Monday, April 25, 2005

Mom Doesn't Want a New Blender!

Thus read the headline of an email I received a few days ago. According to Kodak, Mom would much prefer a custom card, photo album, or the classic photo mug complete with hilarious pictures of her thoughtful kiddies. I’ve been on the receiving end of Mother’s Day advertising for the majority of my almost 31 years on the planet. And for the first 15 years, it was bearable. But for the past 16 years, it’s been painful. I can only turn a magazine page or mute the TV so quickly, and I usually catch a glimpse of the happy family reminding me of what I’m missing before I’m able to turn away. I know they’re not real, and most families have more than their share of problems, but for a moment I feel left out. And those moments add up over the years.

The number one song on the pop charts the month my Mom died was Wind Beneath My Wings, by Bette Midler. It would be really poetic if I could claim that she was the wind beneath my young wings, but the truth is, I didn’t like her very much. I had just turned 15, what did you expect? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mother, but I was in the middle of my teenage years, too busy pushing her away to realize how much I would want her later on. The truth is, at the time, I had absolutely no idea what I would feel like years later. If you’d asked me then, I would have predicted that it would get easier as I got older. As the years passed, the pain would subside, eventually blending into the rest of the background noise of painful experiences that course like a pulse beneath every day thoughts. It’s what most people call baggage. But now, after 16 years of her not being here, I miss her more than ever. I guess it’s a good thing, it would feel awful not to miss her so acutely. I would drown in guilt everywhere I went, seeing mothers and families and not being affected by them. Occasionally I wish that I could take a break from it all. I wish that commercials with happy Moms watching their daughters get married didn’t make me cry. And having friends with incredibly close mother-daughter relationships didn’t make me pine for my own missed opportunity. But emotions aren’t something you can turn on and off, despite how much people who are scared of them wish we could.

Over the years I’ve developed a real talent for avoidance and emotional distance. I know exactly the moment to walk away or turn my head so I don’t have to see mother-daughter bonding unfolding in front of me. I can make a really good case for why I won’t see a particular movie about mother-daughter relationships. I can talk about my Mom to strangers and state random facts about her with pride. She grew up in the Bronx. She used to quilt. She was a fabulous cook, especially with desserts. And just when they ask me a follow up question about her, I tell them that she died when I was 15 and it was hard but I’m okay now. Then we change the subject. I don’t even mind the look of pity on their faces anymore. I know that I’m okay, and that’s what matters.

As I sit here writing this I am positively undone by how sad I am. Please don’t confuse that with depression. I am not depressed, I am profoundly sad. Your thirties are when you get to bond with your parents. It’s the age of friendship between the generations. It’s when you begin to realize that your parents aren’t that crazy after all. Or maybe it’s when their craziness surfaces in all its glory. Regardless of your relationship with them, it’s when the truth comes out. Their human side is revealed, and yours too. I think that’s why I’m feeling my Mom’s absence so acutely right now. I never knew her as an adult, and I think we would have liked each other. A bold statement for sure, but when you’re dealing with a person who has ascended to sainthood because she can no longer do anything wrong, I think it’s okay to assume the best.

Today, I have two blenders, neither of which was given to me by my as-of-yet nonexistent children. They’re part of my overstocked kitchen thanks to my obsession with food and cooking, inherited from both my parents. As legend has it, my Dad taught my Mom how to cook, and then she bested him. Personally, I think everyone should learn how to cook, but I know that isn’t possible. Learning to cook must begin with a desire to learn, and then it helps to have a really good teacher. I consider myself lucky, because I had two excellent teachers at the beginning, and I still have one. That’s one of the best benefits of losing someone you love early in life. It makes you appreciate the people who are left, which can never happen too soon. So as Mother’s Day approaches, I have a favor to ask you: If you have a relationship with your mother, particularly if it’s a good one, please take a moment to appreciate it. Because there are some of us out there who only get to peer in the windows at your happiness, and it’s nice to think that you might be appreciating each other before I have a chance to turn away.


Blogger Julie said...

Disclaimer: The above essay is the opinion of the author, and is not meant to imply or insinuate that you should or should not have any type of relationship with your parents.

4/25/2005 2:27 PM  

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