Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and I will be spending the earliest hours of this year’s holiday transporting the VIP I call Mom to my home for a visit that will last two whole weeks.
It’s mostly a coincidence that my mother is landing in the Metro area late on Mother’s Day Eve. She’s coming to help our housemate, Chris, care for the litter of bullmastiff puppies that’s keeping our household abuzz these days. (After Chris goes back to work next week, the puppies will still expect about 84 feedings a day.) Last year, when we had our first experience with the breeding life of show dogs, my mom stepped in for puppy nanny duty, and did a smashing job. She wasn’t exactly invited back this year; a better word would be required.
Most human beings, at least those with a pulse, would likely have a slight panic at the thought of two weeks sharing a residence with their mother. After all, didn’t we spend our adolescences plotting an escape? Don’t we all have “absence makes the heart grow fonder” embroidered on the pillows of our souls?
It would be foolish to try to pretend I did not suffer this twinge. “Two weeks?” I asked Chris. “Are you sure?”
Yes, she was sure. Yes, it would be so. I have arranged “safe houses” around the nation’s capital where I can seek refuge if the mother-daughter energy goes awry.
In truth, though, I am expecting a wonderful half-month of Life With Mom — a fabulous almost-14 days, an excellent 327 hours, a fantastic 19,620 seconds. I adore my mom, no doubt about it, and count her among the elite corps of figurative rock ‘n’ roll superstars who grace my life. In the digital cable television world of my mind, I am often interviewed on talk shows with all of the world tuned in and hanging on my every word, and when the interviewer — probably Katie Couric — asks who my biggest inspiration has been, I say proudly, “My mom.”
Props to my dad, too, of course; I am not trying to estrange one parent through the adulation of another. But my mom was the textbook single mother of the 1970s and ’80s. She took care of my brother and me, made sure we had shelter and food and respectable clothing, stressed the importance of our schooling without ever pressuring us to excel, cheered us on when we did excel, only yelled a little when we disappointed her, and all the while guaranteed us unconditional and eternal love.
Naturally, I tested the concept of unconditional love when I was 21 and decided that I’d better share with her the news that I was a full-blown homosexual. We’d danced around the topic a few times before, like when she found a note I wrote as a high school sophomore to Suzi, a senior I spent most of my time thinking about. When my mom started asking questions that seemed very pointed and uncomfortable, I caught on that I’d stupidly left this piece of writing in a public area of the house.
“What exactly is going on?” she wanted to know. She was sitting down, as I remember it, braced for big news — but I had none to deliver at that point, since I was probably more frightened of what I might say than she was. The note was innocent, of course, just full of qualified idolatry, and I told my mom that’s all it was, because absolutely nothing lurid was going on between me and the senior, to the disappointment of my severely repressed subconscious. My mom chose to believe me, or at least not push the matter any further right then.
When I allowed my subconscious to become a little less repressed during college, I would often travel on weekends to see the first woman I dated. As I made the repeated three-and-a-half-hour trips from Des Moines to a town just 41 miles from my mother’s home, I figured it was time to break the news that her suspicions years before had been at least partially warranted. So I wrote a letter, and revised it and edited it and rewrote it. I kept a copy of it in the back of my car, and would read it sometimes, wondering if I’d ever get up the courage to mail it.
I had come out recently to my friend Mary Ann who, despite my fiercest prayers, was straight — but progressive, and incredibly supportive. She talked me into mailing the letter, walked with me to the mail chute at work when I finally mustered the strength to go through with it, and went with me to lunch afterward. She asked me how I felt immediately after I dropped the letter down the chute; I told her I was pretty sure I made a mistake. “You’ll be fine,” she said.
She was right. Two days later, my mom got the letter and read it and wept for all the suffering I’d experienced and would continue to endure in a hostile world. But she called me to tell me she loved me, and that everything would be OK. She had, of course, pretty much figured out what was going on with me and assured me that she would remain my biggest fan, my strongest supporter. The feeling was, and is, mutual.
When she called, she caught me right before I left my college-era apartment to meet several drinking buddies for the event we called the Wednesday Night Thing — an excuse to go out regularly and drink ourselves silly, academia be damned. I practically floated on air as I made my way to the bar and relayed the happy news to my closest friends — I wasn’t out to everybody yet — who were, of course, elated for me and probably inspired to make similar moves when their time came.
Through the night, we raised our glasses dozens of times in toasts to my mother, initiated both by me and my friends, leaving more than a few uninformed revelers confused about why she was getting so many accolades that night.
Although at first she refused to use the word “lesbian” — and probably doesn’t say it much to this day — she was and is perfectly comfortable with the fact that she has a gay daughter, and has marched in pride parades on both sides of the Mississippi River.
Two weeks? Too short.
Here’s a toast to Kristina Campbell’s mother! The younger Campbell writes Alphabet Soup biweekly and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.