What Was I Thinking?

May 9, 2017


At the movies, I sit next to a woman I’ve seen around town for years, a woman I’ve taken special note of because she reminds me of my mother. While waiting for the film to begin, I go over and over in my head why this woman is so similar to my mom even though she has red hair — instead of brunette — and she wears silver jewelry rather than the gold accoutrement my mother prefers. Manner. That’s what it is. The perfect word for why she and my mother resemble each other. Let’s just say that if they shopped together, they’d be drawn to the same style. Or if they were to chat about the neighborhood, family, religion, or politics — though they’d likely skip religion and politics — they’d agree about most things, or politely pretend to. They are mothers from the same era. And even if they have no more in common than having married and procreated in the fifties, they have lived through much of what life has to offer, good and bad, which becomes its own loyalty in the same way veterans bond over a shared war. And if May wasn’t about finding the perfect gift for mom, which it is, I would be satisfied with a quick scan of how I feel about the woman sitting next to me, then I’d lean back to enjoy the trailers. But tonight I’m looking at her from the inside out, where perspective is always more about tuning in to the little voice inside you. And if I listen carefully, it’s not hard to hear why this woman has chosen a seat next to me. Oh! I knew it! What was I thinking? You see, just yesterday I bought my mother’s gift, the most exquisite 100% silk blouse that would fall over her shoulders in the most elegant way. But one glance at the woman beside me reminds how utterly inappropriate the gift is for my mother. The blouse is appropriate for, you guessed it, me. What my mother would enjoy receiving is a sweater similar to the one the woman beside me proudly wears with the words “World’s Greatest Grandmother” stitched to it’s front. Let’s back up. I need to back up here and say something I’m not especially proud of: I have been trying (and failing) to “remake” my mother most of my life. And so if, at first, I didn’t understand why this woman was affecting me so strongly, I realize now that I know exactly why. To remind me to return the silk blouse. Tomorrow. First thing. Because there is a real message here even for the most irreverent: Gift giving is about the person on the receiving end. As soon as the movie is over, I will politely ask the woman where she found her sweater. And then I will surf the net until I find it. Because of all the people I need to buy for, mom is the one I most want to please. Mom has always been the one I most want to please. Which this year I fully intend to do.


MARY LOU SANELLI has earned a solid reputation in the literary and public-speaking community through a steady commitment to writing and through twenty years of successful public readings and presentations. She has published seven collections of poetry and three works of non-fiction, Among Friends, Falling Awake, and her newest title, A Woman Writing.  Learn more by visiting her website,


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