Moving Away From My Mother Has Turned Me Into My Mother

Tonight, after finishing dinner, I washed my dishes, swept my kitchen floor and then stared at my cook top. How does that thing get so dirty? I’m one person for Pete’s sake, and yet there are splatters and rice grains and disgustingly, hair, all over the place. So for the second time this week, I whipped out my Clorox spray and a sponge and got to work. And oh how good it felt, to once again have a clean oven. I even got a little crazy and started scrubbing the char that had built up on the grates, before stopping mid-scrub, a single bead of cold sweat gathering at my temple. Someone was doing the same exact thing at this very moment, and it was not another 23-year-old relishing in the freedom of her new apartment. It was my mother.

I moved out a month ago, after a year and a half of living at home after college. My mom and I didn’t really see eye to eye when it came to keeping house. Basically, I was a slob and she was not. After dinner, she would wash the dishes with soap before putting them in the dishwasher. What is the point of that? I used to lament when it was my turn to clean up. And why couldn’t I just leave my shoes on the welcome mat for three days? I would wear them again eventually, and then they’d be on my feet and off the mat! But my mother takes great pride in her cleanliness and organization and as long as I was living there, I had to as well, whether I liked it or not!

So when I moved out, I was ready to savor my independence. Who cared if dishes didn’t get washed immediately after dinner, and did I really need to shake out my kitchen mat on a daily basis? But as the month wore on, I found myself with a dust rag and vacuum cleaner in hand on Saturday mornings, the bottle of bleach poised to attack a cooking stain on the stove. Hell, just the other night, I had a house party and found myself slipping coasters under my friend’s red solo cups! But come on, the last thing I want is a ring of condensation on my brand new coffee table! Oh my god. Moving away from my mother has turned me into my mother!

Now that I really think about it, there have been other signs. My small obsessions bear a striking resemblance to hers; take my shower curtain for example…or lack thereof. I’ve spent the past month looking for the perfect shade of purple in the same way my mother struggled with the bathroom in our house, before she finally chose a maroon geometric print that she laments over daily. What about my growing collection of holiday décor? Would I someday be unpacking enormous Tupperware container after enormous Tupperware container full of snowmen and angels and nativity scenes to fill my home? And oh God, how did I overlook the grocery shopping? My mom’s crowning achievement in house-wifery is her categorized shopping lists, organized by food group, and just the other day I sat at my kitchen table and put “snacks” and “grains” under two neatly sub-headed groups.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, but do I really want to be my mother? Maybe I’m not turning into her as much as I’m turning into an adult, albeit one with an expanding collection of Valentine’s Day window decals. I suppose I’ve learned from the best; but maybe it’s best to just throw those away before things get out of hand.

You can read more from Alyssa Pry on her blog.

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