From the time I was about 8, until my mom was 80, she had season tickets to a professional theater company. She mostly went to the matinee, and they were definitely 'cheap seats'. Way up in the balcony, and on a side. Maybe at some point in the middle, but definitely way up in the balcony.
She and my father went together for a while, and then it became my moms thing. When I was 9 or 10, the play "I Remember Mama" was included in the season. My mother decided to take me with her, and with all of the zeal of a truly great teacher, she had me read the play. We talked about it, and considered what might be like to see it, which character I most identified with and on and on. I remember being thoroughly engrossed in the play, and before I read the description, I couldn't have actually told you anything about the story. 10 was a long time ago? No, I think that what stuck with me was the image of a mother as the center of a family. And also the relationships between the siblings--there was so much there!
In the end, the play was a bit of a disappointment. I had practically memorized it, and in the way of all actual productions, they had cut and streamlined it and taken out many of my favorite scenes. I wish I could go back and remember what parts of it meant so much to me then as a way to know my own mother and motherhood wishes.
When my mother was in the hospital in November, what struck me was the way that my sister stepped up and stepped in. Her relationship with my mother was much more difficult than my own, and in order to take care of herself, she had always been a bit remote. It was she that confronted my parents and said "It's time for mom to go to the hospital." Of course, my father called me, it felt like, for permission, and I was 100% behind it. She was at the hospital every day, there for every important test, important doctors appointment and ready to fight my dad when he became rigid and withholding.
My sister is 19 years older then me. She and my older brothers (one died at 14, the day after my mom found out she was pregnant with me) were born when my mom was in her 20, and from my sisters description, it's pretty clear that my mom was quite depressed. She would bury herself in housework, or sit at hte table staring. She remembers my brothers crazy antics to get her attention, and asking her to do the Tarzan yell as a way to wake her up, and bring her back to them. My mother was depressed when I was a child too. But it was both intense bereavement, and a sense of her fertility having decided her destiny once again. She was ambivalent about motherhood, both times.
By the time she died, I had had 20 years of intensively reaching out to my mother, grieving our lost intimacy of infancy, showing her how to be my mother in the ways I could bear for her to be, and having truly accepted her as good friend. But this change in my mother was not global. She didn't reach out to my sister and brother and see if they had had the same losses as I had. So when she died, mixed in with the exhaustion, and relief at the end of her suffering, there was also this shared sense of disappointment in having been mothered so ambivalently. My sister is left with much more unsaid, much more to grieve about our mother as a mother than I am. And yet, evcn with all the work I did, even with everything I accomplished in terms of bringing my mother in to my experience of her as a mother, there are ways that I'm left wishing that I missed her more.
Doesn't that sound awful? I do miss her. But it's not as if I have been unplugged. Friday I was closer to tears over missing her than I had been in weeks. I felt sad for her not to see the next phase in my career, to not be able to talk to her about ME ME ME! That is one of the things a child can do with a mother, and whatever her faults, she could do that. She could be proud of me. And I realized that a whole new chapter that she will never know about is sad. It's one of the reasons to never make a move after a person dies, just to stay the same so that your grief about losing them can also stay frozen in time. Mom loved learning, she loved newness. She loved growth. So I will do it mom. And you will be proud.
Last weekend we took the boys to the Amtrak station to watch the trains before we went out to dinner. Juice, in his precious earnest way, needed to change his shirt so that he was wearing a train shirt to watch trains. If at all possible, he prefers to have full integrity with his wardrobe and activities. Its so adorable it just about reduces me to tears.
As we stood on the platform and watched the huge trains come in and out, I found myself feeling like my mom. I was being curious, and enthusiastic and taking time to really examine things with the boys. The conductor came off and collected tickets and I engaged her in a short conversation, and even tried to get her to say "All Aboard!" one of Juice's favorite things about trains. She said she'd love to, but her intercom didn't transmit outside the train, so we said it for her. I said it the loudest. My husband looked a bit embarrassed. But one of the things I realize as I look back at my mom, and the times when she was the most engaged, the most alive and the most emotionally available, was her enthusiasm and lack of inhibition. And so I remembered Mama.
My dad came to dinner then next day. He's a bit unsure of what to do with the boys. Not that he didn't have a relationship with them before, but mom was a part of it. He is a builder and tinkerer, and mom was the story reader. At one point he was reading a story, and not showing the boys the pictures!
After dinner the neighbors invited us over, and so my husband took the boys across the street to play and dad and I had some time to talk. As we checked in one each other's process, we both said that it was all the things that mom had left to do that made us sad. At 84, she had a full, full life, but she wanted 7 or 8 more years. Now that the boys are 3, and not such babies, I've started to fantasize about places we can go, steam trains we can visit and on and on. And there is always catch in my throat when I realize mom can't come with us. And that's what dad is sad about too. We can bring grandpa, he's a good sport, but no one had as much fun as grandma/mom.
I think I miss her as a grandmother for my children the most. She was a better grandmother than a mother. I think she'd agree with that. Grandchildren are more like students that you can love very deeply, and my mom was a wonderful beloved teacher.
What about Ace? Ace likes to be naked. There aren't many pictures of him on face book because most of his adorable moments are naked, and not fit ot post!
His imagination is on super speed. He has about 10 boxes of various sizes (tiny jewelry boxes to foam coolers that meds come in), that he loads up with various bits of household debris, toys and god only knows what, and they are his treasure boxes. They can contain the makings of challah, cookies, bear slumber parties, preschool, train trips, you name it. He's hit socio-dramtic play with gusto. He's been working hard to bring Juice into stories, and sometimes the fact that it's pretend cookies rather than real cookies is the deal breaker. He's also quite an athlete, and loves his fairy princess dress. He's a cuddler in the bed, but not as much in Te daytime. He could be a vegan, except he likes salami. He eats green vegetables, nuts and pasta like they are going out of style.
Juice is a little engineer. He loves to build, to know how things work, and to try to push the limits of his magnatiles. Last wekened we took them out to ride their bikes. We have pedal bikes that are too big for them, but they wanted to try them. After riding a bit, we stopped, and Juice knealt down on the ground to see how those teeth and wheel worked with the pedals.
Ok! I hear the boys waking up!
See you soon!