In fifth grade, for Halloween, I wanted to dress up like my mom.
In fact, I did. But only for show her. It was supposed to be a surprise, because I didn’t want to be a hippie for the third year in a row. I remember sitting on my pink, blue, and green swirled comforter thinking that I wanted to dress up like someone I like. I didn’t want to be just another witch or the fourth kid to have the brilliant idea to be the pink power ranger.
I liked my mom; she was the coolest. So I dug through my closet and found a pant suit that I had never worn, but mom bought me for some holiday. I sneaked into my dad’s office and stole one of his briefcases, and swiped my mom’s old glasses. I tied my hair back in a ponytail, and dressed in my best attempt or my mother, I proudly walked out of my room and into her office. “Look who I’m gonna be for Halloween!”
I had clearly stumped her. It must have been the suit. My mom never wears suits, but it was the most adult thing I had in my closet!
The look on my mother’s face was one of pure horror. You would have thought I told her I murdered our dog and then wore his fur for a class project.
“No. Absolutely not.”
I had no idea why she wouldn’t want this. I, honestly, thought I was going to make her proud or flatter her. It seemed like I had insulted her.
“You don’t want to be me. You be you. Dress up as something magical or make-believe. You can’t be me.”
I ran away in tears. I felt like my little ten-year-old heart had been cracked open and nothing but tears could come out of it. I just wanted to be like my mom! Why couldn’t she understand that that was the coolest, best thing in the world? She cooks, and drives us around, and takes care of my brother and me and Dad, and she works, and she gardens, and she does crafts with us, and she helps us with our homework. She does everything! She’s like a superhero, but a mom version!
And sure enough, for my tenth Halloween I was a hippie….for the third year in a row.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized something about that moment.
There were numerous reasons why dressing up as mom wasn’t okay for my mother. One of the biggest, and I didn’t know this until almost finishing college, my mom doesn’t want me to have the life she had. My mother gave up her career to be a wife and mother. She worked, but from home so that she could raise my brother and I.
She now confides in me, like a friend, or fellow adult, and she’s told me that she didn’t realize what she was giving up; that she was putting her husband and her children before herself, for always. And that she doesn’t regret having us, and I don’t doubt that, but she seems to wish that she had been more independent.
That was the word that was used the most in our household growing up. “You must be independent. Able to support yourself.” Now, my parents meant that in a financial meaning, but I took it to incorporate much more.
My mother was my hero. She still is my hero, but now, wrapped into the superhero outfit is my best friend.
She knows the slightest crack in my voice, means a flood of tears is not far behind.
I know that her pressed lips, really mean “That’s what you’re going to wear?”
She knows that I’m stubborn as hell, but I always have one ear listening.
I know that I have picked up her mannerisms and laugh.
She knows that silence doesn’t mean something’s wrong.
I know that I am proud to resemble her in anyway.
She knows that I’m sometimes too naive.
I know that she believes in me.
She knows that I love her so much it hurts. It hurts right on my heart.
Michele Stine graduated with a B.S. in Acting and Political Science. She most recently returned home to Chicago after a three month self-produced tour of over five different Chicago based productions, called “A.O. The Traveling Trunk Show.” Michele has been fortunate to have performed with Collaboraction, First Floor Theatre, Indie Boots, trip, Manhattan Repertory, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, among others. As a writer, Michele co-wrote Collaboraction's Forgotten Future: The Education Project, has worked with The New Colony in work-shopping Hidden Resistance, and participated in a writing challenge with Red Theatre-Chicago.