enough time to get the throw off. The QB is nothing without good protection from his linemen.

I was reminded of this on Friday when MJ and I had the rare occasion of picking Will up at school together.

MJ has to leave for work right when Will is waking up. She packs his lunch for school, but getting him up, dressed and driven to school is up to me. I deal with Will not wanting to put on his coat everyday. I deal with his teachers about school news and I’m the point person when there are issues with Will. And I navigate Will’s tears when he doesn’t want to be left at school if he’s having a bad day.

And then, at the end of the day, I’m the one picking him up because MJ doesn’t get home from work until late. That means I gather his things, drive him home, feed the dog, make dinner and clean up the house before MJ gets home. I’m not complaining, just giving you a lay of the land.

So when MJ and I walked into school together Friday to pick him up, I figured he’d be excited to see us both because that never happens and MJ rarely gets to pick him up at school.

We walked in, watched him play for a bit and then called over to him. His face contorted with pure joy and his smile grew ridiculously wide as his eyes darted furiously from me to MJ. He bounded toward us with his arms outstretched, and I savored the sweet moment of the anticipated family hug that would make everyone else in the room make the “Awwwww” noise you only hear in contrived sitcoms. I was ready. Bring on the love.

“MAMMMMMMMAAAAAAAA!!!”

Huh? Mama?? MAMA?!?!?!

That little bastard ran right past me like I didn’t even exist, and straight into MJ’s arms. I knelt there with my arms open wide — looking like an idiot waiting for a hug that wasn’t coming — while the whole room gave MJ and Will an “Awwwww.” My “Awwwww!”

And suddenly I felt like MJ was the QB who swooped in at the last minute for the win, despite my day-in and day-out lineman-esque battles in the trenches taking care of Will. She’s celebrating in the end zone while I’m bleeding on the field after clearing a path to victory. Totally not fair.

And that’s when I thought of my mom, and suddenly felt very, very guilty.

My mom did EVERYTHING for my brother and I growing up. My dad was so busy with work that we seldom saw him. But my mom stayed at home with us when we were young. And even when we went to school she was the bus driver. She was a classroom volunteer, a chaperone for field trips and she drove the bus to every single one of my away games all the way through high school.

But because it was so rare that we saw my dad, whenever he could make it to a game it was this huge deal. I’d try to play extra hard when my dad was in the stands because it could be weeks until he’d have time to make another game. I never understood how my mom — who religiously attended everything we ever did as kids — must have felt to see me get so amped up over my dad being there, yet completely take her presence for granted day after day.

Well mom, now I know.

We’re linemen. We’re dirty, we’re ugly and we work our asses off every single day. The only time anyone notices linemen is when they’ve done something wrong and the QB gets sacked. If we’re doing a good job no one says a word.

So to all the linemen parents out there who go unappreciated on a daily basis just to watch others get all the glory, consider this your heartfelt thanks and brief moment in the sun. And remember that even though you’re not getting the credit you deserve, the work you’re doing is the foundation for all future successes.

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