[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
not enough words
by now you know quite a bit about me. and about my family. you’ve heard all about my dad’s penchant for boy bands. and about his stroke.
you’ve heard all about my sister’s endless acts of brutality against me as a child. ahem and about her cancer diagnosis.
of course, you know all about my grandmother and my grandfather.
you've even heard all about my uncle david.
but you don’t know anything about my mom.
and, reading through the posts, i have to tell you that i was very surprised to find that i haven’t told you anything about my mom. because, really, she’s the most important person in the world to me.
she was 19 when i was born. a catholic girl who wanted desperately to make her parents happy, but couldn’t quite hide the fact that she was a free spirit. it was the 60s after all. late 60s, people. not that i care about that age thing, but it was the late 60s.
i know that, when she found out she was pregnant with me, she told her parents that she was going to have me and raise me on her own. that meant she wouldn’t be going to college and pursuing her dream of being a writer.
but, her parents wouldn’t hear of it. there would be a marriage. there would be a marriage right away.
and, so, my mother married my father. a man she didn’t love. a man who didn’t love her. and they began their life together with no love, no money and a baby on the way.
she was the best mom you can imagine. the hot mom. the cool mom. the mom about whom all the other kids said, “man, i wish my mom was like your mom.”
and so that’s who i thought she was. the mom who encouraged us to be creative. who always had paints and glue for us. the mom who encouraged us to play. who took us to drama classes. and dance classes. and softball practice. and gymnastics. because we wanted to try everything and she wanted us to be able to find our bliss. even at the age of 10. she always found the time. and almost as remarkable, the money.
it was years later when i found the notebooks. page after page filled with my mother’s perfect cursive writing, the product of nuns with very high expectations and wooden rulers. there were poems. and stories. character sketches. essays.
and, at first, i was confused. i had been digging around trying to find her copy of how to make love to a man so my friends and i could sit out under the big poplar tree on the hill and eat pixie sticks and practice french kissing with amy’s brother.
but, instead, i found these…words. so, along with the modern masterpiece from alexandra penney, i slipped out the back door with a mead spiral notebook under my arm. i was so curious and anxious to read them that i could barely focus on amy’s brother all afternoon.
later that night, i sat in my bed with a flashlight, reading under the covers. it was my habit, and drew no suspicions from my mom.
but there, underneath my blankets, a new world was opening up to me.
it felt as though, at the age of 13, i was meeting my mother for the first time.
there she was on these pages. page after page of her life, perfectly written in blue ballpoint pen.
there, i read of her fears. how afraid she was that something would happen to me. and, when i was born with complications, how afraid she was that it had somehow been her fault. she worried that she was too young and might not know how to take care of me.
i read, too, about how tired she was. she worked at a department store. a sales girl in the cosmetics department, working eight hours on her feet every day until the day before i was born. she was exhausted from trying to care for me on her own. although they had married, my father was disengaged. he had recently returned from vietnam, and was restless. the war had changed him. he was closed. quiet. moody. he brought back memories and flashbacks and nightsweats and shrapnel. and he wasn’t ready to be a husband or a father. he was still a kid himself.
i read of her longing to go back to school.
of the man she truly loved – the love of her life. and how she pushed him away inexplicably. a youthful mistake that never had the chance to be corrected. how he loved her still until the day he died unexpectedly. and how her heart broke.
i devoured the notebook. i read it so quickly that i read it twice. i wanted to read it yet again, letting the cadence of her words wash over me and carry me away to the life she left behind. but, i was afraid of being discovered, so i crept back into her room to return it to its place high on the shelf in the back of the closet. and, as i reached up into the dark corner, i felt them. the others. six more. and so, every night, i poured over them, hungry to learn more about her. looking for something. but not knowing what it was.
it wasn’t until years later that i told her i had read her journals.
“let me guess. you were looking for my sex books?”
“you are an amazing writer,” i told her. partly because i didn’t want to answer the question, but mostly because it is true.
“are you disappointed?” i asked her.
“in what? that you were looking for the sex books? or that you read my personal writing without asking my permission?”
“that you never became a writer. is that why you encourage me to write? so i can do what you couldn’t? i mean, don’t you regret everything you gave up?”
and i saw that my words stung her a little, although i hadn’t meant them to.
“when you were a baby, i poured myself into you. i whispered into your ears at night, telling you how much i love you. telling you my hopes and dreams for you. and those hopes and dreams were not that you would become the writer i never did. those hopes and dreams were the same hopes and dreams that every mother has for her children: that you would be happy. that is my hope for you. that you will find happiness in this life.”
and i hugged her.
“not that it would kill you to write a book.”
there are so many things to tell you about my mother.
how she worked two retail jobs just so i could have a pair of jordache jeans.
how she taught me to shave my legs when some mean girl made fun of me in junior high.
how, when i was upset because i had to wear “special” shoes and they weren’t stylish like the other girls’ shoes, she bought a pair of saddle oxfords for herself and wore them just to make me feel better.
how she made me the best cleopatra costume for halloween the year i was in fifth grade, using only stuff we found at yard sales for less than fifty cents.
how she taught all my girlfriends to tie-dye t-shirts and braid hair and do cartwheels and sing joan baez songs.
how she worked when most moms didn’t but still found time to make cupcakes from scratch and be the best homeroom mom ever.
how she would move my legs through the stretches the physical therapist said we had to do every night and how she would cry when i screamed that it hurt and begged her to stop.
but i find myself at a loss.
i know that she will read this. i recently gave her the information about my site. and i know that she will tell me how proud she is of me. of course, she’ll also lecture me about my prolific use of the word “fuck.”
but i just don’t know if all the words i could type would ever come close to telling you about my mother. and about my hopes and dreams for her: that she has found happiness in this life.
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