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Best Year Ever!

Best Year Ever!
Nancy Deming-May
November 2012

As I was drying my hair the other morning, (this is when my mind feels free to ramble and think about whatever it wants), I thought about taking my mom with us when we go up to our lake house in upstate New York. We were looking forward to taking down the four different types of wallpaper in the kitchen and dining room as well as bringing in the New Year. I pictured the nine hour drive up where she’ll keep asking the same questions, and respond to our comments meant for each other with the same audio recording – an “Uh huh” followed by a completely rote laugh. We could get a good audio book though, and that might help minimize the repeat questions, but probably not the rote laughter track.

Then I moved on to the New Year’s Eve celebration.  We would probably be at our house up on the hill, watching the Dick Clark’s (or whoever his replacement is) New Year’s TV special, all the while wondering who all the entertainers were – in between our in-front-of-the-TV cat-naps.  And when it came time to toast in the New Year, we would clink our glasses together and wish each other a Happy New Year and my mom would say something like, “Here’s to our BEST YEAR EVER!”

I don’t know why that annoys me, but it does. It takes me back to my childhood, my whole life really, of her over-the-top encouragement and visions. When I got my first and only toe shoes for ballet and she cheered and said I could become like Maria Tallchief, and then she told me how Maria would dance and dance until her toes bled.  Yuck.  I danced a little bit and my toes hurt like hell, and I did a cartwheel and quickly moved on to cheerleading.  Fortunately, my mother didn’t know any self-flagellating cheerleaders she could hold out to me for a goal and I contentedly jumped, yelled, and clapped, and herkied (however you spell that jump we used to love to do) my way through high school.

When I was a senior in college and they read letters from our mothers at our last sorority meeting, besides the usually embarrassing stuff about the boys I had dated, along with the horrible photos from high school of me in my vinyl laced-up boots, my mom had to include her prediction of my being in the White House (as president no less) and how I would still be serving strawberry daiquiris (my signature drink).  The White House?  Really?  Puleeeeese.

As my hair dried and I meandered about my mother, I thought, she does indeed live in hyperbole. Everything has to be “the best” and any little achievement is surely a clear indicator of future world renowned acknowledgement and riches. After I walked across the stage to receive my diploma for my Masters of Science degree at the Air Force Institute of Technology, she giddily told me, “You were the prettiest one up there!” This one was odd because her superlative kind of missed the point of the whole ceremony.

Her hyperbolic enthusiasm continues on to her grandchildren.  When my youngest started showing significant improvement in his cross-country course times (up from one of the slowest on the team), she mused about his future in the Olympics – an absurd thought that almost diminishes his own personal achievement – which is where I prefer to focus.  What’s good for HIM – for ME – for OTHERS – NOT how do we compare to the BEST in the world!

She used to listen to a church TV program on Sunday mornings where their mantra was “The best is yet to be!”  (This was one of those outrageous church shows that were hilariously lampooned on Saturday Night Live years ago.)  I always kind of puzzled about this.  Why “to be”?  That means you never get there.  What’s wrong with right now?  Why do we always want to put this off?  And why does it always need to be “the best”?  As I have gained in maturity I have discovered that I’m okay with “okay” – and right now.

Does every wish need to be a superlative?  The ultimate?  It’s truly cultural – think of “Have a great day!”  I missed hearing that when I lived in Holland for a number of years and I couldn’t understand why they made fun of us with those little sayings.  The Dutch are notoriously matter-of-fact and perhaps I’m becoming more that way as I mature (though I still like to hear “Have a nice day!).  I value accuracy over delusion – no prejudice there right?  Too many Maria Tallchief and Olympic nudges in my life I suspect.

My preference is for accuracy and I don’t mind a positive spin – just don’t overdo it.  I realize that many of my friends have the opposite problem – a mother who is Eeyore incarnate – “WOE is me.  My life is TERRIBLE.  Nothing EVER goes my way.”  We all know the archetype and most of us avoid them if at all possible – family just makes it a bit tougher.

So, okay, I’ll take my over-the-top mother.  Better to be compared to Maria Tallchief than be told I couldn’t dance.  And that’s HUGE (if I can be a bit hyperbolic!)  Thank you mom, for always encouraging me and envisioning the “BEST-ever” for my future.  But this New Year’s Eve, it doesn’t have to be the BEST Year EVER!  I think it’s okay to just be happy and content with another GOOD year.



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