a dr. pepper mom

April 15th, 2012

I drank two Dr. Peppers last week. I just might have another before today is through. When I reach for one on the lower shelf of the refrigerator case of Happy’s corner convenience store, I think of my mother. My mother drank Dr. Pepper. It’s one of the things I couldn’t stand about her, so when I do it now, it’s the atonement of a fully grown daughter. It tastes pretty damn good.

I wince when people tell me they could be more forgiving if they’d had a mother like mine (or even me), a different family, a more enlightened upbringing, better genes or geography. Every mother is the mother you wish she wasn’t.

My mother drank Dr. Pepper because she was a Texas farm girl and Dr. Pepper was the state’s own peculiar brand of soda. When she still drank Dr. Pepper in the middle of the ‘60s Pepsi Generation in beachside Southern California, I was mortified. There were other things that offended me about her then. Her clothes weren’t particularly cool. She never put on much makeup. I wished she would do something about her hair. And she had big hips. She seemed considerably wider and rounder then the other moms. These other moms were the ones at home in their split-level houses when school was out, for another thing, while my mother wasn’t because she worked. She worked because she had to and because she wanted to, her work as a teacher adding both dignity and indignity to her life. She had to endure the insults of her own family for becoming the first girl-child to go to college; she had to become better educated and work longer and harder every day and night to make and save the pittance that kept my family afloat. It was less money for harder work than my father was paid, but she did it for 40 years. Only rarely did she buy herself a Dr. Pepper as a ten-ounce consolation. I can’t believe I begrudged her that.

She gave me the chance to choose a different kind of education, job and beverage, those of my own generation. Those choices weren’t much better, but they were mine. It’s taken me this long to respect her point of view on most things.

Mom, I’m buying.

What brings this to mind is the recent, ridiculous, overblown and entirely artificial discussion of mothers, (again) their work, (again) and whether we value it (of course we don’t.) When these kinds of political fabrications get conjured up, I can’t stand it. They are never about real mothers with real lives, but always about some idealized mother. We only protect and defend idealized mothers. Only imaginary mothers are served by political campaigns. Real mothers are never served by anyone, anytime. If you don’t know who the idealized mother is I’ll give you a hint. It’s not you, and it’s not your mother. It’s the one that wasn’t.

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  1. I propose a toast–with a 7-Up and rose wine cooler–to all mothers, most of whom are just doing the best they can. Hey, where’s the onion (made with Lipton soup mix) dip?

    Comment by Tricia — April 15, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

  2. Painfully true.

    Comment by Deirdre — April 15, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  3. The political “mommy wars” are always raised for someone’s own political purpose. I recently spoke to a group of women about my book on moms/politics and social media, and she almost beggingly asked whey so many people want to pit mom against moms. This was before the whole Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen story. The thing to keep in mind is that Rosen said something stupid as she was trying to make a valid point about the candidates’ positions on actual issues that impact women. The Romney campaign seized the moment knowing they could turn a story questioning his economic policies into the mommy war story again, and try to get support that way. And the media know that when they talk about the “wars” among women, it gets ratings.

    Comment by Joanne Bamberger aka PunditMom — April 16, 2012 @ 4:48 am

  4. Mmm . . . Dr. Pepper. Made me think of 1) the commercial with that curly-haired guy 2) a photo of me in 1976 wearing my Bicentennial t-shirt with a can of Dr. Pepper.

    It also reminded me of my own mother’s not-quite-suppressed resentments, in the later 1980s, fed by her sense that she–and her life’s unpaid work–were not valued. I’m sure I found it tedious and probably all in her head at the time. With four and a half years under my belt of doing what she did . . . .I wonder whatever happened to “Every Mother a Working Mother”.

    My mother’s mother worked a blue collar job for decades while raising four kids in the days of wringer washer in the basement. I’ll never know how she felt about her work–all of it. No one was asking.

    Comment by Laura — April 16, 2012 @ 7:21 am

  5. Brilliant.

    Please write another book so I can buy it.


    Comment by Bahieh K. — April 16, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

  6. yep, I agree…it’s time for another book please! Funny thing is that I was actually thinking about how much I would love to read another book by you this morning as I prepared my family for walking out into the world for another day. Seems kind of like some sort of synchronicity.

    Comment by Edith — April 17, 2012 @ 12:22 am

  7. Bahieh & Edith – you are on my mind this morning. I have another book under way, I just don’t know how or if or when you will be able to read it. And so you encourage me to practice faith.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — April 17, 2012 @ 5:49 am

  8. Thank you as always.

    Comment by Ben — April 17, 2012 @ 7:15 am

  9. Felt this one in my gut. Holding back tears.

    Comment by Elizabeth — April 17, 2012 @ 8:04 am

  10. Thanks Karen, you write soooo well and call it spot on.

    Comment by Vivian, Lekshey Tsomo — April 17, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  11. Beautiful.
    I think the grief we give our mothers is a projection of our insecurities onto them. So as a mother we have to be brave so our childeren can witness the freedom we allow ourselves so they may give it to themselves when they grow up.
    Isn’t life just wonderful?

    Have a wonderful day!!!

    Comment by Simone — April 18, 2012 @ 12:02 am

  12. That theory that you are given things you need…I needed your words…tonight. Thank you…then I started crying…oh my…I’ve had some major “Mom” challenges lately and I was zoning off this evening cleaning out my “Bookmarks”, you know the things you save..I’ll read them later, I’ll use it later. I must have saved your site for one reason or another…probably Ali Edwards, and I am glad I did. Thank you for all you words… is all I can say. And now I will finish crying!

    Comment by Sally Stevenson — April 21, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

  13. […] At Cheerio Road, Karen Maezen Miller’s unusual response to the most recent brouhaha regarding work and motherhood: “Every mother is the mother you wish she wasn’t.” […]

    Pingback by On My Mind: 04.23.12 — April 23, 2012 @ 3:06 am

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