In honor of Mother’s Day — which falls on May 13th this year — Baltimore-based fiction writer and Goucher prof Kathy Flann shares creative nonfiction that radically redefines the term soccer mom.
My mom bought me a toolkit and a train set, which, in the early 70’s, were pretty weird toys for a girl. It was a pre-plastic era, and all of the toys had the metal heft of the real article. They were miniature, yes, but didn’t have the garish colors or distorted proportions of today’s Fisher Price. I can still feel the boxcar wheels click onto the steel tracks and the serrated dial adjust the jaws of the wrench. “I wanted her to know she could be anything she wanted,” my mother likes to tell people. But when she asked me one day, in our avocado kitchen, what I thought that might be, I revealed a narrow concept of the word anything. “I want to be a farmer’s wife,” I told her.
When my mom tells this story at dinner parties, it always kills.
If I happen to be there, I protest, “But wait, you don’t understand–” I am drowned out by the laughter. And I taper off. I don’t really want to be the person to dim the white afterglow of a well-delivered joke. Plus, it would be impossible to explain the But feeling in my chest with same cha-ching as my mother tells that story.
If I did explain it, though, the first thing I would say is that, at five years old, I believed that farmer’s wife was a job. I developed this impression from my picture books and probably just from the air I breathed in 1974. Boys were farmers. Girls were farmers’ wives. Just like boys were pilots and girls were stewardesses. Boys were firemen and policemen. Girls were, well, missing from those parts of the books.