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Swift: After years of ribbing, I've become my mother

For years, my poor mother has been the topic of many columns. She has good-naturedly braved essays that teased her for everything from her ability to make a massive banquet from a bag of potatoes and a box of baking soda to her belief that no Swi...

Tammy Swift
Tammy Swift

For years, my poor mother has been the topic of many columns.

She has good-naturedly braved essays that teased her for everything from her ability to make a massive banquet from a bag of potatoes and a box of baking soda to her belief that no Swift woman should leave the house without a touch of lipstick.

Of course, she's been the star of so many articles only because she has been such an important force in my life - influencing everything from the way I drive (too quickly) to the way I deal with nasty people (too slowly). She has always dealt with it like a champ, smiling agreeably and saying, "That Tammy likes to exaggerate. Don't believe everything you hear."

Well, it turns out that Fate has a sense of humor.

Through the years, I have slowly and insidiously turned into my mother. The very behaviors I once kidded her about have become my own behaviors. Her DNA, along with her powerful presence in those first 17 years, has molded me into Margaret 2.0. I even look like her - down to the cheekbones and the square jaw line.

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Some of these similarities are big and dramatic; others affect the tiniest, most inconsequential details. For instance, one of my goals in life is to make sure that no baby in America is outside without a hat. If I spot a parent carrying a little one down the street without warm-enough clothing, I have to fight the urge to take off my own coat and throw it over the child.

You see, from the time the Swift kids popped out of the womb, Mom consistently swaddled us in blankets. We learned to love and crave warmth. Likewise, we believe anyone who isn't wearing a snowmobile suit in November must be cold.

Here's just a sample of other noticeable Mom-isms:

• A fine mess. I cannot seem to cook without dirtying every dish in the house. Like my mother, I cook with a manic speed - as if I'm being forced to make mac and cheese at gunpoint. This means cupboards are left open, the sink is filled with pans and the countertop is crammed with flour canisters and eggshells. When done, it looks like the site of a paintball fight between two mentally unstable orangutans. For years, I groused about having to do dishes after one of Mom's feasts. Now I have to do dishes - sans dishwasher - after my own tornadic food prep. That's called karma, kids.

• Expiration skepticism. We used to tease mom about her frugality when it came to food, medication and toiletries. She would not surrender her grip on any bruised peach, vintage Vaseline or 12-year-old cough syrup. On occasion, she would throw herself over a garbage can, crowing, "That warped Tupperware cover without a matching bowl is still perfectly good!" However, a recent survey of my own refrigerator made me realize that I might have separation anxiety when it comes to salad dressing. (Did you know Hidden Valley Ranch used to have Joey Heatherton on the label?) And I recently unearthed a painkiller so antiquated its ingredient label listed opium and dodo bird feathers.

• Frenetic photo skills. When it came to Swift home movies, my mother's camera work was influenced by her innate frugality and "let's get 'er done" urgency. Anxious to save film and move on to the next tourist attraction, her footage of the Crazy Horse Monument was a blur of nanosecond-long shots of the monument, the kids and my dad. She could make a child's birthday party look like "Run Lola Run." Recently, while swiping through photos on my iPhone, I realized something: I am a terrible photographer. Eighty percent of my photos are blurry - mainly because I'm in too much of a hurry to take careful, focused photos.

See? Just like mom. It's like Boy George said.

Karma, karma, karma, karma, momma's chameleon.

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Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com

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