Sunday, June 3, 2007


It is June. I realize this, but there is so much about the month of May that I missed discussing and I can’t pass up the urge to elaborate on dear “Mother May”. I have coined it as such because Mother’s Day is in May, my mother’s birthday is also in May, I am a mother –and boy am I ever feeling like one- in May, and I think about all mothers in May.

Mother Mother Mother Mother May.

Reflecting on this meaningful month, I had time while lying on the couch for what seems like the last decade to ponder the life lessons of the greatest teacher I have ever known.
I have decided to share a few of this teacher’s pearls of wisdom acquired over my lifetime. If you are under the age of eighteen I strongly advise you to click the little red X button in your top right hand screen: as the female anatomy may unfortunately be mentioned.

Enjoy the 5 Life 101 lessons provided courtesy of Alexis Margaret Ann Lloyd Hansen, my mother:

1. It’s called “Having a sense of propriety.”
Arriving home at the end of a long day, I would frequently plop myself on the nearest sofa, and lift one leg over the high sofa arm while watching the tube. My mother would enter the room, and upon viewing the 15 yard distance between my feet as I relaxed, would say,
“Rachel, please sit properly.”
“Why? I’m comfortable like this…”
“It’s called having a sense of propriety.”

When displeased with the latest whateverwasgoingoninmylife I would say, “This is a bunch of crap. I’m pissed.”
“Rachel, we don’t say crap or pissed.”
“I don’t care what we say! What’s the big deal?”
“It’s called having a sense of propriety.”

At the current social gathering we attended, my mother would always insist we immediately go and politely either introduce ourselves or greet the main hostess/host, or even more uncomfortable: befriend the awkward toothless person in the corner standing alone.
“Rachel, go say hello to Sally Suzie.”
“No, I feel dumb. I don’t know what to say!”
“I don’t care, you’re a bright and beautiful girl, just say hello. It’s called having a sense of propriety.”

Recently, I stood in line at the grocery store and was silently enraged at the mistreatment of a store clerk. The perpetrator of this crime hadn’t committed a truly heinous felony, rather she simply didn’t acknowledge the kind clerk’s presence, nor did she say thank you when finished. I’m not sure if the store clerk even cared, however I thanked him sincerely while checking out. Did it make a big difference? No. It’s called having a sense of propriety.

2. Cool is an attitude.

This was one of my mother’s key phrases as we would pull up to our private school in our beige 1985 Jeep Wagoneer with faux wood paneling and missing side window. We weren’t exactly your average private school children arriving in Lexus SUVs. Mom and Dad valued education for us more than a nice vehicle, and since both weren’t an option as we would pull into the school parking lot, my mother would bend down and find us ducking down on the car floor, hiding/hoping/praying not to be recognized. She would firmly proclaim that “Cool is an attitude you guys, not the car you drive!”
Pregnant and cheerful, she would pull away with the two babies in the car seats, after dropping off three children at school, to return home 25 miles away and onto the muddy 3 mile dirt road that led to our house. Nobody was/is/ever will be cooler than my mom.

3. “A vagina is a vagina is a vagina!!!”

These were the words that pierced through the night air of our hotel room in Las Vegas, where my 17 year old self and 4 other cheer-leading friends lie in bed during a cheer competition trip.
“After all girls, a vagina is just a vagina is just a vagina!”
I pulled myself deeper under the covers as I closed my eyes and prayed “God, if this is my time to go, I am okay with it. I have lived and heard all I ever need to hear again. Let me die now. I beg of you.”
This phrase was the culmination of a long tirade provoked from a very amusing tour down the strip. After confronting every pornography vendor on the street trying to pass out inappropriate flyers and giving them a piece of her mind, her concerns later turned to us impressionable, young girls. She, along with every other human with an ounce of moral clarity, could never understand the degradation and exploitation and fascination with the female anatomy.
The discussion on female virtue that night is one that I’m sure none of us will ever forget, and yet with all of its horrifyingly naked wisdom, each of us appreciated my mother’s attempt to “get real.”
And mom, thanks to that conversation, I am confident in attributing those wonderful words to what has kept us all off of the pole. After all, as you said, if you’re not going to value yourself as a woman - and as the soul of infinite worth that you are - then you really can be just another hopelessly ordinary vagina masked in a diamond thong atop bar counters.

