Monday, January 03, 2005

The Day After Christmas

(May as well finish the series...)


Slept until 10AM. I stumbled downstairs to another of Daddy's breakfasts, this time just him and me. Mom and Othermom were still sleeping.

We argued about my parent's decrepit old dishwasher which only marginally works. Daddy doesn't want to replace it. I suspect it's the money... but they've spent a lot of money on exterior house things... why not work on the interior? You shouldn't have to wash the dishes before washing the dishes! You shouldn't have to advance the cycle manually! You shouldn't have water on the floor! To no avail.

We also talked about his retirement job, my temp job, the fallacy of Reaganomics and the fiscal irresponsibility of the current Bush administration. I told him funny stories about New York, and he reveled in the Packers' recent victory.

I watched him in his bathrobe, spatula in hand, shuffling about in his slippers, listening to the brilliance of his mind being distorted by aphasic speech. Somewhere deep inside, I became darkly aware of his mortality. Remember this, I thought. Remember everything. I tried to imprint that morning on my mind, every nuance of his speech, the way his fingernails looked, the way his robe belt rode up over his belly, the left-leaning gait he's had ever since he fell down the stairs last year. The intelligence in his eyes, the lines of mild frustration and irritation in his forehead and downturned mouth. I see him struggling with small things. At 64 years of age, he is starting to show some wear. I took it all in, swallowing hard, determined not to let him see my fear.

Mom and Othermom didn't appear until around noon. The rest of the day was a flurry of breakfasting, dishes, cleaning up the living room, munching cookies, and fighting over the bathroom. Finally, at about 2:30pm, lunch was re-heated:

open face turkey sandwiches
multi-grain bread for me
Italian bread for everyone else
yam bake
Mom's gravy - which we all ladled on with gusto

We finished everything off, except the turkey. Mom made soup with it later that week. I'm sorry I missed that.

Sometime during that day, Mom and I talked about marriage. A subtle shift has occurred in her. She used to talk to me as though she were the All-Knowing Mother, she was always right, and my job was to listen and agree. However, things have been different over the last year or so. Granted, she still treats me that way from time to time - especially when she is scared for me based on some decision she wishes I hadn't made - but recently she has begun to sound... accepting. Accepting of my independence and adulthood. Accepting of her subjectivity, fallibility, and typical mother's bias. That day, while we talked, time seemed to stand still as I grasped the change in our communication flow. She is worried about me. She doesn't want me to make another bad marriage choice, and she doesn't know enough about my boyfriend to feel assured that he's right for me. She is especially concerned that his family and I will never get along, due to our being on the different ends of the socio-political spectrum. She isn't comfortable with the idea of me submitting or compromising any part of myself. She doesn't want me to have to endure the same years of gritted teeth and repressed rage that she went through, being married to the only liberal man in a family of ultra-far right conservatives.

She admitted to me that, as my mother, she still feels as though everything that happens to me happens to her as well. She still feels as though my behavior and the choices I make reflect on the quality of her parenting. She admits that this is ridiculous, and that she shouldn't feel that way, but she can't help it. I just hugged her and thanked her for loving me so much. I have been out of the nest so long that I find this very sweet. I tried to reassure her that no matter how many mistakes I made, I would survive them, and live a richer, fuller life for them, filled with the lessons learned along the way. I also promised I'd try to make less mistakes, to live less recklessly. I am growing older, and frankly, I'm tired. She laughed. We hugged.

There have only been one or two times when my mother was this nakedly honest with me. It is at those times when I can feel the common blood flowing through our veins, see her father in her face and hands, hear her mother in our speech. It is at these times that I am acutely aware of my ability to create the next generation, to continue this line of women with only daughters. It is almost as though I feel my womb warming, preparing for this most sacred of tasks. As we talked and hugged that day, our very hearts seemed to beat in time with each other, and I felt my grandmothers' hearts beating inside us both as well.

I have always longed for a daughter. But if I have a son, I hope he experiences these magical things as well.

It as an inefficient, arduous task getting my stuff together to leave. Nobody wanted me to leave. My parents seem to blossom when I am around, and I feel more nurtured there than anywhere. But... the plane left at 4:47pm. Mom will have to ship some of my Christmas presents to me, as well as some clothes left in the laundry. But I made the plane.

As the little jet flew from Springfield to St. Louis, I did not cry, as I have many times in the past when leaving my childhood home after a too-short visit. This time, I simply read my book. From St. Louis to LaGuardia I napped a bit, read more, and let my thoughts turn to the future.


Amanda said...

I love this post. I felt like I was there in the kitchen with everyone. I'm happy your family so supportive. You deserve it!

Happy New Year!

Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

My gosh. I'm just blown away. I could see my own father through your words. I longed to be with him so that I could study all those obvious and subtle nuances. So beautifully written, so beautifully remembered.

"...She admitted to me that, as my mother, she still feels as though everything that happens to me happens to her as well. She still feels as though my behavior and the choices I make reflect on the quality of her parenting. She admits that this is ridiculous, and that she shouldn't feel that way, but she can't help it."

I know so well this feeling that your mother is experiencing. Even though my kids are still "in the nest", I can't help but feel exactly that; as if what they live, I live too. Just yesterday, in a talk with my second daughter about a choice that she made; I said those very words to her. That I take it very seriously, and very a reflection of my input in her life, as a reflection of the quality of my parenting. I understand this so well, along with the knowledge that soon, I will have to stand back and let her do what she will and hope that whatever wisdom I have imparted will stick with her. More importantly, I hope she will always know that I love her. Reading your words and your homage to your parents, I can only pray that I will hear those same words from my kids when they are grown. It is the ultimate tribute.