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Ugh, I'm Turning Into My Mother

Photograph by Getty Images

I stood over the kitchen counter tearing into a hot bag of freshly roasted chicken from Whole Foods. The grocery bags I hauled in five minutes ago remained on the floor, unpacked, even though some were filled with perishable foods like yogurt and milk. I had thought about this moment where I could tear off the wings and crunch them down, bones and all, during the entire ride home.

And now it was here.

I felt like my old dog Roo, hiding in the corner of my yard with a stolen drumstick. He was shameless and entitled and would simply jump right up on the dinner table, grab what he wanted and take off.

I didn't run. I stayed hunched, hovering and hiding in plain sight. My kids could walk in any minute, I thought, but oh look at that crunchy piece right there. Did I want my kids to see their mom standing over a carcass, albeit organic and wafting of rosemary and garlic, looking like she'd been overtaken by a zombie with animal parts and juices dripping from my chin? Probably not. Nevertheless, I didn't stop until I was done mauling my prey.

It was then when it hit me: I am my mother.

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A flood of memories rushed in.

Judy standing over a sink with a cold slice of last night's meatloaf in one hand, a bottle of katsup in the other. Squirt, bite, squirt, bite. Two bites. Done.

All the work and therapy still cannot unravel the gnarly vines that got us here because they go back, way back—to our mothers and our mother's mothers.

Judy standing in a dark kitchen wearing a Lanz of Salzburg nightgown, face illuminated by the din of a single freezer bulb, eyes fixed on a carton (pint? Quart?) of Breyer's ice cream as it disappears, bite by stolen bite.

I have so many memories of my mom standing in the kitchen having a private moment with food.

I inherited these moments.

I've discussed my tortured romance with food and eating at length—how it shaped my self-esteem, even my parenting. The truth is we inherit our food relationships from our mothers. And all the work and therapy still cannot unravel the gnarly vines that got us here because they go back, way back—to our mothers and our mother's mothers.

With hard work, the torture can subside or be contained into tidy compartments for periods of time but it doesn't go away. The craving lives on. Like it did in me, with the chicken. It just reared its ugly head and there I was, fully embodying the mother apocalypse.

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This got me thinking about all the stuff I am going to pass on to my daughter that she wont be able to undo, because it isn't hers to undo. All the things I got from my mother, the unshakeable habits, crappy tones and brushing off when I should be embracing, the frustrations, bad energy? They're things I so badly want to shake off but can't seem to because maybe they are not mine.

I try to hide it all sometimes, to shield my kids from what I've inherited. So when I polish off the ice cream, I make sure not to let anyone see.

But still, somehow, our girls end up seeing it all.

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