My mom and I have a great relationship ... now.
There was a period when I was between the ages of 13 and 18 where she was the devil incarnate. She was moody, passive-aggressive, overbearing and judgmental. Sure, I was a teenager, but at least I was even-keeled, reasonable and — if I’m being honest — angelic.
She, on the other hand, expected me to clean my room, get good grades and not open my Christmas presents early.
But what’s a floor without clothes on it? And as for the Christmas presents, seriously, she hid them in the attic upstairs, which was basically OUT IN THE OPEN. What did she expect?
I remember one time I opened a present early. It was a soft and comfy green shirt and shorts set. So I decided to wear them to school, knowing I could always wrap them again.
And I did. I wore the outfit to school. You might say, I got plenty of looks. It was that cool.
My best friend Sheree said, “Are you wearing—”
“An early Christmas present?” I interrupted. “Why yes, yes I am. Thank you for noticing.”
When I got home, I placed the outfit back in the box and carefully rewrapped it, as one does. No one saw a thing. I felt like a ninja.
On Christmas morning, I opened it and feigned surprise, trying not to draw attention to the cat hairs on it that I had obviously accumulated while wearing it.
But then came the real surprise.
My mom said, “I thought you could use a new pair of pajamas.”
I looked closer at the “outfit.” There were stars and moons stitched into the fabric, the shorts were very short and very loose, the tag said “nightie night” and OMG they were so obviously pajamas.
And I’d worn them to school. And gotten lots of looks. And thought I’d been so very clever.
Seriously, my mom was impossible.
This was the last straw. Something had to be done.
So I called a special meeting with my dad. I sat across from him in his study and placed my hands on his desk, and in my most grown-up voice, I said, “I can’t live with that woman. I don’t know if she’s going through a phase, or if she’s unhappy, or if she’s just plain the devil. But I do know that this situation is untenable.” (I had prepared myself by looking up words in my thesaurus.)
My dad placed his hands together and pressed them on his chin. “I understand,” he said. “This must be very hard for you.”
“Thank you,” I said. I was sure he completely understood. After all, he’d lived with her longer than I had. Maybe that’s how he learned to be so quiet and diplomatic.
I left the study feeling completely justified in my disapproval of the household matriarch.
It went on like this for years, until around the time I turned 18. Then my mom, Joan Ashton, seemed to get herself together. It would be another decade or so before I would realize that the threat wasn’t her. It was me, and my teenage raging hormones.
Since then, we have become besties. Sure, she once drove to Boise when she was trying to drive to Jackson Hole, and yes, she would make me go “potty” three times before we went anywhere, and of course there was the time she didn’t speak to me for a week after I dropped the f-bomb. But she also taught me that we come from a long line of strong women, and she uses weird phrases like “fart on a hot skillet” and she laughs at inappropriate times like at funerals, and she is always, always, there for me.
So here’s a very public (and a week late, but trust me we celebrated like normal people) Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I would also like to issue a blanket apology for 1988 to 1993.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.