I so get it now. It took a while, years actually, but I get it now.
I used to get so mad when my siblings would come home after being away for long periods of time. College and what-not they would be, then one day call and say, “I’m coming home.” That’s when it would start. The pots a’banging. The pans a’frying.
I could be starving to death, emaciated and perfectly pitiful, and mama would point to the refrigerator and I would be left sitting in the corner eating cold bologna while she cooked up a feast for whichever child + probably her favorite, hmph! — was coming home.
So maybe I’m being a bit — OK, a lot — dramatic. I have never been emaciated, not even remotely, and I don’t even eat bologna — something about having to peel that red stuff off the edges — but it was that way in my eyes ... sort of. Truth was, I was just jealous that mama always made a big fuss about somebody coming home, and I never understood the big deal.
“You’re baking a cake? Who are you baking a cake for?” my husband asked last weekend as the house began to fill with good smells only a concoction of sugar, butter, cream cheese, and vanilla can create. I’d been to the grocery store, too, and bought things I hadn’t bought in weeks. Made sure things upstairs were nice and tidy. I was even looking forward to doing laundry.
My baby boy was coming home, and for a whole week at that. I couldn’t stop smiling, and I even did a little happy dance. Never mind that I suspect it resembled someone having a painful gastrointestinal attack, I was happy.
And I finally understood why mama has made such a fuss all these years when somebody’s coming home. She didn’t have a favorite child, but her heart just swelled when she got to lay eyes on one she hadn’t seen in a while. In the back of my brain I even heard her voice say the words she’d said a thousand times, “Just wait until you have children of your own. You’ll understand.”
Still, I’m certain throughout our years that some of us — there are six — thought mama did have a favorite child, no matter how hard she tried to deny it. Over 50, our oldest sister still claims our parents didn’t love her because she’s the only one of the girls that didn’t get to take dance lessons when she was little. Today, her over-fondness for “Cotton Eyed Joe” makes me think she’s still trying to prove she can dance, despite formal training.
My sisters and older brother claimed I was the favorite until our little brother came along, at which point I was officially dethroned as the baby and I don’t exactly recall but that’s probably when I was forced to eat bologna while she cooked him cakes and good food and stuff.
I’m being overly dramatic again.
All of this to say that I get it, mama. Finally. I forgive you for making a big fuss when someone was coming home, and I will never be jealous again. Because my baby boy came home for a week. And I finally understand.
And it’s OK. I know I’m really your favorite child. Shhh… it can be our little secret.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.