If you can’t do it in front of me, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. My mother spoke those words when I was a young girl and they stuck with me through very difficult times. There were moments in my life when I was tempted to do not so great things like smoking in a bathroom, underage drinking in a field, or that time I was with friends listening to a bootleg copy of a 2LiveCrew tape and I was certain that the neighbors could hear and would call the police because we were completely and totally ignoring that parental advisory. But never fear, my mother’s cautionary wisdom was always with me.
I had a blog post all ready to go about a recent adventure with my boys and I let her preview it, as I always do, and she said, “I don’t like it. Sorry.” At first I thought, well forget you, I don’t care what you think. But then I had to dig deeper, because even at 37-years-old, I seek parental approval. She was concerned that I was casting my Handsomes in a negative light. Part of my decision not to use their real names on my blog is for that exact reason. I never want what I believe to be funny to be hurtful, shameful or embarrassing to them years later. I likened her distaste for my post to a pair of her jeggings that are on my own personal worst dressed list. Her response, “But I can defend myself.” Mic drop!
As they get older, I suppose that I will need to be a bit more discretionary with what I choose to post. Not that I would ever purposefully embarrass my children, but they may not love every detail of their lives shared. Back when I was a kid, I didn’t have a clue about the world around me and had no idea if my mother was telling all of her friends about the silly things that I did.
Since there was no Internet way back then, stories were beloved because they were told over and over and over again. We have many tales from our own childhood that my brothers and I love to recount. I am certain that this will happen with my own children as they get older as well. Some have been shared with the world, some have been untold for 27 years.……But who’s counting?
Once upon a time, I was in to Michael Jackson. Not like I kind of liked him, more like I kissed the poster on my closet door goodnight, obsessed. I wanted nothing more than to win tickets to see him when he performed in St. Louis. It was 1988, I was nine, and the only way to win anything back then was to call in to radio and TV stations during various contests. A local television station was running a promotion that involved video clips of popular Michael Jackson songs. When the video ran, you were to call in and say the name of the song being performed and you won. This was a dream come true! I could totally do this.
For days, I watched and dialed in a futile attempt to spend an evening listening to the King of Pop live with thousands of other screaming fans. I would hit the redial button over and over and over, only to be met by the fast busy signal, my archenemy. The clips played once per 30-minute show, so there was quite a bit of lag time, but I kept busy. And when there are six people living in your house, there is constant chaos. Surely someone was crying, someone was screaming and someone was just trying to keep her sanity. It was Girl Scout cookie time and my mother had been taking last minute orders from family and friends throughout the day. These final additions had to be called in by that evening. She was making dinner, but had just enough time to make one quick call for Thin Mints.
The last promo spot of the day aired and I was ready. Human Nature, one of my most favorite songs. It had to be a sign from God that this was my shot. I grabbed the phone, hit redial and it began to ring. The butterflies in my stomach were in overdrive. The moment I heard a hello on the other end of the line, I couldn’t speak. I stood motionless, my eyes and mouth open. My Nani, realizing what was happening, grabbed the phone and began to scream.
“Human Nature! Human Nature! Michael Jackson’s Human Nature!”
I was in awe. She had done it. We had done it. All those hours of Diff’rent Strokes episodes had paid off! I was going to see Michael Jackson. I began to pick out my outfit for the evening and what autographs I wanted when the needle was ripped from the record.
“Oh my God, mom! Who are you yelling at?” My mother asked.
“She won the tickets. We got the tickets! I just redialed and I got the tickets. We’re going to see Michael Jackson,“I announced.
“I said Human Nature! Michael Jackson’s Human Nature” she continued to yell.
“Hang up! Hang up! Hang up the phone! That’s not the TV station. That’s the Girl Scouts!”
The two of them proceeded to laugh to to the point of no return, tears flowing down their cheeks and tinkle down their legs. It was the 1980s. There was no caller ID, no *69, and absolutely no way for anyone to ever know that very strange phone call came from our house. The three of us swore to secrecy that night, all for different reasons. I was devastated, they were embarrassed and the poor person on the other end of that call was confused.
My mother was looking out for my best interests then, not wanting me to be humiliated or disappointed and she is still looking out for those interests today. No matter how old I am, I will hope that I am making her proud. As a mother, I can only pray to instill the same caution and love in my own children. My biggest dream for them is to find laughter in the little things. Every time Human Nature comes up on my iTunes I can smile knowing that it brings such a wonderful memory for me and a completely different, and likely terrifying, memory for someone else.