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The Joys of Having My Mom Live with Us

Laurie with her mom

Laurie hadn’t lived with her mom in 40 years, so she was at first out of practice. 

By Laurie Stone

My 80-something-year-old mother has come to live with us — whether for a long time or short, it’s up to her. I love having her here. I haven’t lived with my mom in 40 years. At first we were out of practice, but now it feels like we picked right up where we left off in 1978. This arrangement is not only nice, but shows me how astoundingly alike we are in the following ways.

Reading

When I was little, I always found the latest Dr. Seuss tale on my bed when I came home from school. When I got older, I’d borrow one of the many classics lining the shelves in our living room. At night, I’d find my mother sitting under one of those bonnet hair dryers in the den, reading Leo Tolstoy, Theodore Dreiser or Thomas Wolff. She taught me to love literature. We still bond over books.

Curiosity

Mom and I love day trips and we’ve taken a few lately from our Connecticut home. Many have been to Massachusetts: Salem, Amherst and the Berkshires. We also love pondering questions together. What was it like living in our woods as a native Algonquin three hundred years ago? How did the Revolutionary War soldiers get along in nearby Redding? Who’s that cute actor on the PBS series, Poldark? I’m thankful she always encouraged questions and open thinking.

Introverts

Even though we’re living under one roof, we probably spend an hour a day face to face, usually at dinner (many times glued to the TV news). We understand each other’s need for privacy. Although we don’t have a lot of “together” time, we still enjoy each other’s company. In fact, that may be our secret to getting along.

Neatniks

I’m still pinching myself. Mom cleans up the kitchen after dinner each night. Between my son cooking and her cleaning, my girlfriends will never speak to me again. I haven’t had this luxury since … well, ever. I also love the way mom cleans in that precise, detailed way of women. Not that my husband and sons don’t do the same, but, ahem, I’ll leave that to another time.

Nature Lovers

Mom and I have always loved observing the natural world. Last summer, it was watching hummingbirds at the feeder. “Look how aggressive they are,” she’d say of little ruby-throated warriors defending their turf. She can identify almost every bird and knows each one’s habits. Last summer, she pruned all my red and pink roses in the front yard, something I never did. They never looked so happy and abundant.

Sensitivity

We’re both canaries in the coalmine with our overactive nervous systems. This can be lovely as we notice small things like hummingbird bullies and roses that need trimming. But it also means other emotions are heightened, especially fear and anxiety. I’m not just a little nervous before a doctor’s appointment or getting on a plane. My heart’s pounding. I’m a wreck. Alas, my mom’s the same.

My Question

And that leaves me to ask: How much do parents shape us?

I was lucky to have a mother who was gentle, who understood what it’s like to need lots of solo, daydreaming time. But what if I had one of those intense, hard-driving moms who insisted I be head cheerleader or get straight A’s or stay busy and booked all day? What if failure was never an option and perfection required? (Yes, I’ve met a few of those.) I would’ve always felt deficient, unaccepted, and unhappy.

Instead, as a child and teenager, my mother allowed me to be myself. She only lectured my brother, sister and me on one thing: kindness. “Always treat others as you’d want to be treated.” That golden rule was repeated many times.

We have fun trading good reads, discussing the latest op-ed in the Times and pondering life.

Now in her 80s, Mom’s still spry, fit and independent. She takes three exercise classes a week, drives herself everywhere, loves having coffee with friends and goes to her book club.

She talks of getting her own place and I understand. Someday (I hope not too soon), I’ll miss these sweet days.

In the meantime, we have fun trading good reads, discussing the latest op-ed in the Time sand pondering life. I love our nature walks and seeing my kitchen so sparkling clean each night. If I’m scared over something silly, she understands.

Sometimes I look at those well-tended red and pink roses in my front yard. I think how lucky I was …and how lucky I still am.

Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, Conn. Her blog, “Musings, Rants &Scribbles,” shares thoughts on growing up, older and (hopefully) wiser. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

2 Responses to “The Joys of Having My Mom Live with Us”

  1. Lauren says:

    If my mother and I tried to live together one of use wouldn’t make it. We are like oil and water. Nope.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    Lauren, I agree my mom and I are unusual. Many mom and daughter pairs would find it challenging.

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