Luigi is mine

By Elizabeth Hovde

Hood River Waterfront Park was where we landed for Mother’s Day, per my find-sand tradition. After a day of sand, river and spinning dangerously fast on the park’s merry-go-round, my boys still had enough energy for a loud, chaotic drive home.

We stopped for “dinner,” which ended up being a kid-friendly dining experience so I could avoid the side of drama that comes with a sit-down meal at an adult-friendly restaurant. Finding it humorous that I was about to eat fast food on the holiday that Hallmark and brunch-serving restaurants took over from the serious roots planted by ancient cultures and Anna Jarvis, I decided I deserved a Mother’s Day present: Luigi be thy name. He came in my Happy Meal.

My boys are apparently too cool and too big now for “little kid” Happy Meals. They got bacon cheeseburgers, fries and shakes. But they were eyeing my Luigi, a fictional character featured in Nintendo games and the brother of Mario. And shortly after we left the parking lot, one of my sons asked if he could have Luigi. I was a bit shocked how quickly I said, “No. Luigi is mine.”


My Happy Meal, my Luigi.

Being a mom has given me much. Aside from all the deep stuff, such as the incredible joy of raising two boys, parenthood’s lesson about unconditional love, and receiving hugs and nose kisses, I got access to a closer parking spot at the mall in the early years. I never used it. I hate malls and go less than once a year; always forgetting about the privilege until walking by the thoughtful parking space with my squirrelly boys in hand. But I had access. Membership has its privileges.

A big blessing was gaining several mom friends. I enjoyed a lot of play dates and hours of friend time in the boys’ toddler and preschool years. These days, we’re primarily Christmas card and fridge friends. (Fridge friends are those whose pictures adorn the kitchen appliance in your home.) All of the parents I spent valuable time with in my kids’ 0-5 years are busy, like me, being taxis for or accommodating preteens who prefer to play in their basements on xBoxes, rather than having in-person events at parks and in homes.

Motherhood also brought me the gift of hours of unrushed yard work over the years. After all, you might not be able to work efficiently with kids awake and present; I can’t. And you might not be able to clean your house successfully with children enjoying every clean space you just made. For years, I couldn’t have a conversation or even complete one sentence or thought before being summonsed to a maybe-emergency just around the corner; but I could pull weeds — a lot of them. You can stay in the yard all day, especially if you have a fence around it.

One of my boys was concerned recently about the padlock on our fence’s gate. “It’s not working,” he said. “People might get in!” I told him not to worry and explained that the fence locks we had around our property were there to keep him and his brother in; they weren’t really there to keep people who wanted to get in out. I could see that he felt a little betrayed. I had altered his worldview.

Being a mom has also taken much. It takes your freedom immediately. I remember how weird it was going from being someone who could run to the store whenever she wanted to having to build that activity into a schedule that worked around feedings and naps. Now, I usually use school hours to get the job done. Thank you for work and household chore time, taxpayers!

Living in Divorcelandia, parenthood has meant holding off on career and relationship goals, as I strive to keep my boys’ childhoods as free of further change as I can. As I resist jobs or relationships that would bring large-scale change, my kids aren’t resisting life’s shifts. My older son has given up hugs for nearly two years. Nose kisses from him are definitely out.

Being a mom is now taking away joy — joy that motherhood brought. I was feeling the weight of all that on Mother’s Day. And I needed Luigi to be mine.

Parents who have gone before me said these days would come. They’re here. Until I figure out how to better adjust, I might need more Luigis.


Elizabeth Hovde writes a Sunday opinion column for The Oregonian. Since newspapers are “changing,” she freelances for nonprofits, edits books and writes press releases about growlers. Cheers to VOA, an opportunity to write about something that doesn’t fit into a press release or column. 

Editor’s note: For several years at The Oregonian, I was Elizabeth’s editor. I got to know her writing style, her politics, her values, her personality and sense of humor. Perhaps more than any writer I know, she is genuine and honest. It’s always a pleasure having her contribute to VOA, both as a writer and prolific commenter.

Tomorrow: Gil Rubio, Aspire to inspire



12 thoughts on “Luigi is mine

  1. Your boys look and sound cute! I loved the bit about them worried about strangers getting in. As the mother of two boys myself I remember many such moments. My older son had these cute “trolls” long outgrown. I used them to create a crystal grid for his well being as he wanders off to live in places like Ecuador and Tunisia.

    I have a friend who also believes in gardening therapy! As mothers, human beings in a complex world, so little is under our control. We have to find that one thing we can focus on and quickly climb that hill to stake our claim. Good for you that you have carved a niche in the writing world.

  2. We had six kids in our family, and a dad who worked on the road. Mom had to do it all. That she had any nerve endings left at her passing was amazing. She had no time to herself, and had to brutally divvy what time there was. Mom’s are amazing. So happy you had a Luigi moment.

  3. Good for you for saying no, Luigi is mine, almost as much as being the Mom who orders Happy Meals for herself on Mother’s Day in spite of the kids thinking they are too old for such things. There’s a life lesson for your boys there that one day they may get. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you. That’d be awesome, right? I’m totally hoping for a note by the time they’re 35, telling me they like me again and learned things from my motherhood attempt. I wrote my mom that note when I was about 20. But we already had five years apart under our belts.

  4. Elizabeth, your annual VOA entries are always such a treat for me. And by “treat” I’m not always talking about chocolate. Sometimes the “treat” you give us from your writing is like a beautiful sunset or the sound of a river. Your piece sure did take an unexpected sharp turn at the end. Year after year, it is what I respect most about your pieces–the honesty. Thank you for sharing. As for “these days would come”, those days have come because you’ve been a hero to your boys and you’ve given them the space and security to be themselves. Good luck, Elizabeth… I’m not too far behind you!

  5. Hi Elizabeth! I’m catching up on my reading, just finished your piece and as always, it was a joy to read. Your journey as a parent is full of reality checks and truisms. Glad you allowed yourself the “Happy Meal” and that your sons observed you doing some self-care.

  6. Everyone needs some ‘me time’ or ‘my toys’ I think it is an inate part of us. Even if not Luigi, or pulling weeds, it could be just a private thought for a few minutes, between crises

    • I so agree, Eric. And I rarely feel guilty taking that time. I force those boys to go to bed at least an hour before most families I know so I can have it near daily!

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