I’m on it Like Blue Bonnet

Something my mother used to say. Or still does, I would imagine. As my youngest brother and I got older, we’d start to wonder out loud what all these little phrases our mother used to say actually meant. I remember us laughing in my car on a two AM highway a few years back.

“WTF does that even mean, on it like blue bonnet?” he would ask me.

“I have no idea,” I would reply, laughing so hard that my face hurt.

I’ve struggled with this story for many years. How horrible she must be, the worst daughter ever, to talk shit about her mother on the internet. That is what my grandmother would say, I imagine. It doesn’t matter that she was never a real mother to you. You owe it to her to treat her like one. Blood is thicker than water. Another thing my mother would say, though I’m sure she doesn’t know what this means herself.

I see myself in her, physically and emotionally. More than I care to admit. I am sure many young women say such a thing, that they don’t want to turn out like their mothers, often enough for it to be a stereotype, I would imagine. Mothers are old fashioned; we cannot relate to them. But my mom is not old fashioned, and she would never have an issue relating to me. She knows exactly who I am, and why; because she brought me up to be this way: proud and defiant and badass, even if I don’t ever feel badass. And no matter what I see in the mirror (good genes?), I am no young woman who should be despising her mother out of youthful rebellion. I will be thirty years old in five months, and I have no business being terrified that I will turn out just like her.

Yet I do fear such a thing. Every single day.

I have never pawned a ten-thousand-dollar engagement ring for another, more satisfying type of rock, and I have never slept in the bushes in front of Target though I did sleep in a truck once when I was sixteen and ran out of gas with no money in my pocket. Her truck, actually. And I did sell some of my favorite books once so I could eat. Like her, I was raped, once, and if you look at a photo of her at twenty years old beside my twenty-nine-year-old photo, you might think us as twins. I guess that is the main difference. That by twenty-nine her face had been wrecked from the alcohol, drugs, and pain, and I’m still sitting here with the comments on my selfies swearing how beautiful, and young, I look these days.

But I do see myself in her, nevertheless.

I see myself spending frivolously, and actually thinking

make money to spend money
spend money to make money

Another thing she used to say. I think, everything happens for a reason when I make a mistake, like she used to tell me, even though I know that’s bullshit.

My mother has always been somewhat absent from my life, but it has gotten worse in recent years. She failed to show up for my birthday lunch with my grandmother this year and texted me three months later to tell me we should celebrate. (It still freaks me out that my mother texts, but I think that’s entirely another thing. She signs her text messages “mom”, even though I have told her time and time again I KNOW it is her.)

Christmastime is inherently difficult, more and more every year. Mostly because I want nothing more to sit by a lit tree beside my mother, yet she is never around. Christmas has never been ideal with her. I am sure to get something every year, whether it be from her or my grandmother disguising something as being from her. (Like she could REALLY afford that sixty dollar bracelet with her career as a drug addict.) But I know it’s from her heart if the item has no tags and looks to be thirty years old. I remember being in junior high and wanting to reward a friend who was a Jehovah’s Witness. I gave her an unwrapped gift, which consisted of a makeup bag and a bottle of lotion I had never used. I heard later that she had complained to a mutual friend that the lotion smelled old. Giving something to a friend that may have been lying around in the closet for who knows how long is perfectly normal to a child who cannot afford any better, and that ideal is still perfectly normal to my mother. I wouldn’t have had that experience if it wasn’t for her, so I’m thankful for the lesson. I have given away books I haven’t read as gifts for birthdays and Christmas, even in adulthood.

Things haven’t changed much, which is to say, that I have indeed turned into the thing I fear most: my mother. Except, of course, I have a place to live, a car to drive, and two cats I have managed to keep alive for the last four or so years. Until I lose all of that, and gain a drug addiction, on top of bipolar disorder, I’m not her.

Or am I?

Photo Credit: Unfurled via Compfight cc

Allie Burke

Allie Burke is a bestselling author, magazine editor, and mental health advocate. She lives in Los Angeles.

  1. Drew Sheldon

    Allie, I don’t need to see a picture of you to know you’re beautiful. You show it in this post.

    I have such similar fears, but with me, it’s becoming like my father and sister. Thank you for sharing yourself like this. You are amazing.

  2. Avatar

    Allie, your post leaves me almost speechless, as you incorporate so much into so few words. You speak for so many of us, who, for various reasons, fear turning into our moms. And yet, you also do such a great job illustrating the love all moms feel for their kids–even when showing it isn’t easy–and the love we feel for them as well. Finally, though, I’m glad you have not turned into your mom. It saddens me to know that she’s so ill and hope she can someday be well. In the meantime, you are a sparkling, shining star, and I’m in awe of all you do.

  3. Dori Owen

    Mothers and daughters. You nailed the dichotomy so perfectly. One of my mom’s phrases was, “There’s more downstairs in the cellar in a teacup.” Huh? We lived in Arizona where there WERE no basements. It had to have been passed down from HER mother where they grew up back east. Although the meaning still escapes me. Beautiful story!

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