Thursday, March 17, 2016


She was sitting in the armchair, her legs stretched out on the footstool.
"Hi, Mom," I said, as I closed the door behind me.
She didn't speak, so I jumped right in. "You're angry, aren't you?"
She sighed and said. "I guess I should be used to it by now. It seems every chance you get -- first in your memoir, and now on stage, before an audience of 100 people, mostly strangers -- you sneer at my mothering. When are you going to give it a rest?"
"Mom, could we talk about this in my next dream?" I was yawning and tugging off one boot at a time. "I'm so sleepy; it's two hours past my bedtime."
"Poor baby," she said.
My deceased mother visits me often. I hoped I'd be able to get away with the event, which was just a few hours earlier and had focused on my life and my mothering style.
"Let me see if I can repeat it?" she said. "I've heard it often enough." I sat down on the couch that doubles as a daybed. I leaned back on the cushion, closed my eyes, and listened. Even though my mother was not in the best of moods, I welcomed this chance to hear her voice.
"I always admired their audacity," my mother said, repeating the quote that was first published in the Chicago Tribune. I had said that line at the event, referring to my daughters.  Mom continued, "And wish I had it. I grew up more traditional, became a teacher, married a Jewish man at the end of college, and cooked like my mother."
I stopped her. "I said 'cooked,' doesn't that imply that I valued your cooking and wanted to emulate it?"
She ignored my interruption, and went on reciting my words. "When I grew up, my mother decided what I wore, how much I should weigh. I decided to turn it upside down, let my girls choose their clothes, not brush their hair if they didn't want to. They are who I wanted to be. I wanted to be as free as they turned out to be."
"I noticed you added a new shtick tonight," she said. "My daughters credit me with raising them to be protagonists in their own stories." (This had been gifted to me by one of my kids and I used it to show off.)
"Poor baby," she repeated. "You turned out so horrible, didn't you?"
I left my spot and tucked myself in beside her. I put my legs up on the footstool, just like her. "You were a wonderful mother," I said. "It was the times; that's how mothers were back in the '40s. I admitted that in my spiel. I didn't blame you. Did you hear blame in my voice?"
Perhaps I had been a bit harsh. "What part of that hurt you?" I said. "Was it about my weight? You have to admit you were on me about that."
"I was only thinking about you, about your prospects," she said. She leaned her head against my shoulder. I wished it could linger there throughout the night. "I wanted you to marry well, not like I did. I thought if you were thin, like the models in the newspaper ads, you wouldn't wind up behind a grocery store counter like me. I had bigger dreams for you."
"I didn't know you had dreams for me," I said.
"Not when you were a child," she said. "Remember, when you were 42 and I visited you in your office. You introduced me to your boss. I was squeezing your hand so hard, you had to pull it away. "
I was so sleepy. I closed my eyes and conjured the scene. It was 1980, just one year before my mother died at 67. I was working as a communications director for the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools.
"Listen," I said. "I'm so sorry I've hurt you. It's not easy being a mother; I'm sure I've done hurtful things to my own daughters. I just hope they forgive me."
"Does that mean you forgive me?" she said, her voice soft.
"Forgive you? There's nothing to forgive," I said. "You were a wonderful mother; I'm a blabbermouth who fancies herself a writer. Will you forgive me for any words I've written, or said, that have hurt you?"
She smiled, that gorgeous one I so easily remembered. "Of course," she said. "I just wanted an excuse to visit. And by the way, you did great tonight."
With those words, I fell into an even deeper sleep.

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