4. Make-do

My mom grew up in a trailer park with her single mother who did best to make ends meet. Although she only had dirt for a front yard, she laughingly remembers that she still raked it. Raked dirt is better than ordinary dirt. Growing up, trying to raise 8 children on a single income had its trials. But I never would have known it. Our couch was handed down from Grandparents, the carpet in our basement was bright orange, and my mother didn’t buy herself lots of new clothes. But our couch always had cute throw pillows to accessorize its mustard yellow tweed, our orange carpet was always clean, and my mom always looked pretty. Even when much better financial times came, we still have to remind my mom that it is time for new pots and pans. She is improving with time, but is a forever reminder that there is nothing shameful in making-do with what you have- it is simply an extension of your gratitude for what life has already provided you with.

5. I’m your Mom first, but I’m your friend too.

This is the battle every parent confronts. Should I be the cool/friend parent, or the real parent? We have all witnessed the mother with the same bikini top on with shorts as her 16 year-old daughter. Not okay. We have witnessed the father who laughingly uses the same vulgar language as his pubescent and obnoxious 15 year-old son. Not okay.
We have also witnessed the mother so strict and unapproachable that her now adult daughter has cut all relations due to her awful memories of childhood. Is there a middle ground?
My Mom was always quick to remind me, no matter how shamefully I had behaved, that she still thought I was pretty great. A groundation period would always eventually return to lunch and movie dates together. Shopping for appropriate clothes was sometimes tense, but she still took me shopping. During particularly strained teen/parent times, we still could laugh at jokes and silly situations together. She retained her ability to scold, but never made me feel like she wouldn’t listen to what I had to say. After emerging from the teen years, this relationship has developed into much more of a friendship, the best friendship I have.

In summary, there simply is no summary of the pearls of wisdom from Ms. Alexis. I hope you feel enlightened. For every mother and daughter and friend, just remember: you can be as cool as you want to be when you’re living in a trailer park making due with avocado wallpaper as long as you sit properly and say thank you and never treat yourself as if you were just another ordinary vagina.


Anonymous said...

Quite hilarious....I am surprised on your Vegas trip you didn't mention her yelling to the nasty boys, "WHY don't YOU JUST GO SCREW A SHEEP BECAUSE THATS ALL YOU ARE" OR Driving in the FABULOUS LANDCRUISER yelling at the elementary schools students to "TAKE A PICTURE, IT WILL LAST LONGER!!" haha I guess we always talk about mom as such a sweet softspoken lady but maybe she is a nut?!

MOM said...

What can I say...I am touched, tickled and totally speechless (O.K. maybe not speechless...I never am). Just an FYI - It is not having "propriety" to use the "V" word in your blog spot...Why do you think I have always used our affectionate name Foo Foo to describe our private parts...Oh I am entering the realm of not having "propriety" myself.
Thank you Rachel for the wonderful tribute...The greatest treasure in my life is my children (and your Dad)...Thank you for being my daughter (and my blogging friend!) LOVE FOREVER - MOM

Anonymous said...

Rae -

No one has good manners anymore! Even me. Just the other day I ordered a coffee from someone without saying hello first or even looking at them and then I stopped myself and realized how rude it was!

Good post!

Daniel said...

There isn't much left to be said. Rae, you're right mom is an angel and no one in our lives will ever compare. A side-note, it's a pretty impressive compliment to mom that her 22 year old daughter is wise and mature enough to recognize and share her thoughts on the love and care mom has placed on us our entire lives. I'm a fool for not recognizing it often enough. I love you Mom! (And I love you too Rachel!)

Rae's Corner said...

Mom- I'm glad you liked it. You and I are pretty much the only ones who read this blog anyhoo, so you're most definitely my most important critic
Danny boy- Ah, so sweet! Ali Wali is lucky girl
Anonymous #1- I think it is Sarah, am I right? Actually the quote to the nasty boys making VERY innappropriate comments about us cheerleaders was, "Why don't you go screw a sheep?! You're nothing but a bunch of animals anyways!" Lol. I'll never forget that. We walked out of Taco Bell to witness my mother's usually soft voice that had transformed into a lovely high pitched squeal as she yelled!
Anonymous #2- I love this anonymous thing! It makes me feel special and keeps me guessing! Just be sure to say thank you next time. :)