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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Home

I was much closer to my father than to my mother when I was growing up. My father and I had an intellectual connection; we both loved to read and to talk about books -- "philosophize" as my mother used to say, shaking her head. My father introduced me to good poetry and encouraged me to write.

My mother is a passionate but practical woman. She is a neat freak -- I'm sorry to say that I remember too many Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings spent dusting and vacuuming and mopping hardwood floors under my mother's hawk eye -- and loves to shop. She likes a good party and will sacrifice her time and energy recklessly to help people in need. I don't connect with her easily; I have to work at my relationship with her. She's made me and my sister the center of her life and I have to fight with her all the time, now that I'm an adult, for my personal space, for the right to make my own decisions.

And yet what I remember as the safest and happiest times of my childhood have almost always to do with my mother. (I begin to see now that my relationship with her is one of extremes: the worst and the best melded together.) She was always exuberantly happy for my successes, militantly on my side in any conflict I had with the outside world. Often her enthusiasm and love embarrassed me. But when I had nightmares and sneaked into her and my father's bed in the middle of the night, I always chose her side. I put my hand on her hip and touched her hot calf with my icy toes and was flooded with a profound, almost religious, sense of peace and calm and safety. Her body felt then, truly, like the thing that gave me life.

Many afternoons when my sister and I returned from school we found the kitchen table set for lunch, two white plates with spoon and fork over a white napkin, and between the plates a basket of bread covered with a rough hemp towel. A pot of soup, still warm, sat on the stove. My mother rushed home during her lunch hour to prepare all this for us. I didn't appreciate it at the time. I gobbled down my lunch and rushed off to do my homework. I didn't appreciate the harsh, homey smell of clean, starched bedsheets to which I fell asleep at night. I didn't know that home is a place of safety and comfort not only for the soul but also for the body. Emotional and spiritual comfort wasn't my mother's to give to me, in part because our personalities are so different. But she made home a place to return to, if only because it smelled of clean linen and good food.

That's not much in the grand scheme of things. But it was my mother's best. The ability to see this and be grateful for it is the biggest and hardest step I have to take in order to make peace with my parents.

4 Comments:

Blogger Marigoldie said...

These are beautiful, beautiful posts. I believe this one is shaking up my impressions of my parents. It never occurred to me to realize people provide only what they can, that no one provides everything. It seems obvious, but it isn't.

January 05, 2006  
Blogger Persephone said...

It's funny--I read this as the mother now, wondering what my girls will be (or are!) writing about me in their blogs. My older daughter and I have a sort of love/hate relationship--lots of personality clashing and it kills me that we aren't closer. I just don't know what to do about it. My younger daughter and I are much more alike. This doesn't mean that we're always close, but at least we "get" each other most of the time.

I love what you wrote here and your recognition of the different roles that parents play. You are a beautiful writer--very impressive.

January 05, 2006  
Blogger madness rivera said...

It's so odd that a few of us have been blogging about our mommy/daddy issues as of late.

I love how kind and matter of fact you are here. I too, over the years, have been wondering if my mother did the best she could. But as a child, I don't think that is supposed to be MY problem. When I'm truthful with myself, no, I don't think she did do the best she could. She did the best she wanted to do at the time. Now she does the best she can. And I give her credit for that. I am kind to her because of that.

I'm like Persephone too now with 2 growing daughters and I feel a little caught between the struggles of wanting to make peace with myself in regards to my mother and making sure my girls get (honestly) the very best of me by not having them pay for any of my fuckedupedness. Razor's edge now! I don't want to prove myself a hypocrite.

January 05, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

I think Madness is right, not all parents do the best they can, only the best they want to do. Relationships with parents are so complicated -- you love them so much but you can't help seeing their flaws and their limitations.

I admire mothers deeply, especially ones like you who understand what a "razor's edge" you have to walk in order to be, and to teach your children to be, good strong honest people. I really can't fathom how you do it. I'm scared to even imagine myself in that situation.

January 05, 2006  

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