I took the writer’s island prompt “ferocious” and combined it with two weeks worth of 3WW..
The first weeks words are: empty, highway, ignored. The second week’s words are: cautious, human, empty
It took me two days to write this post and I deleted the best parts. Hope I can somehow replicate it. My apartment still hasn’t sold. I don’t want to be the first casualty in Manhattan. This is unedited–just made a change or two for clarity though it’s still probably lacking.
She told me that when she adopted me and I smiled at her I gave her life. Even during the teenage rebel years, she claimed I gave her life. She claimed she gave me life when she and my father barred the door and wouldn’t let me go to the 68 Chicago Convention where I could have died or “worse.” “Worse” being brain damage. She loved my brain warped as it is. Going to the convention was one of two things she ever forbade.
She picked me up in the station at Great Neck and we drove to that great mother/daughter bonding experience Loehmann’s. She loved to shop. I hated to. On the car ride she told me the entire story of a movie she had seen the night before on TV, Tea and Sympathy We both knew “when you think of me and you will often, think of me kindly,” but neither of us knew where it was from.
At Loehmann’s salespeople rushed to her as if she were an old friend. Something about her invited confidences, big and little. People would ask for her opinions about their clothes. She was always truthful. Though she refused to sew as her mother had made all her clothes, she could tell what needed just a bit of a hem, what needed a dart, what couldn’t work….As “payment” she would say: “This is my daughter. Isn’t she incredible. Doesn’t she look…” I would twirl, smile, put on the show and want to fall into the store floor.
She was a born salesperson. Before I had been adopted she owned a fancy dress drop and from the time I was a young teenager until shortly before that ride four Junior shops. My sister and I had more tee shirts we didn’t want, and still imitate her opening a door to a bureau and saying “here, take this. Take that.” “No, ma you’re exhausting me.”
This was a woman who thought a fun Christmas Eve activity was to go to a new Ikea. I love houseware stores but that….Have you ever been to Ikea on Christmas Eve? Empty it isn’t. It would have been a five Excedrin night had I still done them.
Thing was I can’t remember her ever talking down to me. Oh I was the daughter and she was the mother, but she always assumed I could understand and I loved her so much for that. She was so loyal that if I disliked a girl she found many good reasons to dislike her mother. I couldn’t just dislike the girl or boy actually. I had to explain exactly why.
I began picking the books for her book club when I was twelve. Our favorite book the year before was A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. She had grown up after Francie in the next community Greenpoint and I felt thrilled reading a book that took place so close to her home.
We discovered Capote’s In Cold Blood when it was serialized in The New Yorker I was about thirteen but in books she considered me an equal.
She was a year or two behind in her New Yorker reading but I couldn’t stop talking about it. We idolized Capote. My sister insists she picked out the theme for her Sweet Sixteen–a Black & White Ball but I know it was based on Capote’s party at The Plaza. Our mother had a way of making you think something was your idea when she did all the planning.
Though she was barely five foot tall, she had legs that seemed to go on forever. Her dark curly hair and big toothy grin were irresistible. Growing up my sister and I were always cognizant we had a mother men never ignored. I noticed how happy that made my father and made a note to my future self to somehow become irresistible so my husband would always desire me.
My parents were the make-out couple of Long Island. It embarrassed my sister. My mother said the first time I saw them kiss I applauded. I always was a devotee of true love and they had it in spades.
That ride to Loehmann’s was our last mother/daughter true shopping trip. Our family banned her from the highway or any road as she had macular degeneration. A vain, independent woman she refused to accept that it was a permanent condition. Unfortunately the doctor’s were always promising a cure…
I prefer to remember all the times before.
My father was larger than life and it wasn’t until I was an adult I realized how hard being the “straight woman” was. Dare I say she made him seem funnier than he was?
And gave him class–well, she always said that. She or I were the butt of all his jokes.
She taught me how to seem to listen to the same story for the 2,00th time. How to laugh, nod, speak in all the right places. It’s a skill that has served me well in life.
She accepted everything about me. Part of her job, it seemed, was to tell me that he was only so critical because he loved me more than anything. That he couldn’t help himself….It was great to have uncritical love from one parent.
She was smart. Though she was the only member of her family without a college education, she wrote my father’s papers for him. He got the accounting degree. She got the education. Both she and my father took courses throughout their lives. Both were involved in as many organizations as they could find time for. Their lives made me dizzy.
After my father died she said she never wanted to go to another country again as they had been to almost countries but Viet Nam and Indonesia where they were supposed to be when my mother “had a feeling.” She never had feelings like that. My father’s oujia board had been banned from the house. She believed in the here and now. What could be explained, nothing mystical unlike her sister the Buddhist hippie. Her feeling was right. The week they were supposed to be in Indonesia my father had a sudden stroke and died.
