A Boy’s Life: Mother Knows Best

How handy moms raise sons who marry handy wives

I AM IN the middle of trying to put up the second strip of wallpaper in my daughter’s room, wrestling with it the way I imagine a grizzly wrestles with a salmon, when I hear myself muttering. Why? Why did you do this to me?

The struggle continues as I try to get the piece to line up perfectly next to the first piece I’ve put up, which, now that I look at it, is so not straight. Yes, thank you, really glad you got me into this.

Finally, I get the piece attached, and I am standing there staring at it when my wife comes in. “Is there supposed to be that gap between the first piece and the second piece?” she
asks. I bite down on my lip and then — and, Jesus, please know that I am sorry for this — I think ­something a little bit ungenerous not about my wife, but about my mom.

My mother was Martha before Martha was Martha.

Wait, does Martha wallpaper? I don’t know and, actually, I don’t care. My mother wallpapered. That’s all I care about.

Now, when I say my mother “wallpapered,” I don’t mean that she simply smiled
approvingly when some high-priced decorator said, “Mary Ann, this pattern would look lovely in your foyer.” There was no ­decorator, or rather, my mother was the decorator, and she was an exquisite one because she has exquisite taste and our house looked exquisite — even though in real life she’s a librarian, not that there is any reason a librarian can’t have exquisite taste, but, you know, I’m just saying. Anyway, when I tell you my mother “wallpapered,” I also don’t mean she merely bought the wallpaper and then supervised a hanger who put it on the walls. There was no hanger; there was only my mother, hauling out her step ladder — ­actually, when she wallpapered the stairwell, she built ­scaffolding — and slapping that stuff up with perfect cuts and corners and not a gap in sight. She has done this — and I’m going to give you a number so large that you’re going to think it’s inflated for comic effect, only I swear it’s accurate — at least 117 times in the past several decades. Okay, that number is slightly exaggerated for comic effect, but the real number is at least 40.

1 2 3Next >View as One Page

Around the Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.