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It wasn’t until fairly recently that I had considered that the way in which The Mom raised the lot of us would have such long-lasting implications. I do have the ability to think critically, but sometimes people don’t want to hear that. Actually, oftentimes people are not interested in critical thinking, they’re interested in being humoured.

Once, a few years back, I was at home for Christmas. I had left the confines of The Mom’s house and had gone into Toronto to visit some friends. The friend I was staying with had a quite stylish, fetching pair of boots on, and being as I was then, the sort of person who was bootless but ought to have had several pairs to hand, I asked her where she got them from. Handily, it was in the not-quite-down-and-out but certainly heading that way mall near to her apartment.

As my friend was not wearing her boots at that moment, I had a look at them. And by had a look, I mean inspected them as one might a racehorse, I looked at the sole, the heel, the quality of construction, checked the weight and so on and so forth. After about twenty minutes of this, my friend, who is a very dear one and used to the way I operate, said that she hadn’t bought them too long ago and since she could tell I was getting close to thinking about liking them, that maybe we could wander down to the mall and have a look.

Unusually for me, I agreed. I loathe shopping and boots for me are not unlike swim suits for most other women. The seventh circle of hell.

Off we went and in typical form, I had already convinced myself that these boots would no longer be available or in my size or the right colour. I was not intending to make a purchase, which is normally the way I shop. It’s not as productive as one might like, but then I don’t spend too much money on clothes. Having said that, though, what I don’t spend on clothes, I spend on beer, books and tacos. Never mind.

We were in the shop. As were the boots. In the right size, and colour. Which was a warning sign to me. I tried them on. Immediately, I knew they were not the boots for me. They were too small in the sole, they did not look balanced with my body. My friend agreed, and then the sales person came round to ask how we were getting on.

“These are incorrect,” I said. “Look at them,” I pointed to my feet. “Off balance completely. And this particular shade of grey, isn’t quite right. Too blue. The rest of my greys are a more yellowish, not quite taupe but you know, considering it as an option in a few years. And the top of the boot scrunches up not so well here, and is then bunchy around the ankle. They are wrong, wrong, wrong.”

The sale clerk, at this point, had absolutely no idea what to do with me or how to get rid of me or generally keep me from speaking loud enough to be heard over the din of the music. I don’t think she had ever heard such a thorough critique of a pair of boots before.

And that’s the thing. There is a lack of consideration of all points of view, and The Mom is rather guilty of this herself. She has an optimistic streak that may well one day be the death of her. She assumes things are going to work out, the rest of us are not so cavalier. We can accept that things might work out, but we know it’s not going to be the way we’d imagined. We have learned this through trial and error, which is part of why we can be critical some times.

In fact, I do remember The Mom has, on many more occasions than just the one, pointed out to me that I’m awfully critical. This could be after I’ve tried to helpfully correct her stroke in the pool, offer sage advice about the wearing of camisoles under sheer tops, or pointing out the virtue of sensible shoes at all times. The Mom takes this personally; I do not. How else are we to improve ourselves?

As for The Mom’s ongoing debacle with the mattress, well, here again we have evidence that her optimism is ill-placed in the world. When I go to buy something like that and the salesclerk starts giving me the upsell, I flap my hands like a maniac and let whoever has agreed to come with me divert the clerk’s attention so I can have a good think about what I’m going to buy.

Crazy D’s right. Foam is foam. Either you’re going to be comfortable or you’re not. But then, his philosophy runs along the lines of acceptance. As in with an old bike of mine that wasn’t in great shape. Well, he told me, it doesn’t need to work perfectly, you just need to know where it doesn’t work and then deal with that. And by deal with it, he did not mean returning it again and again. He meant learning to stop with no brakes and riding uphill with no third or fourth gear.

Which I did. And once I got over the fact that it was my thinking that was buggered up, not the bike, life got a whole hell of a lot easier.

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