It’s Mother’s Day. And thinking about my mother, I could easily come up with a list of miraculous things she’s done for me (even when I was at my peak annoyingness) or fun times we’ve shared together.
I could talk about us driving through Kansas, blasting the Mamma Mia! soundtrack so loudly the cows could hear.
I could talk about how she accompanied me to every vintage shop in Denver to find the perfect prom dress, only to end up virtually making one from scratch with her capable, crafty hands.
I could talk about how my memories of her cooking and listening to jazz on summer evenings are some of the warmest in my consciousness.
But these are all things in relation to me.
Because while she’s a mother to me, she’s also a kickass woman, and the one with whom I share the best laughs, the happiest hours, and (bonus!) a matching tattoo.
Without further ado, meet Karen!
What were you like as a child?
I was quiet. But also a little mischievous. I loved to figure out how things work—I would always be taking things apart and putting them back together. When I got to have a bedroom in the basement, I wanted to have my own phone up so I figured out how to unplug the main line and rig it to work in my room. I was able to make calls and everything but the rest of the house went dead. Dad was not happy.
I loved to work with pocketknives and whittle alongside my grandpa, I liked guy stuff I didn’t like girly sparkly stuff at all. I only had one dress that I wore to church every week. My mom bought me that single one, I wore the crap out of it, and when I outgrew it she bought me a second.
There was this group of girls at school that were all giddy and girly all the time and they just drove me nuts!
Did you feel at all left out from the stereotypical girlhood experience?
No, I mean I had friends and really kept myself occupied. I hung out with the boys in the neighborhood and my friend Mindy and I—we’d put our hair in pigtails and go climb trees.
What’s a good story from your childhood?
Well, once I had something in my head, I had to do it.
It was one August and I wanted to fly a kite. My mom thought I was crazy because there was no wind: “Karen, you can’t fly a kite, there’s no wind.” And I said “yes I can, watch me.” So I went up and down the street only running when I was in front of our house to make the kite fly—I mean, the only reason the kite was flying was because I was running but I had to prove that I could fly it.
My mom knew then that I was a very determined child.
When did you start to adapt more feminine characteristics?
Probably not until the end of high school/college. I remember I had to ask a girlfriend how to wear blush or mascara, I was too embarrassed to ask my mom.
Did you feel like it was bad to be feminine?
Once I went to college, I think I got away from the idea—I always associated girly stuff with being submissive or being an airhead and I didn’t wanna be that. I took me a while to realize that being girly was okay. A stupid female drives me crazy to this day. Like, when women use “being a woman” as an excuse for their ditziness.
What is your first memory of Dad?
I was at my friend Darla’s house, we were just sitting on the front porch talking as these two new guys moved in across the street. Darla thought your Dad was really really cute, she wanted to figure out how to meet him. I thought, “Meh, his hair’s kinda short but okay.”
We made cookies to welcome them to the neighborhood and I suggested, “Hey if you guys wanna go out for pizza sometime, that’d be fun!”
A few weeks later, he called and asked if me and Darla wanted to go to a movie. Darla and I didn’t know which guy we were with or if we were paired off at all and it wasn’t until after we got into the theater and filed into the seats, it was obvious that I was to be seated with Dad and Darla with Rich [other guy]. Darla was really upset and cried the next day.
So that was our first date—but nobody knew it was our first date, it wasn’t very clear.
Which movie was it?
Blade Runner. It was the worst movie I’ve ever seen.
Tell me about a day or event that you wish I could relive with you.
When I was little I used to have to spend the nights at my grandma’s and she would teach me how to cook, make pies. She’s the one that taught me to sew on the sewing machine and everything. Anyway, I think it would have been cool if you could have shared that time with her as well.
In what ways do you think I’m like you?
Very organized. Motivated, although at this point in your life, you’ve beaten me at that. Perfectionist seems kinda strong—but definitely I like to have things done a certain way and I think you do too.
Willing to try new things, we’re both creative and artsy and we appreciate that about the world.
Sensitive to other people around us which sometimes is a curse. But we’re both in tune with our friends and caring in that way.
How are we different?
Well, you’re taller than me.
I don’t worry about making choices quite as much as you do…and I don’t know if it’s the generation or the time you grew up in but you’re a lot more willing to put yourself out there. Kids now seem to have a lot more independence, which is great.
You’re willing to travel and go places on your own. A lot of it is technology—I mean you can book flights, go places, buy tickets in the palm of your hand. That just didn’t exist for us.
Do you or have you ever identified strongly with any movements?
I was always pro-choice. I never saw how it was this big deal how a woman shouldn’t be able to choose for herself. Even with my friends who disagreed, I thought it was crazy that a particular upbringing or your community all alone makes that choice and you can’t think for yourself.
To this day I still marvel about how drawn-out that is.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I do. I think sometimes the choices I’ve made to be a stay at home mom, people might say “oh why didn’t you pursue your career?” type thing but just because I made my priority my kids and my family doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist.
The fairness, the equal pay, the right to choose, I’ve always related to those issues.
What’s one of your proudest moments as a parent? [I’m one of three kids].
My proudest moments as a parent are sometimes when I’m not even with you guys [I’m one of three kids] and people will rave about how wonderful and friendly and responsible you all are. I always think “Wow, i did okay” when people notice those traits that you’ve all grown into.
Or, when I am with you guys in different situations with my friends or coworkers or just other adults and I listen to you speak about your dreams and your plans. I think it’s cool to listen to you speak your mind and that makes me proud because you can and you do.