More thoughts of Mom….
We’ve been decorating cookies! I baked a ton of regular sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies, in assorted shapes, and on Saturday I brought my awesome niece, Natalie up to the house and she and Julia and I (and Alex, but not as much) hung out decorating cookies. Natalie made the most, and unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of all her mini works of art. Julia made a lot, ate some, and then yesterday, while I was at work, she decorated some more.
The house above is one of them.
I asked her if we could keep it. Maybe I can dip it in shellac or something to preserve it.
Last year I didn’t bake cookies, or if I did, I didn’t bake many of them. I don’t remember. Too much going on with Mom. I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the enthusiasm. I wanted to. I felt I should. But I finally gave myself permission not to. It’s hard to do what’s best for myself, but I scraped together some sense and did it.
Anyway, the reason I want to keep this house is because it made me smile and it made me think of my mother.
When I was little I loved to draw. I guess I did pretty well. My mother told me that, anyway. I took after my grandmother, Mom’s mother, in the artistic department. Mom, however, would tell us she couldn’t even draw a straight line. (Years later I pointed out that drawing a straight line had nothing to do with artistic capabilities, and that she was creative and artistic in plenty of other ways, if not with a paper and crayons.)
Anyway, to prove her point, Mom told me that when she was little and in school – kindergarten or an early elementary school grade – she was drawing a house and her teacher pointed out that she was doing it wrong. I know teachers weren’t always as kind as they usually are these days, and I imagine my mother was sensitive to any sort of criticism, which is why this memory stayed with her.
The teacher pointed out that she’d done the bricks in the chimney wrong. Instead of staggering them like she was “supposed to,” my mother had drawn them in a grid.
Like Julia’s cookie.
Here’s another little post from a year ago…
December 9, 2013
It’s happened before, not just recently, though it’s happening more frequently now.
Sometimes when I look at Julia, color fades and my vision slips backwards time-ways and I am looking through my mother’s eyes at my child self. I see how she saw me, or at least how I imagine she looked at me. It doesn’t last for long, it’s almost like a shimmer for a few seconds, and I feel my heart spin back and forth as I am me, then my mother, then me-the-child, then me the adult again.
I am hugging my children harder now. And I hug Julia hardest of all. Not because I love her more than my son, but because she is a daughter, as I am a daughter, and when I am holding her I am holding myself from the past, and my mother then, and my mother now.
And maybe myself now as well.
One of the things my mother, my sister and I have/had in common was our sense of humor. I don’t know how to describe it, but there was always (and still is, with Mere and me) a love of physical humor. Falling is funny.
There’s a scene in the movie “What’s Up, Doc?” – well, many scenes, but this one is the one that I think of first – that could get my mother laughing before it even happened.
There’s the scene where Judy and Howard have taken all the bags (and if you don’t know this movie, well, I’m sorry, but you’ve got a big gap in your movie-watching history) and are running from everyone. They end up in a Chinese dragon, which goes careening through the streets of San Francisco, leaving havoc and chaos in its wake.
Part of this chaos involves a man walking down the sidewalk. There is a white fence to his left (our right, as we watch). Suddenly, large metal trash cans come rolling down the hill behind him. He glances back at the sound, then looks back again in disbelief and starts running. The trash cans continue to chase him, and finally, in a desperate attempt to escape them, the man leaps over the fence. The camera cuts to the other side of the fence, where a peaceful and genteel afternoon luncheon is taking place. The man flies over the fence and SITS DOWN HARD on a little table, his head flinging back as the table falls over and people are jumping up from their seats in surprise.
Such a little scene, but so perfectly done and so FUNNY in its absurdity…well, Mom would start laughing before we even saw the man walking down the sidewalk. Real, from the belly, laughing.
My grandmother was the artistic one. And the musical one. Natural talents, with, I’m assuming, a little instruction at some point in her youth. The talent skipped down to her granddaughters – my sister got the music and I got the drawing/painting – and my mother got the frustration of not having the same innate abilities as her mother along with having a mother who couldn’t understand why her daughter couldn’t just play the piano easily, by ear. My mother had to practice and practice. It must have been so frustrating to have to practice and practice to become not quite as good as her mother, to whom it all came so easily. It was also frustrating to recognize a piece of music but not to be able to remember the name of it. My grandfather, while possessing no musical ability that anyone was aware of, loved music with a great passion. “Emma, play us a tune” was a common request he would make of my grandmother. And she would sit down at the piano and play all sorts of things. By ear. From memory. He loved classical music. He loved opera. He wanted my mom to be able to play the piano like her mother did, but she didn’t have that ability. I don’t know if he ever realized it, but she was so much more like him than she was like her mother. She couldn’t just sit down and play a tune, but she could listen with great joy, eyes closed, a dreamy smile on her face.
Here’s another little post from last year….
December 12, 2013
I woke up at 2:30 this morning and struggled to not struggle to go back to sleep. Please, I need sleep. I finally must have dozed off, only to wake up to my alarm with the detritus of several odd and moody dreams smashing against my eyes.
I stopped at the nursing home on my way to work, about 5:30, and I was afraid I would get to her room and she would be gone. Not gone like in another room. gone gone. It's always there, that fear. It's not going to leave me. And it gets bigger every day. I think it feeds on my nightmares.
She was asleep, and I was relieved, but it's so painful to see her like this: Old. Tired. Frail.
I started this neglected little blog as a place to vent about all the insanity and frustration that comes with having an alcoholic parent. I was probably angry at the time. I've been angry a lot over the years.
And now...now I am heartbroken at what will never be again. I miss the mother I remember from the first half of my life. And, yes, portions of the second half. But alcoholism is greedy. It just takes and takes and takes. And now, there's not much left to take.
When I look in my mother’s eyes now, she is there again. I don't know how long it will last, and it probably won't be very long at all, but for this precious little bit of time, I have my mom back.