So when Princess Di died and she asked me if I wanted to go to London for that week I was very confused. I had just returned from the Jersey Shore and a week alone with my mother in London was–well my mother was slow. I’m fast. I’m not sure you can measure how many miles my mother walked in an hour. I should have taken her seriously. We should have gone, but I’m not sure she was serious.
She loved making me crazy as she grew older. Her jokes on me were funny and I’m not going to tell them now.
She was a cautious person. She did everything slowly, very slowly. It drove me crazy. She counted every pill in a prescription bottle, and yes counted her change. She was like this as a young woman so when she was older it felt like hell on earth.
My father could tell me to do something and I would “yes” him to death and do whatever I wanted anyway. He would carefully plan my trips to Europe. I would get there and change all the reservations. My sister always did what daddy said to do.
My sister would “yes” our mother, and do what she wanted to do. I could never “yes” our mother. To not be completely truthful; to not follow her advice to the letter….But she gave so little advice before our father died, that the one in ten thousand times she did I had to listen. And I have never been on a motorcycle–the one thing she asked me not to do. It’s coming on bike week here and….
After our father died it became so complicated. She began giving unsolicited advice. It was good–especially the writer part–but fraught with anxiety, and over-identification. I’m still not ready to talk about that time. Oh, she thought I should be a writer as I would read her all my papers in grad school. She had an amazing critical ear. I’m linear in school papers, and all research.
She was so blown away she finally asked why I wasn’t working at becoming a writer. “Your husband said I had some talent but not enough–and took my writing to ten writers he knew to have that borne out.” “But they loved your writing. He was scared for you. It’s such a hard life. And he always dreamed that you went to law school” Yes, I heard that one enough.
I understand now that they both would have encouraged me. My father had seen me fall too many times and encouraged me to pick myself up too often. My mother saved that for the big stuff. It’s hard to explain and I don’t know if I’m explaining it properly but I’m working on that.
It wasn’t that my mother was simple. She was possibly always the most complicated person I knew. She was always the best read, and when she went blind drove the male librarian at the library for the blind crazy. He wanted to send her romance novels. She wanted conspiracy theory books. She always had a great manner and finally said to him: Would you like romance novels? No, neither do I. Send me what you like.” He found himself another member of the fan club trying to please her.
My sister and I call her family comprised of Bohemians, Beatniks, and new age hippies, “the complex family.” Our mother was the one who passed for normal. Our mother was the one married to a former Communist who then bowed to Nixon and Reagan. She could have made a good Republican housewife.
Ha. My mother was the person who asked me two weeks after 9/11 if I thought it was retribution for all the horrible things we had done to other countries. If there is a god, I hope he/she/it forgives me for thinking she had become demented overnight. I know my mother forgave me for saying “some people think that but I can’t.”
I refuse to make her death two weeks later from a fall the centerpiece of her life. People say to me “oh your mother had macular. Must have lived an unhealthy life.”
I wasn’t raised on meat or sugar. My parents preached the evils of cigarettes from the time I was in a crib. My mother did everything right. She just happened to suffer from something nobody knew anything about. She was human. There’s a picture of her smoking a cigarette long before my sister or I were born. My sister held the picture in her hand and refused to believe it. I told her they didn’t photoshop in the 40’s.
One last little anecdote long term readers of Courting know. A few weeks before my father’s death we were taking a walk. He asked me if I knew the most remarkable thing about my mother. I was of course clueless.
She’s never had a gray hair.
Wow daddy that’s truly remarkable.
Of all the zillion things…I called her and we laughed, and laughed. And that’s why I practically live at the hairstylist. My father thought hair dye would kill you though it was overly obvious I dyed my hair–all the reds nature never intended.
After I came from meeting my birth mother, I felt empty. I opened my mailbox and there was a card from my mother. It just said “I love you, I love you, I love you, over and again. It was something we both needed to hear.
Maybe, just maybe I was too blessed in my choice of mothers. Letting go of her was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I wish that we had just five minutes. That’s all. Five minutes to say good bye. She didn’t even have to be conscious. Just sort of alive. But….
The first copy, the one I deleted was much better. Writing this made me so nervous I couldn’t sleep. It was the first time I could write about my mother the person without focusing on her death. I feel much joy over that. This is a time of new beginnings in my life and I know she would want me to go forward. She was a big believer in living in the moment before it was trendy. When she became blind she had to as she had to remember everything. People say I have the memory of an elephant. I get it from my mother.