Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
So my mom calls me the other day to tell me about a bike ride she and my dad did on a recent trip to Santa Fe. “We climbed 7,000 vertical feet in 50 miles,” she said.
“OK, that’s it,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I don’t want to hear any more complaining about how you’re getting old. You’re in better shape than most people half your age.”
I don’t say “including me.”
I do tell her Ryan and I pedaled up to the Bells on our fancy road bikes Saturday at such a crawl that a middle-aged lady with wild hair and no helmet went flying by us on a cheap old mountain bike.
Mom is 69 years old yet somehow shows no signs of aging. Ever on a psychotic training regimen with my dad that involves spending hours at a time huffing and puffing up mountains via one method or another, she’s in sick shape. She’s got calves of steel and can rock the bike Lycra like no other. I wouldn’t be caught dead in those things. I have to wear a skort.
It’s not just her athletic prowess I admire.
Lindarose also has a way with words. It’s no surprise I turned out to be a writer, the daughter of a woman who does not mince the English language when it comes to getting her point across.
Some of my favorite quotes of all time include: “No, I didn’t breast-feed. I’m not a cow” and “Honey, you get what you pay for,” to justify those little extravagances in life, and “You’re not cut out for manual labor,” which was her pep talk after I got fired from another waitressing job in college.
The best is her explanation for why we have light hair and light eyes even though we’re Jewish: “I’m sure someone was raped somewhere along the line.”
This is a woman who is not afraid to let you know if something is not to her liking. “Take it back,” she’ll tell the waiter who dares bring her a plate of food that doesn’t meet her standards. “It’s inedible.”
This is a woman you hope is not at the other end of the phone line when you call her for your telemarketing job. “I’m not interested in being solicited, and take me off your call list this instant!” Slam.
This is not the person you want to find behind the front door when you come ring the doorbell to ask for money for your church or to give her a free Bible. “This is private property, and it is against the law for you to be here!” Slam.
She is not afraid to tell you her name is L-I-N-D-A-R-O-S-E, one word. Most people would have just given up at some point in their lives and accepted being called Linda. But, no, my mom doesn’t want to be called Linda. She will correct people for as long as there are people who need correcting.
“It’s one word. “L-i-n-d-a-R-o-s-e,” she’ll say, putting extra emphasis on the “R.” If I hear someone call her Linda, it hurts like having someone put lint in my eye, just anticipating the backlash.
She’s also not afraid to let me know when she is annoyed, which is often the case when she’s ridden her bike for five or six hours that day and eaten nothing but half a piece of toast with cottage cheese.
“What did you eat today, Mom?” I’ll ask after the profanities are fired in my direction. “I think you’re seriously bonking. You’re like a cranky baby. You need to eat more than a piece of toast.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Alison. I had a banana.”
“Oh, well, then you must be stuffed,” I’ll say.
But that’s just part of what it means to be raised by a strong woman.
Rather than marry after college like most of her peers did, she walked away from a man she loved to go to graduate school at Smith. She got her master’s degree in social work and then did postgraduate work at Yale, where she met my dad.
Meeting my dad was not a chance thing. She got a job working with the interns so she could meet a doctor. Leave it to Lindarose to figure out a way. When the interns were not to her liking (“They were all nerds”), she quit. Luckily my dad had two weeks to prove to her he was worthy of her love.
It worked – they’ve been happily married for 43 years.
Mom went on to be a clinical social worker, making more money than anyone in her field dared, working in the private sector and charging a ballsy hourly rate. She charged more money than my dad, even though he was an M.D. When I asked her why, she said, “Because I can. Because I’m not afraid to ask for more.”
She always taught me never to rely on a man. “If your father left us tomorrow, I would have enough money to provide you with the same life you have now,” she’d say, even though we all knew that would never, ever happen.
She taught me how to survive working in a man’s world. “Choose your battles,” she warned, “If someone who is irrational wants to pick a fight with you, you just keep nodding and saying, ‘You’re absolutely right,.I’m terribly sorry,’ over and over again until they give up and go away.”
That single piece of advice alone got me through the past 20 years, and not just with men.
She taught me to be strong but feminine, confident and not vain, sexy but competent, smart but charming, funny but highly intelligent.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I have never been more proud of you than I am right now.
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